If you have the stomach, Sin City is currently saturating screens with gallons of stylised blood and guts. The visual feast is straight off the pages of graphic novelist Frank Miller, who is credited as director alongside Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi and Spy Kids) and special guest director Quentin Tarantino.
Rodriguez rightly offered Miller a co-director’s credit for Sin City considering the film is not so much an adaptation as a translation to screen -“ frame by frame -“ of three of Miller’s tales set in the pulp fiction netherworld of Sin City: The Hard Goodbye, The Big Fat Kill and That Yellow Bastard.
Miller offers no obvious heroes, just tough guys surviving in Sin City, a violent world corrupted by crooked politicians and bad cops. His anti-heroes are gritty and rough but with a strong moral code, big hearts, and a soft spot for the women.
To start with, Mickey Rourke, under a severe prosthetic face, conjures up Marv, an ugly mug whose one night of love ends with a dead dame in his bed and leads to a bloody rampage. Private eye Dwight (Clive Owen) winds up killing a cop in Old Town, home to all of Sin City’s ladies of the night. Sin City’s only honest cop Hartigan (Bruce Willis) saves a young girl from the warped murderous son of a senator (played in all his yellow glory by Nick Stahl).
And in a post-feminist twist, Miller’s women are gutsy, independent and not afraid to look like whores -“ mainly because they are. Rosario Dawson’s gutsy, sexy Gail leads the Sin City prostitutes in battle with Dwight against the mob. And Jessica Alba is the sweet tabletop dancer with Hartigan’s name on her lips.
Sin City’s topnotch ensemble cast is so peppered with great performances you barely blink when Benicio Del Toro, Brittany Murphy, Michael Madsen, Elijah Wood, D.E.B.S.‘s Devon Aoki and Josh Hartnett cross the screen. The actors are amazing considering they performed to a blank green screen, the stylised setting only cut in during post-production.
This brings me to the real star of the film -“ its graphic cartoon look. Visually, Rodriguez takes you into the pages of Sin City until you are up to your elbows in the largely black and white pulp fiction and film noir world -“ even the blood oozes white. Technically sophisticated, narratively engaging, Sin City may not be for everyone, but it is wholly successful in what it set out to do.
OPENING THIS WEEK
With Monster-In-Law Jane Fonda returns to the screen as Jennifer Lopez’s future mother-in-law in the latest comedy by Legally Blonde director Robert Luketic. Fonda’s wickedness barely holds up a slow first act. It’s not until J Lo decides to return Fonda’s fire that Monster-In-Law comes to life in slapstick glory.