Lifted directly from the comic books and plastered onto the silver screen with gusto comes Sin City, a violent, rampaging comic book adaptation from the Frank Miller stories.
Shot as a panel-by-panel re-creation of the comic, Sin City makes a stunningly faithful translation to the big screen, thanks in large part to its computer-assisted construction. Like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Sin City was filmed entirely in front of blue screens, enabling Miller and director Robert Rodriguez to digitally alter backgrounds and images.
Reminiscent of the best comic book films, Sin City is able to create a world unto itself. The film, which is almost entirely in black and white with only instances of color scattered about, is a strikingly visual experience. It’s amazing that Rodriguez – who also wrote, edited, added the music score and handled the camera – was able to create such a stylish, noir experience. The images are a dazzling spectacle.
Rodriguez is a surprising choice to be the new poster boy for filmmaking. His befuddling filmography is cluttered with sometimes solid, but mostly unspectacular work. Up until the release of Sin City, Rodriguez was best known for his Once Upon a Time in Mexico and Spy Kids trilogies. Along with the underwhelming From Dusk Till Dawn and The Faculty, there was hardly an indication, besides his multi-tasking ability, that Rodriguez had something on this grand a scale in him.
Hopefully a harbinger of future things, Sin City forces the director to drop his kiddie-film niche and carve out a truly unique vision. Meanwhile, his love of sequels suggests a much-welcomed return to Sin City. Former collaborator Johnny Depp is already being rumored as a possible star for the next one.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Sin City is a collection of short stories that barely intersect. The experience is like watching a few brilliantly realized short films strung together by one furious mood.
After a brief opening sequence involving Josh Hartnett (who also stars in the last sequence), Bruce Willis takes control of the storyline as Hartigan. Hartigan is basically the same moralistic cop Willis has been trumpeting for ten years, but with a heart condition and a purpose. He’s out to stop a child rapist from securing another victim and he won’t be deterred.
Mickey Rourke comes out of hiding to star as Marv in part two. Marv’s story is by far the most entertaining and touching. He’s a disfigured lug who wakes up to find that the only girl who ever treated him like a human being lying dead beside him. That event sends him on a murderous charge through the alleyways of Sin City to find her killer.
Clive Owen smoothly pedals the last storyline as Dwight, who spends his time trying to negotiate a truce between the downtown Sin City hookers and the crooked cops.
The women in the film let us down a little bit. They’re mostly culled from TV shows and failed films and really do nothing to add to the movie. Brittany Murphy probably fares the best out of the group. She plays Dwight’s threatened girlfriend, propelling the whole third act. Rosario Dawson is wasted as one of the downtown sword-carrying hookers and Jessica Alba looks great as Nancy Callahan, but really has no opportunity to flesh out her own character.
Really though, they aren’t the focus of the film. The guys of the film held the show and propelled the movie. They’re at their most comfortable with a gun in hand (sometimes toting one in each). Characters are shot a million times with only a slight impact. One character is even given the electric chair only to sit up and ask for more. It’s a rough-necked, tough and at times a savage flick. And it’s sinfully fresh.
Brian Mulligan can be reached at email@example.com.