Director: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller, Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Clive Owen, Nick Stahl, Powers Boothe, Rutger Hauer, Elijah Wood, Rosario Dawson, Benicio Del Toro, Jaime King, Devon Aoki, Brittany Murphy, Michael Clarke Duncan, Carla Gugino, Alexis Bledel, Josh Hartnett, Marley Shelton and Michael Madsen
Review: Imagine Chuck Palahniuk chewing up the best pages of your favorite Raymond Chandler novel while receiving two jaw-popping punches, then spitting out a mouthful of blood and pulp and bits of teeth onto the silver screen.
That’s Sin City.
Robert Rodriguez filmed, directed and edited Sin City at his private studio in Austin, Texas. By getting away from the watchful eye and iron thumb of the Hollywood executives, he was able to make one of the most fearlessly original films to ever get a major studio release.
A shot-for-shot recreation of the Frank Miller independent comics—the translation is so literal that Rodriguez gave Miller a co-directing credit—Sin City is unapologetically misogynistic, brutally violent and beautifully shot. In short, it is risky and innovative in all the right ways.
Rodriguez used digital cameras and computer animation to give Sin City its distinct look. Like Miller before him, he uses black-and-white to evoke a film noir feel, but breaks it up with bold splashes of color. The gold of a woman’s hair. The yellow of a bastard’s complexion. A solitary red dress.
Miller populated Sin City with protagonists that are both deeply flawed and instantly familiar. The disgraced ex-cop. The sociopathic low-life with a soft-spot for the dames. The sympathetic murderer trying to make good.
The only heroes in Sin City are antiheroes—tough-as-nails protagonists spitting hard-boiled dialog past dirty cigarettes clenched in taut jaws; fighting for redemption and revenge against a hopelessly corrupt world. If your looking for great character development, go find another film. If you’re looking for great characters, Sin City has them by the truckload.
Rodriguez has managed to put together one of the greatest ensemble casts ever put on film to bring the populace of Sin City to life. It is nearly impossible to imagine a better choice for any character in the film.
Mickey Rourke is especially memorable (and unrecognizable) as Marv, a homicidal force of nature unleashed to wreak vengance on the power brokers who contol Sin City. Bruce Willis is equally hard-bitten as Sin City’s last honest cop Hartigan in the second of the film’s three stories. But poor Clive Owen’s Dwight ends up opposite Benicio del Toro’s Jackie Boy, who manages to steal every scene he’s in whether he’s dead or alive.
It’s a cast that Rodriguez could not have afforded on his minuscule $40 million budget. The actors chose to work on this movie because they believed in the project. Marquee actors voluntarily disappeared under layers of makeup and prosthetics. A-list actresses shed their clothes and their inhibitions to serve the story…
…not that there is much story to serve. The three intertwining plots that make up Sin City are paper-thin but razor sharp. But film noir was never about the stories. It was about style, a certain type of cynicism and moral ambiguity. Sin City has plenty of moral ambiguity.
The plots of classic noir films such as The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep and Chinatown generally left audiences befuddled when they were released as well. The solution was the same then as it is now: don’t think about the plot.
Because if you start getting wrapped up in small details like plot, motivation and characterization, you’ll miss one hell of a great movie.
five degrees of separation
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow: A movie with all of Sin City‘s visual flair and none of its soul.
The Big Sleep: Prostitution, murder and drugs with Bogey and Bacall in the ’40s. The essence of film noir hasn’t changed that much.
American Splendor: Another comic-book movie that exceeds expectations.
Taxi Driver: DeNiro also wants to take care of hookers who can take care of themselves.
Chinatown: A movie that shows that Los Angeles could be as corrupt as any fictional city.