A Palsy Victim Performing Brain Surgery With A Monkeywrench

Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s "Sin City" is the perfect mesh of Film Noir, ultra-violence, comic book camp, and cinema technology.

Editor’s Note: Since Steve & Trey left a couple of comments about "Sin City" on my last broad-sweeping post, I thought I’d finally get around to posting my review and thoughts on the film… did I mention I’ve been really occupied lately?

I went to see the late show of "Sin City" a couple of weeks ago. I had heard great things about this movie, and more than just the regular hype running up to a Hollywood bankbuster. This was the movie that was really going to showcase digital as a means of shooting and editing film. I read Wired’s article on Robert Rodriguez’s use of digital, and knew that at least I would enjoy the stylization and cinematography. I love stylized films, and this one goes all the way. But of course, it was that bare-bones, gritty style that made Miller’s comic such a cult classic to begin with. You can see the panels of Miller’s comic coming to life. The style of this movie is the style of the comic book. That is to say, it is the straight black & white to simulate inked drawings. The caricature-esque figures of each seedy individual are given voices and made to move. Rodriguez and Miller have done the impossible: they actually made a comic book film. It took the story lines of some of the greatest comics every written along with Rodriguez’s uncanny ability to make impossible films (see the story behind "El Mariachi," for starters) and the use of digital equipment to do it. Sure, we’ve seen many other comic book movies, but those were Hollywood versions of the story-line; reproductions only. This is a comic book being displayed in live action on a big screen.

This is the sort of film that doesn’t get made unless someone like Robert Rodriguez tells Hollywood execs to bugger-off and goes and does it himself. This film makes no apologies in it’s presentation. You are going to be sick at some of the fantastic brutality that takes place. This is "Pulp Fiction" noir, but sadly everybody compares every violent film to Tarantino’s big debut (and especially since he guest-directed on "Sin City"). Actually, I’d say since you end up loving some really nasty characters, it would be more in line with "A Clockwork Orange," and no-less style driven that than film. A lot of the acting is cheesy, to be kind, but that just lends itself to the noir genre. I have to say that Michael Madsen’s dialogue with Bruce Willis comes to mind first. I can’t fault him, or the other actors or director(s) much, though. Honestly, when you actually listen to one of Bogie‘s speeches about dames in those films, it almost seems like a parody as opposed to the original. It’s just so ingrained into American pop-culture. Cheesy, over-dramatic lines are part of film-noir like broads and stiffs. It’s Miller’s comic twists on the genre that make the real magic, and this film delivers. Madsen is such a terrific actor ("Kill Bill Vol. 2" and "Reservoir Dogs" come to mind immediately, but that’s probably because I mentioned Tarantino), it’s almost a shame to see him say really goofy things to in the second scene of the film.

Some real highlights of the movie included Bruce Willis, who did such a convincing job as aging detective Hartigan, it makes me think how good he would be as Batman if Frank Miller’s "Dark Knight" was ever made. Nah, Hollywood would never go for a decrepit, senile old man as Batman; but then again, who ever thought "Sin City" would get made as a film? Also, Mickey Rourke made the comic anti-hero Marv really come to life. He was one of several people who put on some prosthetics to get into character, and really made the thick-jawed, psychotic Marv come real. Everybody is great in this film, but those two really sold the lines to me.

So prepare yourself for a black ink noir fantasy with lots of violence and oddball characters. Then go see "Sin City," and see what is possible in film. Two last little bits: look out for Frank Miller in his cameo as a priest during the confessional scene, and do not go to www.sincity.com… it doesn’t have anything to do with the comic and might get you in trouble with your boss or wife. You were warned.

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