Directed by Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino.
Written by Frank Miller. Based on the comic series by Frank
Starring Mickey Rourke, Clive Owen and Bruce Willis.
Release Year: 2005
Review Date: 4/3/2005
My friend Chi and I were talking last week,
and he revealed his truth--he was getting excited to see the new
flick "Sin City." This worried me, because this might be the
kiss of death--his excitement might translate into lost dreams and
unfulfilled promises. But in listening to Chi I realized that
even I was getting excited about "Sin City"--it's got a great
trailer, a loaded cast, a cool website, and heavy involvement by the
comic's creator, Frank Miller, who even served as a director on the
set of the film too.
From start to finish, "Sin City" is a
complete product, the real deal, the kind of film that meets high
expectations and exceeds them in almost every way. Even The
Washington Post gave "Sin City" a great review, and we all know
that NEVER happens. I haven't read the comic but I don't have
to; the film looks like a comic book that just happens to be acted
out. The look, the special effects, the dialogue, the guns,
the girls, the violence, and every little detail in-between seems to
have creator Frank Miller's seal of approval, and it works on all
The film is based on three separate Miller's
stories based on life in Basin City. In the first, a former
criminal named Marv (Mickey Rourke) has a one-night stand with a
hooker named Goldie (Jaime King)...the next morning, Marv wakes up
from a fabulous night to see Goldie lying dead beside him.
Almost immediately, the cops show up at his hotel room; from there,
Marv goes on a manhunt to find out who framed him and killed his
hooker angel. In the second story, a loner and former hit man
named Dwight (Clive Owen) defends his new flame Shellie (Brittany
Murphy) by going after a psycho named Jackie Boy (Benicio Del
Toro)...unfortunately, Jackie Boy's background leads Dwight to
defend even more women in Old Towne against a mob boss (Michael
Clarke Duncan) that threatens to hold this seedy subsection hostage.
And in the third segment Basin City's only righteous citizen,
Detective Hartigan (Bruce Willis) tries to protect a girl he saved
years ago, Nancy (Jessica Alba), from a politician's perverted son
(Nick Stahl) and a gang of thugs.
All three of the stories seem to happen on
the same day; all of the stories revolve around a man's need to
protect a woman that he barely knows. The thing that I
liked the best about "Sin City" were the stories themselves; they're
all the same but told with only slight variations, slight enough
that it was almost like hearing the same joke three times but being
told the joke by different people. Marv is vengeful to no end;
he is nearly indestructible, and seems to take joy in torture...but
at the end of the day, he only seeks to lay the smackdown on those
that have something to do with Goldie's death. Rourke is so
good at this kind of thing, from the dialogue to the deadpan eyes;
he's a perfect choice to play Marv, a hideous sight to behold but a
comic relief for the film's base material. Marv is the
thickest pulp of "Sin City"; he can fall ten stories without harm,
get hit by cars without incident, spout off one-liners like they
were a morning greeting.
I liked the first segment the best but the
other two were strong as well. Hartigan, as played by Willis,
is Dick Tracy with a few more scars; did you notice that (straight
out of a comic book) every time he is talking to someone he seems to
be standing straight up and casting a tall shadow? Even as
Hartigan's health is deteriorating he can only focus on protecting a
girl that he has zero connection with; his only real moment of
emotion comes as he faces his rival, Rourk/Yellow Bastard, the man
that led to Hartigan's eight-year prison stay. Willis is
supposed to be playing a man in his mid-60s, and he does that well;
his patience seems to play well with someone that should have
retired ages ago. Stahl plays his bad guy with flair, Alba
actually comes off as sweet instead of just plain ol' dirty, Michael
Madsen even seems to play his sidekick dialed down two notches,
fitting right into place instead of trying to steal the show.
And how good is Clive Owen? The middle
segment is the most senseless of the three, but that makes it even
more fun as you get to watch the women of Old Towne go in guns
blazing in lace and tall stockings. As Dwight, Owen only has
to shoot people and look cool and Owen has done that in countless
other works with his eyes closed. How hot is Devon Aoki, a
supporting character from
Fast 2 Furious" that has no lines in "Sin City" but works magic
just by looking like the most dangerous broad in town. I love
that the directors--hard to tell who's even directing what, with
three directors on the billing--made sure Miho never even looks
flustered when she is being blown into the air by a grenade
blast...one can imagine Miho being drawn that way, which works well
when Aoki gives her life. Jeez, I even loved the Uzi that
Rosario Dawson's character totes as she lights up the bad guys.
The look of the film? Excellent.
There's some color splashed in for effect here and there, but it's
black and white for the most part, and it works beautifully.
Shit, even the credits are cool, when they flash who's playing who
but use the original comic's drawings to show you what they looked
like in the text. The static shots, the strange slow-motion
effect used throughout the film whenever someone gets shot, the
little bandage strips that Marv uses to cover up the myriad cuts and
bruises he takes throughout his segment. The nudity used not
to sex up the final product but to make those shots even more
tragic; Marv's confusion over the sexual orientation of his parole
officer (Carla Gugino) leads him to stare at the nude product and
wonder how she could be a switch hitter, giving the scene more than
just a giggle moment.
And, there's the violence; it's not your
typical Rodriguez violence, bloody for the sake of bloody, sometimes
for the sake of your laughter like in "From Dusk Till Dawn."
No, this is much more of a mix--sometimes it is for laughs, but
usually it is because the "heroes" of Sin City are a vengeful bunch.
Marv doesn't just kill a man, he kills them, cuts them into pieces,
feeds them to household pets and then smokes a cigarette.
Hartigan would have been fine to just shoot a guy, but he has to
shoot his arm off and THEN shoot his dong off. The irony that
the hit man, Dwight, is the least violent of the three was hilarious
to me--at times, you see him thinking about killing a cop for no
reason, or trying to spare the life of a man that just abuses women
without killing them, and you think, "This guy was a hit man?"
Then he oversees the bloodbath of 30 people without any real sorrow.
I was glad to not have it all explained to
me--what IS that scar on Hartigan's face from? Who is the hit
man that shows up to begin and end the film? Why do Marv,
Dwight and Hartigan seem to be carrying old-school weapons while
everyone else employs more modern firepower? Why is a cop that
goes after Marv tattooed up like a guy out of
Bill Vol. I"? That just added to the mystique.
This is now my favorite Rodriguez film,
taking the place of "Desperado." One of the few times over the
last few years that I wanted to see a film again in a theater soon
after leaving. Cool stuff.
Rating: Opening Weekend
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard