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"See, honey -- this is why I wanted
that electric razor for Christmas."
(Hollywood remake or sequel, or film based on a comic book, book, play or video game # 16, since January 1st, 2005. Click for full list of Hollywood's lack of original ideas.)
Review written by: Alex Sandell
Be grateful for what you wish for ...
Because it just came true. After every bad comic book adaptation, fans of graphic novels have asked, "why couldn't they just make it like the comic?" Sin City is Hollywood's hardboiled response, and proof that every so often us comic book geeks know what we're talking about. The movie is a comic book come to life, and you can't help but love it, from beginning to end. It uses the panels and artwork from Frank Miller's graphic novels as its storyboards and it rips Miller's dialogue and characters straight from the page. It brings the tough talking, scantily clad (or entirely nude) broads from the book to ravishing reality. It cuts the gruff, pockmarked thugs from the pages and pastes them into a tawdry 3D world. And every single moment of the film is maimed, malformed and possessing a crooked beauty that will tantalize the twisted and vex the virtuous. ‘Classic’ isn't word enough to describe this unflinching look into dark side of the comic book world. It flirts, fondles and teases its audience right through 'til the end, and, when the credits role, it brings them to release -- resulting in uproarious applause that doesn't seem as though it will ever fade.
Blood, broads, bullets, butts, love, lust, tits and torture
Sin City is a hard R. Like kissing a female with chapped lips, razor burn and a five o'clock shadow -- this movie wants to leave you with scars. But Sin City is a black and white metropolis, as envisioned by Frank Miller -- a world the film's director, Robert Rodriguez didn't want to mess up. “When I read the books," says Rodriguez, "I loved that the dialogue didn’t sound like movie dialogue, that the visuals didn’t look like anything you usually see in movies. So I wanted to bring Frank’s vision on the screen as it was. I didn’t want to make Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City. I wanted to make Frank Miller’s Sin City. I knew we could make it look and feel exactly like the books." Rodriguez's determination to keep Miller's shadow world black & white, with only the occasional splash of color, is most likely what saved Sin City from an NC-17 rating. Had the film been color, there would be no more gruesome a movie. Limbs chopped off, hatchets in crotches, decapitated heads, hungry canines feasting on living humans, bare hands ripping off male genitalia, scenes of torture that would do Abu Gharib proud -- this film seems unable and unwilling to compromise. And, because of that, you won't be able to take your eyes off the screen for 126 minutes. The movie doesn't shy away from the nudity found in the Sin City comics, either. While Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) keeps her top on (which is ironic, since she's Sin City's most in-demand STRIPPER!), there are plenty of other characters that throw caution (and clothing) to the wind. Being that toplessness in R rated films has turned taboo, this movie's liberal dashes of nudity make it a sort of cinematic Holy Grail. Blood, broads, bullets, butts, love, lust, tits and torture -- what more could a person ask for?
How about a story?
How about three of them? Sin City doesn't rest on its laurels and let the spraying arteries and exposed breasts do all the work. Many films have tried to claim the title as their own, but Sin City truly is the next Pulp Fiction. The movie begins (after a brief wraparound story featuring Josh Hartnett as The Salesman) with John Hartigan (Bruce Willis) -- a down on his luck cop with a bad ticker -- pursuing Junior (Nick Stahl) a serial rapist, who happens to be the son of a prominent Senator. Hartigan is desperate to catch Junior before he takes his next victim. As his heart begins failing on him, Hartigan prays that he doesn't hear that dreaded scream. You see, Junior can't get it up until he elicits a scream from his victims. Without spoiling the story, Hartigan finds that Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) has pulled out all the stops to prevent his violent sex offender of a son's arrest -- right down to buying the policemen whose job it is to serve and protect. One of those detectives happens to be Hartigan's trusted partner, Bob (Michael Madsen), who isn't above taking part in the framing of his friend. It's not looking like the best day to be a good cop in Sin City.
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The Hard Goodbye
The second (or third, if you count The Salesman's) story is where the film really shines. Based, almost word for word, on Miller's The Hard Goodbye, it tells the story of Marv (Mickey Rourke) and his quest to avenge the love of his life's murder. It didn't take much for Marv to fall in love. As a matter of fact, all he needed was a hooker looking for protection from the biggest brute she could find. Her name was Goldie (Jaime King), and, by making love to him on a tacky heart shaped bed, she made him feel like something more than a monster. And that was the best feeling Marv -- a man so grotesque, he couldn't get sex if he paid for it -- ever had. Marv's going to make sure the men behind his Goldie's death pay for what they did. He's going to make sure that, after he's through with them, the Hell he sends them to will seem like Heaven. When asked why he'd sacrifice everything for a woman he spent just one night with, Marv answers, "she was nice to me." Marv works the streets and slowly pieces together the puzzle, and all signs lead to Goldie's death being ordered by Senator Roark's brother, Cardinal Roark (Rutger Hauer). A top contender to be the next President of the United States, before devoting his life to "religion," Cardinal Roark has surpassed even his brother, becoming the most powerful man in Sin City. Marv could care less. Marv isn't going to stop until he delivers comeuppance to any and every individual that fucked with his Goldie -- consequences be damned. Problem is, to get to the Cardinal, he needs to battle Kevin (Elijah Wood). Kevin's a creepy little bastard with the nasty habit of hunting down hookers and eating their flesh, along with their souls. He also moves like a ghost and is next to impossible to lay a finger on. In the comic, Kevin was a slightly older gentleman with some nasty lookin' whiskers. In the movie, he's a clean-shaven Elijah Wood with some funky glasses that, in combination with Wood's seemingly lifeless eyes, will creep you out for weeks to come. Wood couldn't have asked for a better role than the one he received in Sin City. Any chance of his being typecast as Frodo has been thankfully (for the longevity of his acting career) demolished. And Mickey Rourke as Marv? He's spectacular. His performance will remind people of just why he was about to be a star, before a few bad decisions and a finicky public nearly ruined his career. Taking on the role of Marv has given Rourke a comeback the likes of which Martha Stewart had to be incarcerated to receive.
