Sin City review by The Grim Ringler

There are movies that polarize people, like most horror films and any number of superhero films, and then there are movies that polarize people the sorta movie that you either love or hate and that there is no swaying you on your feelings. Sin City is just that sort of film. A film so bold, so audacious, that even I hated it at first. My initial impression to the film was oh god Rodriguez, what the hell did you do, people are laughing at your movie man? But then there came a point, it was into the storyline with Mickey Rourke as Marv, and I just stopped thinking and fell into that world. And so did the rest of the audience. And sure, there were laughs, there were gasps, but it was because that was what Rodriguez and Miller wanted from you. Now, I have read more than a couple reviews for SC and its been interesting to see how people are seeing this film, are feeling this film, and to be honest, I agreed with the reviews I read, positive and negative. This is a great, fun film, and a great piece of pop-filmmaking, but this is not great art, but hell, it was never meant to be that, was it?

Sin City tells three tales, split up and woven through the film so that there is no head or tail, but several bits of the world of Sin City and its people. There is a fourth, wraparound story, that lets you know the kind of ruthless, brutal place this city is, but the meat of the matter is held within three tales. The first (and last) of the three stories follows Hartigan (Bruce Willis), a cop with a bad heart who has just been forcibly removed from the police force for that very reason. He has one last thing to do before he can retire though, and thats to stop the son of the man that runs Sin City, who is a violent pedophile. The son, Junior, has gotten his hands on another girl and Hartigan is determined not to let this monster rape and kill another little girl. But while he is able to save the girl, and wound Junior permanently in the process, he also doesnt die as he had thought he would, his heart and some gunshot wounds playing hell with his life expectancy, so its off to jail for him, Juniors father making sure that its Hartigan the gets pinned with the kiddie-raper rap. Which suits Hartigan fine, as long as Nancy, the little girl he saved is safe. Junior tricks Hartigan though into revealing where Nancy lives and so it becomes a race to see who can find her first, Hartigan, or Junior, who has become a monster over the years. The second tale features Rourkes Marv, a slab of violence and hatred un-used to anyone giving a damn about him, let alone showing him an act of kindness. So when a hooker named Goldie shows him some sexual healing one night and he wakes up to her dead body the next morning, you can bet your boots that Marv is going to find out who killed her and make sure they pay. This is the episode I think most people will dig the most as its the most brutal, most visceral, and the closest to watching a live action comic book. Marv is a force of nature, a tornado waiting to be unleashed, and Rourke brings him to life brilliantly, finding nobility in his rage and violence that many wouldnt have seen in the man. This is also the story that gives you one Elijah Wood, last seen in Lord of the Rings, as a crazed cannibal Marv has to deal with. The third story revolves around a case of mistaken identity, as a wanted man named Dwight (Clive Owen getting his noir thing on) tracks his new flings troublesome ex into a part of Sin City ruled by the deadly street walkers of the area and bringing trouble to everyone. It turns out that the ex was a cop, and not just any cop but a hero cop, and his big mouth has unfortunately gotten him killed by the dangerous ladies of the night that rule this part of town. Realizing too late who he is, Dwight takes it upon himself to clean up the mess, lest the cops and the mob find out what happened and move back into this part of town, bringing with them the rape, violence, and pimps that have been removed.

