Sin City Review

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by AVForums Aug 1, 2005 at 12:00 AM

    Sin City Review
    Robert Rodriguez is deemed a maverick director in certain fields and the making of this movie certainly proved this, by literally throwing away his DGA status so Frank Miller could get a shared credit, he certainly can't be accused of not standing his ground. To top it off, Quentin Tarantino has a credit as special guest director and there is no screenwriter credit either! So, already this movie is treading new ground, but is it as good as “Desperado” or is it more of a “Spy Kids”?Sin City the movie is based on three of the graphic novels, being in order The Hard Goodbye, The Big Fat Kill and That Yellow Bastard, although the opening sequence is actually from The Customer Is Always Right short story. Each tale is interwoven with each other in a Pulp Fiction manner, but as each story is effectively stand-alone, it doesn't rely on Fiction's shifting of chronology, although it does split That Yellow Bastard as the opening and closing tale, so let's dive in with that.

    That Yellow Bastard revolves around the cop Hartigan (Willis), who is on the trail of a child molester and know his next target will be Nancy Callahan (Alba). Hartigan is on the verge of retiring, is suffering from angina and is popping pills to keep the illness at bay. While he manages to save Nancy, he's been double-crossed and due to his actions is incarcerated as penance for his alleged crime, although it's more a torture than anything because they want him to admit to the crime of child molestation/murderer, as the real criminal is protected by powerful political forces. Eventually, he's freed but what he doesn't realise is that he's being used to find Nancy and that some unfinished business with her can be concluded.......

    The Hard Goodbye revolves around Marv (Rourke) an unattractive goon who finds love and happiness in the arms and legs of Goldie (King), but someone doesn't want Marv to be happy, so while they are both sleeping their drunkenness off, someone kills Goldie setting Marv up for the killing and calling the police to notify them of the murder. Marv, clearly is unhappy at his angel being disposed of and goes on a rampage finding out who has killed her and why. He finds his answer for the who in the shape of Kevin (Wood) but the why still isn't clear and Kevin is a particularly difficult adversary with a penchant for flesh........

    The Big Fat Kill is a multi layered story, more so than the others revolving initially around Shellie (Murphy), her boyfriend Dwight (Owen) and her ex-boyfriend Jackie (Del Toro). Jackie is rather abusive towards Shellie, but as Dwight is in her apartment already he manages to convince Jackie that he really should stay away from his girl, but he ends up chasing after Jackie into “Old Town”, a place where the women rule the streets and the cops stay away due to a truce between both parties. The truce is almost shattered due to Jackie's presence, as the girls, led by Gail (Dawson) deal out their own brand of justice and Jackie has invoked their wrath to its full terminal conclusion. Only problem is that Jackie is a cop and therefore the police won't be happy about them killing one of their own, especially a decorated one and especially as they are supposed to send trouble making cops packing. This however seems to be a huge setup, but who is behind it and why? Whatever the answer is, it's going to end in bloodshed.......

    Although not entirely original in terms of being shot digitally and against green screens, this is a rather different type of comic book adaptation from the norm. Indeed, compared to Spiderman or the Fantastic Four which brought the comic books to life, this is much more akin to the look and sound of an actual graphic novel, as from a visual point it is matched frame for frame with its drawn original. Vocals-wise it is heavy on narration, another feature from the graphic novel realm where many boxes are used for narrative, we have our central characters (Hartigan, Marv and Dwight) narrate the story, which gives it as much of the noir feel that the source material needs as the visual side of things does. However unlike certain digital shot movies, this isn't style over substance in any manner, as we have coherent and intelligent stories that are well paced that stimulate and never insult the viewer either. In fact, the whole graphic novels were shot for the movie, but were obviously scaled/trimmed down for a reasonable running time, but I'd probably sit through 3 hours of this because it could use some fleshing out.

    A lot has been commented on about the violence in the movie and while in places it is indeed violent, it's justified in the context of the storyline and isn't gratuitous either, due to the manner in which it's done - in fact only a few scenes show red blood and that is being splashed across someone's face from a blood spurt or cut. I can understand some thinking it is violence for violence sake, but if you appreciate the context of the violence with the characters motives and environment, then it is fully justified - Marv killing anyone that may have contributed into the demise of Goldie, is perfectly rational considering she was the only person who touched him both physically and emotionally and with such a devastating loss, coupled with the type of background and person Marv is, it's not surprising he reacts that way.Acting wise, it's very much an ensemble piece, due to the nature of multiple tales as opposed to storyline threads. Willis is on top form as Hartigan, Del Toro made me wonder if the role was aimed at Banderas because he simply looked and sounded like him and Rourke is excellent under his makeup as Marv. Actresses also are on fine form, with Alba holding her own as much as possible against Willis and not being reduced to mere eye-candy, although no complaints here, not to mention Dawson being particularly sassy as Gail, definitely being better here than Alexander where she didn't get much of a chance to flex her thespian skills. It must also be said that the Tarantino section did stick out, as the dialogue change was noticeable in my opinion and didn't quite get - but then what do you get when you only pay someone a dollar? Rodriguez has to be credited here for being innovative though, not so much as in technology but in how it was used and applied to get an amazing reproduction of the source, yet still maintain an excellent gripping visual for audiences to enjoy. The sparing use of colour matches the graphic novels exactly - so while it's looking great, it's never looking flashy and who needs it to when it does what it does so well.

    So when all is said and done, this is certainly an impressive movie with a style of its own as well as some excellent storytelling and acting. The weakest tale would be The Big Fat Kill but even then, this is still highly enjoyable, with The Hard Goodbye being arguably the strongest one. Sure it's not going to be for everyone and it's unlikely to be Oscar nominated - more for political reasons I'm sure, but this is a remarkable achievement in literally bringing a graphic novel to life, as well as being an entertaining story to boot.

    The Rundown

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