Finally, Sin City is a movie based on a comic book that does its source material justice.
Thursday, March 31, 2005
There have been plenty of good comic book movies over the
years—from Superman II to Spider-Man 2—and
Road To Perdition had a fundamentally accurate visual
sensibility. But no one has ever shown the commitment to
fidelity that Robert Rodriguez displays in Sin City. In
the past, comic book innovator Frank Miller has had to watch
his work turned into movies like Daredevil and
Elektra—the kind of thing that inspires a whole lotta
fetal position rocking. This time around, he got a director
willing to quit the Director’s Guild of America in order to
preserve Miller’s indelible stamp. And he got a movie so
dialed-in to its graphic novel roots that it practically
creates a new visual language.
SIN CITY ( * * * ½ )On a story level, Rodriguez and Miller adapt three of the seven Sin City volumes into an anthology set in the corrupt, decaying metropolis of Basin City. From “The Hard Goodbye” comes the tale of Marv (Mickey Rourke), a massive, hotheaded goon who sets out to avenge the death of a prostitute who shows him kindness. “The Big Fat Kill” dives into the world of the prostitutes, and an ex-criminal named Dwight (Clive Owen) trying to prevent a war between mobsters, cops and hookers. Book-ending those two are halves of “That Yellow Bastard,” in which aging cop Hartigan (Bruce Willis) faces the consequences of thwarting a child-molesting murderer (Nick Stahl) with highly-placed connections.
Directed by Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino and Frank Miller.
Starring Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba and Mickey Rourke.
(Rated R, 126 mins.) Playing at the Century Cinemas, Del Monte Center, Century Park Seven and Northridge Cinemas.
As grim as those basic synopses may sound, Sin City is actually rougher than that. Characters are shot, limbs are decapitated and faces are pummeled into something quite literally resembling pulp. This is the brutal, hard-boiled world of Miller’s creation, and Rodriguez does nothing to tone it down.
He does, however, make it wicked cool. Shots by the score are lifted directly from the Sin City books, creating vivid, singular images: a cannibalistic psycho whose eyeglasses reflect a crisp, dead white; overhead views of a lonely jail cell; horrifying moments thrown into silhouette. Throw in some mordant humor—including a priceless Quentin Tarantino-directed segment involving a hallucinated conversation between Dwight and a corpse—and effective use of Raymond Chandler-style narration, and you’ve got one of those movies that keeps you buzzing from the thrill of watching something unlike anything you’ve seen before.
If there’s one thing that keeps Sin City from being truly great, it’s the nagging sense that cool is the only sensibility Rodriguez truly cares about. Rodriguez has turned into a one-man digital age studio, and Sin City shows that he understands how to exploit technology that allows him to create a universe out of actors and green screens. He often, however, gives his stories too much gee-whiz and not enough humanity. Sin City’s three narratives, though all framed as tough-guy love stories, never really connect on an emotional level to match the visual theatrics.
But while there are rare filmmakers like Tarantino who can create characters as distinctive as their individual scenes, there’s a place as well for awesome exercises in style. While Robert Rodriguez may not be able to match the tragedy of Frank Miller’s best work as a writer, he captures the artistry of the graphic novel better than anyone ever has before.