I first have to say this though I didnt mention the women in the film, it is not because they are not good in Sin City but just because theres a point where you can tell too much about a film, and I am afraid a lot of people are going to do just that. If people like the movie theyll gush, if they hate it theyll howl. If you have ever seen a noir film then you know that there are double-crosses, secrets, lies, murders, and a whole lot of gnarly interior monologues. But there are also a lot of great femme fatales here. The entire cast of women here are all very good, the standout being Rosario Dawson as Gail, the leader of the prostitutes and the ex-love interest of Dwight. After seeing this movie you wouldnt want to mess with Ms. Dawson for fear of some deadly vengeance. The rest of the women are all very good though, and I give props to Carla Gugino for having the guts to have a couple pretty long scenes where she is in only a thong and still holds her own with Marvs scenery chewing. And thats the thing, if I can convey one thing to you its this as hard as it was for me to slip into this world, as I just dont dig noir dialogue, once I did, I was in this world. I believed every crazy, impossible thing I saw, and I loved it. Sin City is sort of like watching your favorite sports team play for a championship, or their biggest rival, and the entire game is a blur afterwards. This is pure adrenaline. No, there arent any great, deep lessons here, there arent any hidden meanings. What you see is what you get. And good. You get a great popcorn movie that delivers on all it promises. And hell, directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller have created a world that, digital though it is, you believe in. The last place you want to go is Sin City, and thats a compliment. This is an evil place, and to survive it, you have to be able to do things that you dont always want to, but that have to be done just the same.

Its a shame that the Oscars dont have more guts when it comes to their awards because this film deserves, if nothing else, a nomination for best direction next year. Even when some of the digital effects arent as believable as some of the rest, you still believe in this world. And the direction is a perfect interpretation of comic panels. The use of color, straight from the graphic novels this film is based on, is also a brilliant touch, allowing focus to be placed on a feeling, an effect, or on a place that color films have to work to do. Its interesting, for instance, that the bar that Nancy works at, a dive strip club, seems like a safe haven in its colored world, as if anyone and everyone is welcome and that this is one of the few places where you are safe. The writing is pure pulp noir, and while it has its bumps, it is what it is, and even I can see the beauty in moments such as Dwight and Gail admitting their love for one another, but knowing it isnt going to last. And hell, if horror movie makers had known that all it takes to get your gore onscreen and seen is to change the color palette I am sure wed be seeing some pretty brutal horror films these days. And its interesting as you always hear how we are all so desensitized to violence in films yet, the crowd I saw this with felt every last blow, and winced at each one. By having things so surreal and by messing with the color palette the directors were able to push the violence further and to make it more brutal than anything I have seen in a while. The acting is superb, and I have to give a hand to everyone involved, who believed in this weird, crazy project, and gave it their all. Lets hope this is opens more doors for all of these actors, who all took risks to make this film work.

Should you walk into or rent Sin City looking for perfection, you will be disappointed. The film, most of it shot on stages in front f green screens to create the vivid world, does have some hiccups with the effects. It didnt bother me, generally speaking, but there are some effects that dont work as well as the others. A problem that still plagues films with so many effects. And a lot of people will take the archetypes way too seriously. Yes, the predominance of female characters are hookers or strippers, but none are victims. I wouldnt say that all of Sin City, the place is made up of hard dames, as it were, but these stories are about some. Again I stress that none of these women are victims. None are weak, none need a man to protect them (well, ok Goldie does, but I think we can accept this one victim), and all know the choices they have made. Hell, to the person who claims that all women in the film are whores I can counter with the idea that all men in this world are killers. And I suppose they all are. In these stories. And thats what you need to keep in mind - these are stories, appreciations of the noir formula and genre, and no more. The violence will turn people off as well, and the film does get pretty brutal, but again, I dont think that anyone who watches the film and knows what it is will be taken off guard.

The movie is what it is a geekfest love letter to a man Frank Miller and his graphic novels, and also a love letter to movies and the digital technology that is becoming so standard. If innovative and gutsy films like this are what we have to look forward to, then I for one wont feel quite so bad to see traditional film being used less frequently. I loved this film, and my friends loved this film. I dont know what we expected, but I know that I didnt think Miller and Rodriguez would pull this off, and they have. Yes, the story structure is weird, and yes, characters like Marv and Yellow Bastard can only exist in comics, but is that a bad thing? What Sin City does is to marry comics and that world, to the world of the noir, and to do it in a hyper-realistic way where men who act monstrous really become monstrous, and where there arent so much good guys as better guys. Movie nerds will eat this up, comics nerds will love it, and hopefully you will as well, though I wouldnt recommend staying the night in Sin City, as it looks to last forever.


8 out of 10 Jackasses
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