Friday, April 01, 2005

Sin City review

What to say about Sin City that's not been said before? And, if I start yammering about it, will I ever fucking shut up?
Well, for starters, I detested the comics. And yet, I loved the movie. More the second time around, even.
Where the comic books are bleak and dour and joyless, the film is vibrant and gleeful and mean. It's nasty. It's harsh.
It enjoys its rampages and killing sprees, and it's not afraid to rub it in your face. It takes pride in its hookers and corruption. It's garish and cruel and mean, and it don't aim to apologize.
The world of Basin City was created by comics legend Frank Miller 14 years ago, and it's proven popular enough to spawn an entire series of graphic novels and anthologies. It's noir, but modern. I've never been a fan.
That is, until now, of course.
The three and a half interweaving stories in the movie present the audience with what's arguably the best of Miller's ersatz noir, retelling The Hard Goodbye, The Big, Fat Kill and That Yellow Bastard. Rather than claim he created any of the angles and compositions in the movie, director Robert Rodriguez enlisted the aid of Miller in shooting the movie. They're co-directors, even though Hollywood refuses to acknowledge that such a thing exists. There's also a scene directed by Quentin Tarantino, just in case you wondered what he's been doing with himself.

Mickey Rourke's Marv is a force of nature -- a big, dumb brute who doesn't have any qualms about killing to settle a score or even if you look at him funny. When he wakes up with a dead woman in his bed, you know it's gonna get scarlet.
Sure enough, it gets bloody. And the more Marv kills, the closer he gets to the people behind Goldie's murder...the less sure of himself he is. Marv might be a tough galloot, but he's taken a few too many shots to the head, and it's beginning to affect his judgement.
Next, we follow Clive Owen's Dwight (star of a previous story not shown in the movie, A Dame to Kill For) as he attempts to prevent a bastard named Jackie Boy (Benicio del Toro) from hurting or killing a woman in Old Town. Of course, the women of Old Town have their own law...and when that law comes down on Jackie Boy and his friends, it stirs up a shitstorm that threatens every working girl in Old Town.

Alexis Bledel as Becky
Finally, Bruce Willis brings hard-nosed cop John Hartigan to bone-crunching life as he tries to protect Nancy Callahan, the one victim that got away, from That Yellow Bastard. The junior Roark is a freak, after having his hand and pecker shot off by Hartigan eight years before. He's had the hand and tackle regrown, but now he's a deformed yellow gnome with yellow ichor instead of blood. He's bad news, and he's determined to destroy both Hartigan and Nancy.

Nick Stahl as That Yellow Bastard
As I said. I wasn't a fan of the comics. And yet, time and time again, I would see a character onscreen and be dumbstruck at how much they looked like the character from the comics. The casting and design maximized the near-identical nature of the movie to the source material.
Most of the time, it pays off. I was impressed by Devon Aoki's portrayal of the silent, deadly Miho. I remarked to my friend Scott how much she "moved" just like the character in the comics, then realized...comics don't move. She was going from one pose to another and filling in the motion with the fluid grace I expected from the character. The casting of Clive Owen as dwight was another stroke of genius. He seems to relish the part, chewing on even the stilted dialogue, bringing the comic to life in a way I didn't expect or think possible. Benicio del Toro was wonderful, too, utterly sick in his portrayal of Jackie Boy as both asshole and murder victim.
Most people, of course, will talk about Mickey Rourke's return to greatness as the brutal, confused Marv. He's as good as his makeup by Greg Nicotero. Marv is more complex than his simple mind would hint at. He's basically a good guy, but he kills without hesitation. He's a wrecking machine when he's unleashed, but he has a gentle heart. He'd never hurt a lady, but he'd kill just about anything else. Point him in the right direction, pull the trigger, and nothing short of the Reaper himself is gonna stop him.
Rutger Hauer was delightfully evil, as was Powers Boothe, but the great villain of all of the pieces had to be Elijah Wood playing Kevin, the silent serial killer with a penchant for taking hunting trophies and not wasting his victims. Not only has Wood successfully distanced himself from his former child actor status, he's jumped straight away from the goodness and light of his recent performances in the Lord of the Rings movies. His character is darkness and evil incarnate, and he not only looks his creepy best in it, he looks like he's having a great time doing it.
Rosario Dawson on the other hand, well, she started off great. She looked fantastic in the bondage outfit, too...and after about her second line, she just seemed to be reading cue cards. I wasn't wholly impressed with Alexis Bledel, either. Or Josh Hartnett. Both seemed kind of lost and listless in this sea of depraved joy.

Jessica Alba and Bruce Willis in Sin City
My prime bitch with the Sin City comics is the dialogue. Spit out with the verve of most of the cast, the dialogue doesn't sound nearly as bad as it looks. In fact, if you just let it, the whole thing flows with a badass beat and a demented sense of humor. It seems, at least for me, to surpass the printed page.
Visually, I couldn't be more delighted with Sin City. Every nook and cranny of the screen is filled with details that either were in the comics, or just fleshed out what you've seen on the printed page previously.
I'll give it to Robert Rodriguez. He made a believer of me completely now. I've enjoyed his work. I've been a fan. But now, I'm totally convinced that the guy can do anythint he sets his mind to. I'm sad that he's not doing A Princess of Mars, but I know for certain Kerry Conran will do great. I can't wait to see what Rodriguez does with Madman...or whatever he's doing. Oh yeah...

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