Sin City (2005)
Sin City (2005)

Genre: Thriller Running Time: 2 hrs. 4 min.

Release Date: April 1st, 2005 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez Actors: Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Nick Stahl, Elijah Wood, Marley Shelton, Jessica Alba, Clive Owen, Brittany Murphy, Michael Madsen, Jaime King, Rutger Hauer, Carla Gugino, Benicio Del Toro, Rosario Dawson, Powers Boothe, Alexis Bledel, Devon Aoki

 


 

A

lthough the most noticeable flaws are in pacing, a few substandard dialogue deliveries, and unrealistic stunts that suffer from excessive style, “Sin City” is too much fun to pass up. Harkening back to (and reinventing) hard-nosed neo-noir eccentricities, such as ruthlessly bloody violence, incredibly colorful characters (despite the use of primarily black and white), high-contrast imagery with shadow-laden cinematography, doomed antiheroes, femme fatales, and devilishly witty talk, the few missteps can be forgiven in favor of the exceptional entertainment value. It may have cult comic book origins as a basis, but it’s spectacularly cinematic, edgy, smart, and unique.

Basin City houses the lowest forms of scum and the most surprising patches of vigilante decency. Hartigan (Bruce Willis) is trying to tie up the last loose end in a long career with the police force by saving 11 year-old Nancy Callahan (later played by Jessica Alba) from the fiendish clutches of pedophile Roark Jr. (Nick Stahl). Marv (Mickey Rourke), a towering and brutish thug (a shrink once tried to analyze him but got too scared), gets caught up in a complex frame by Cardinal Patrick Henry Roark (Rutger Hauer), and must battle the cops, vicious cannibals, and vengeful prostitutes to kill his way to the truth. Dwight (Clive Owen) intends to save his new girlfriend Shellie (Brittany Murphy) from the battering advances of Jackie Boy (Benicio Del Toro), leading to involvement in a war between the Old Town hookers ruled by Gail (Rosario Dawson) and the cops, headed by the one-eyed Manute (Michael Clarke Duncan).

Ripped straight from Frank Miller’s graphic novels and brought to life with super-stylized special effects that replicate key frames of artwork, the look and feel of the characters are so intriguing that it hardly matters whether or not their backstories are adequately explained or minor subplots remain completely beguiling (especially considering the magnitude of this ensemble cast). All are impressively innovative antiheroes, unafraid to sink to the murky depths of questionable morality or admit to the evident corruptions that plague the whole of Basin City. The visual techniques are grandly original, giving rise to many instances of derivation (see “300” or “The Spirit”), magnificently capturing individual shots faithful to Miller’s panel illustrations, most of which were used for storyboards. Perhaps the only fault is the unworkable car chases, vehicle sequences, and close-quarters explosions that show movement in a turbid form, careening along roads and tossing around bodies less convincingly than any other over-the-top scene of mayhem, regardless of accuracy to the source material.

The film noir voiceover narration, alternating between lead characters from each of the four major storylines, is the most creatively enchanting element of “Sin City,” mixing hilariously gritty antagonism with callous yet poetic vulgarity. It’s a particular delight to see the humorous distortion of tough detectives, tougher dames, and pugnacious heavies mixed into scenarios of an overly violent nature, as if channeling Marlowe or Spade while gleefully showing off the hostilities only hinted at in their Hays Code-era adaptations. Marv’s section is the most exciting, with an unsympathetic maniac psycho-killer convincing himself of righteousness, while Hartigan’s plot is the most memorable, featuring an unexpectedly powerful conclusion (brilliantly bookending the other plotlines, save for the brief intro and outro with Josh Hartnett as an unnamed hitman). Even if guest director Quentin Tarantino’s only scene drags aimlessly, Dwight’s segment fails to capture the sincerity of the other stories, or cartoonish stunts take away from the more believable exaggeration of the prosthetic and makeup-covered humans, the absorbing visuals, metaphor-ridden, cynical dialogue, and thrilling action more than win out.

– Mike Massie

  • 8/10