a critiQal film review Sin City (2005)

Plot: Welcome to Sin City, a town full of characters. Like Hartigan (Willis), the last honest cop in town, who races to save a young girl from a psychotic son of a senator. Or Marv (Rourke), who is determined to find out who killed his "angel", his Goldie (King) - no matter how many bodies he leaves in his wake. Or Dwight (Owen), who is determined to help the girls of Old Towne in their fight against the mob.

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  • ...stunning visuals and a cast at the top of their game bring this highly-stylized vision to dynamic life.

New film Sin City combines the talents of two great directors, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino.

After a great beginning as an action-oriented film director (with the incredibly low budget El Mariachi and it’s sequel Desperado (1995), followed later by the third – and final – film in the series, Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003)), Robert seemed to be one of the hot new directors out there.

Then he joined up with another amazing new director Quentin Tarantino, and he continued his success with From Dusk Till Dawn. Then, for some reason, he decided to get all kid-oriented on us and moved on to Spy Kids (2001) and it’s sequels (fun to watch, but not the same action-packed blood-spilling action we were used to). Now, he’s back, with gobs of blood, to help direct Frank Miller’s Sin City (apparently just a respite, since his next movie is the kid-friendly sounding The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3-D).

I knew I’d have to see Sin City after hearing that Robert Rodriguez was helming it. Throw in special guest director Quentin Tarantino (who many say I resemble), and I was there. That was even before seeing the incredibly stylized scenes showcased in the trailer, or knowing much about the graphic novels it came from. Sure, I’d heard of Frank Miller before (I was a Marvel fan when I was a kid, so knew about Frank Miller’s great stint writing the DareDevil comic), but Sin City was new to me.

To top off all the things this movie had going for it, it’s overflowing with stars, from Bruce Willis and Mickey Rourke to Jessica Alba (“Dark Angel” (TV)) and Rosario Dawson (The Rundown), not to mention a whole slew of other famous names. When a friend came to visit and asked which movie I wanted to see for my belated birthday present, the choice was obvious: Sin City.

But, even with all the film had going for it, would it be as good as I hoped, or would this be just another case of a movie not being equal to the sum of it’s parts?

The stars all turn in decent performances, with Bruce Willis and (surprisingly) Mickey Rourke being the biggest standouts. Bruce Willis was almost a no-brainer, as he has turned in very good performances on almost every movie he’s in (Die Hard (1988), 12 Monkeys (1995), Pulp Fiction (1994) and The Sixth Sense (1999) come quickly to mind as some of his best). His role here as the last good cop in town bent on trying to save a young girl, no matter what the cost, is perfect for him. He’s always seen as a basically decent guy who, despite some faults, manages to do the right thing in the end. It’s a great niche he’s found himself in, and he has definitely perfected it in Sin City.

Mickey Rourke, usually the tough guy, is extra tough here, but still manages to actually show a softer side of himself almost despite his tough and ugly exterior. He’s definitely the monster with the heart of gold in this picture, and he plays it well. Jessica Alba, Brittany Murphy, Rosario Dawson, Clive Owen and the rest of the cast also contribute to the film’s overall watchability, but don’t give the gripping performances that Bruce and Mickey do.

The plot is actually split into three parts – after all, 3 stories from the series are showcased in the film. Usually, with three totally different plots, it would be tough to tie it up all into one complete film, but Sin City is able to do it. While the storylines do vary greatly, the re-occurrence of the same characters helps to tie them together, as does the filmmakers way of shooting the film: they start off with the first story, then pause that and show the second and third stories, then come back to the first story for the finale of the film. It’s definitely a different movie-watching experience, as the film has not just one climatic scene, but many dispersed throughout the different stories. And that’s not even mentioning the incredibly stylized way the film was shot.

This is the second film in recent years to take a whole new approach to shooting a film (the first: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)). While that film used a new process to make the film more stylized and richer, Sin City goes almost the opposite route, making the film less colorful and more gritty – aiming, of course, for the mainly black and white of the graphic novels artwork.

It’s a true first in movie-making, making scenes from Sin City more like scenes from the novel rather than the usual approach to bringing the comic books to real-life. It’s an impressive way of throwing the whole comic book hero movie industry on it’s head, and it works incredibly well. Would all comic book heroes benefit from this kind of treatment? No – but The Punisher (2004) would have been a much better movie if it’s filmmakers had given it a try – a gritty “hero” like that needs a gritty movie adaptation, not the polished one they gave us.

I knew going into this film I was going to enjoy it, and I wasn’t disappointed in the least. If you are a fan of graphic novels (basically long comic books, for those of you who don’t know), you’ll love the way they brought this to the big screen. As the tagline says “Walk down the right back alley in Sin City and you can find anything” – and after this film, you’ll want to take a stroll down a couple more of those alleyways to see what else is hidden in the shadows of this City.

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