The Holy Trinity
The Holy Trinity of actors portraying the Roark family are fantastic. Powers Boothe, in a role similar to the one he has on HBO's excellent series, Deadwood, oozes corruption as the Senator. Rutger Hauer somehow manages to take one of the most devilish characters put on screen and give him a confused sort of sympathy as the Cardinal. And Nick Stahl is as gleefully evil as a yellow bastard/Senator's son can be. If the Academy can remember as far back as April, I wouldn't be surprised to see all three nominated for various acting awards.
Carla Gugino -- the mom from the Spy Kids' movies -- plays Marv's lesbian parole officer. She performs a lot of her scenes in the buff, and she is hot, hOT, HOT! She also does a fine job acting. I wasn't just staring at her sensuous naked body. Really.
The Big Fat Kill
This story revolves around the misadventures of Dwight (Clive Owen). Dwight's a man hiding from his past. The problem with this section of the film is that the past he's hiding from takes place in the Sin City graphic novel called, A Dame to Kill For. For whatever reason, the movie chooses to ignore nearly everything about Dwight's past, and just throw an unknowing audience into the action. I can't figure out why they didn't include at least part of Dwight's story from Dame (could they be thinking sequel/prequel? One can hope.). Without the background provided in the deeper Dame to Kill For story, The Big Fat Kill section of the film seems somewhat weak. At the same time, it has the sickest humor of the film and some of the movie's most memorable moments. We get to meet the exotic and pernicious local prostitutes in charge of Old Town. Led by the unwavering hard-ass, Gail (Rosario Dawson), the working women have made a deal with Sin City's finest -- they stay off the police's back, the police stay off their backs. The problem is that, after seeing Shellie (Brittany Murphy), the flirty bartender friend that's been putting him up, being abused by Jack Rafferty (Benicio Del Toro), Dwight decides to follow Mr. Rafferty into Old Town, to see that he doesn't do any more damage. Jack starts causing problems harassing one of the hookers and learns the hard way about a woman scorned -- especially if said woman has an army of tough-as-nails female friends, wielding weapons ranging from swastika shaped ninja stars to badass machine guns. Things heat up when Dwight discovers that Rafferty was a cop. If it's discovered that the whores murdered him, the pact with the police will end and Old Town will eventually wind up in the hands of the mob. Dwight develops a plan, but when Irish mobsters get involved, everything goes comically haywire. Again, I won't let you know how things turn out, but there's lots of blood, lots of bullets and a joke so fast and unexpected, including a single line delivered so perfectly, the audience laughed in a way I can only imagine audiences of the 30's laughing when Charlie Chaplin ate his shoe in The Gold Rush.
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The most successfully adapted comic book movie of all time
Sound like a bold statement? It's a bold movie. No filmmaker creating a comic book film has ever taken the care to recreate the comic book world fans fell in love with, like Robert Rodriguez has. Sin City is the movie that will finally let all the non-geeks out there know what us fanboys have been going on about. This one may actually have people accustomed to reading John Grisham looking at their bookshelf full of tepid bestsellers and wondering what the fuck went wrong with their lives. If Sin City can't create a spike in the sales of graphic novels, then nothing can. Despite the aforementioned troubles I had with the shortcomings of one of the film's three major stories, I can't help but drool all over this movie, like a slobbering mutt catching the sweet smell of a mature canine's finely groomed ass. Robert Rodriguez should be commended, patted on the back and given a free blowjob for his dedication to bringing the world of Sin City to the silver screen. But more than Rodriguez, we should bow down and thank Frank Miller for fighting as hard as he did to keep his "baby" true to form. Miller himself describes Sin City as "a town that exists – literally and figuratively -- in black and white, a world every bit as stark and hard-edged on the outside as it feels on the inside. Only the rarest flashes of blazing color light up this city. Likewise, it is a place of deep contrasts. Contrasts between the corrupt, the power-hungry and the unredeemable on the one hand, and those still clinging by their fingernails to morals, hopes and broken-hearted dreams of love on the other." If Miller was a character in his own book, he'd be clinging by his fingernails, fighting like hell to stop the power-hungry from making his movie a full-color, PG-13 rated film with Marv action figures shoved into billions of Happy Meals across the world. And Rodriguez would be right there by his side, fighting for Hollywood movies to be art again. The two of them in an uphill battle to energize and revitalize a genre, turning film-noir into hyper-noir. The dynamic duo raging violently against the machine, and eventually winning. Geeks of the world, Sin City is the movie we've been waiting for. Let's enjoy it.
Agree? Disagree? Have questions? Comments? Email this critic at firstname.lastname@example.org
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