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Film Review: Sin City

Written by Frank Miller
Directed by Robert Rodriguez & Frank Miller
(Cut & Shot by Robert Rodriguez)
Starring a whole load of people, including Mickey Rourke, Elijah Wood, Rutger Hauer, Carla Gugino, Jessica Alba, Clive Owen, Rosario Dawson, Josh Hartnett, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Clarke Duncan, Brittany Murphy, Nick Stahl, Powers Boothe, and Bruce Willis

This film is the pinnacle of comic book adaptations, because IT IS the comic book in movie form. As someone who has enjoyed the Sin City comics for a while, just the act of seeing it on the silver screen was an absolute blast, even without the fact that it is one of the most visually arresting films of the year, shot in a completely original style that creates a whole new world in front of your eyes. Using the comics as storyboards, the film just creates the movement between the shots, adding a cool score and letting the actors enjoy spitting out Miller’s hardboiled dialogue, which is a distillation of the pulp fiction of Chandler, Hammett, Thompson and Spillane filtered through film noir.

Like the books themselves, the film takes three stories that take place in Basin City around the same timeframe, so different characters show up from different tales. Sin City is full of hard men, corrupt cops, bent senators, crooked bishops, tough hookers and innocent strippers; in other words, it’s not real, but it gives the illusion of reality. It is a world created by and for the stories to be told. Rodriguez has created this world digitally, filming his actors on blue screen and adding all the detail afterwards, using the art of the comic to flesh out each shot beautifully, with the mix of greys and the splash of colour to individualise a character or shot. It is a joy to behold, complementing the bold storylines and etched characters perfectly.

In the first story, Marv (Rourke) is looking for the killer of the only hooker to show him some kindness, in a sewer of corruption. In the second story, Dwight (Owen) is helping his old girlfriend (Dawson), the de facto head of the hookers of Old Town, to keep the crooked cops and brutal mob from taking over. In the third story, Hartigan (Willis) is protecting the girl (Alba) he saved from a serial killer, who is safe from immunity because he is the son of a corrupt senator, several years after the event. These are tales of tough men doing tough things in a tough world, not a universe full of love and tenderness, which may suggest Miller has some problems in that area, but they are still powerful and primal in their own right.

Seeing the fleshed-out images of Miller’s monochrome world is a fascinating exercise in itself. Miller has always had a cinematic bent to his work, so it is very easy to see the visual fluidity in his imagery, where an artist has to pick the perfect image to capture the mood, action or moment as well as tell the story. It’s a blast seeing Rourke as Marv, perfect casting, huge and lumbering and unstoppable, covered in those white plasters and scars, plowing through the police and doing unbelievable things. Even the bizarre fetish Millar has with ninjas (not that I’m complaining) looks good on screen, and the parade of flesh on display in Old Town is kept true from the books. This is an amazing slice of cinema, providing another retort to the slur that all comic book movies are rubbish. Bring on the sequels, ya pansies …

Rating: DAVE

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