Sin City may not sound like a place most people want to visit, but the characters in Frank Miller’s graphic novel, precisely adapted into the movie, call it home. They include crooked cops, sexy but savvy dames, men who lust after them, and despairing vigilantes.
After the “mild” trailers shown on TV, many moviegoers have been intrigued by this extremely unusual movie, but some of them may not want to see the exceptionally violent and dark drawings brought to life.
Frank Miller is the author of several graphic novels about Sin City. He and Robert Rodriguez (Once Upon a Time in Mexico) both served as directors and brought three novels to the screen frame by frame. Rodriguez had read all the novels and thought about making them into a film for many years.
“I’ve always wanted to do a film noir,” he said. “It was after doing the Spy Kids movies and learning so much about lighting and technology that I realized I could make this movie and make it look like the book…I realized it didn’t need adapting. It’s visual storytelling, and it works so well on the page. I felt it should work exactly the same way on the screen.”
While almost every scene contains brutality, death, sadism and sexual exploitation, potential viewers need to understand that it’s comic book style, but still graphic in nature. Fans of graphic novels who can weather this scenario are in for a treat. Rodriguez has parlayed his genius for cutting-edge digital filmmaking along with Miller’s intriguing noir story and artwork into something fresh and stylistically detailed. Most of the film is done in black and white with an occasional dash of red -- maybe a pair of shoes or someone’s lips.
There are three different stories; however they don’t blend seamlessly and tend to jump from one to another. Told in a 40s noir detective style, it’s easy to get lost where each plot is going. Still, the techniques used to enhance Miller’s artwork transported me enthusiastically into the world of Sin City’s Old Town -- a sultry, shadowy place filled with mystery.
Mickey Rourke owns this movie as Marv, a tough street fighter who only mellows when in the arms of a prostitute, his favorite -- Goldie (Jaime King). Don’t expect to recognize Rourke, the make-up job on him is incredible. When Marv wakes up after a night with Goldie and finds her dead in the bed, he vows revenge and gets it in one brutal murder after another. He heads to Old Town, which is run and controlled by a brood of scantily clad prostitutes, three of whom are played by Rosario Dawson as a kind of sheriff there, Brittany Murphy who appears in all three stories, and Devon Aoki as the sword-fighting non-speaking female samurai.
Shellie has been Jackie Boy’s (Benicio Del Toro) gal for some time, mainly because she’s been afraid to cross the corrupt cop. Temptation becomes too strong when the strapping and seductive Dwight (Clive Owen) makes a play for her. As imagined, the two men then end up in a “may the best man win” dual for her affections.
The majority of the movie involves Hartigan (Bruce Willis), the last honest cop in town, who gets double-crossed when he tries to save a young girl (Nancy) from the grasp of a senator’s evil son (Nick Stahl). Haritgan is sent to jail where he and Nancy write each other. When he gets out, Nancy, now a grown up stripper, is there waiting to thank her hero. Jessica Alba plays Nancy perfectly. Not quite as risqué as the character is in the novel, Nancy is a sensuous but sweet-hearted woman, probably the only one in this movie anyone would really like to know.
There are many other side characters -- including Elijah Wood (who eats people), Alexis Bledel, Michael Clarke Duncan, Josh Hartnett, Michael Madsen -- who play a part in the story, but the real attention grabber is the film itself.
“When you see something like this you realize how much movies are very much the same, said Rodriguez. “This is a real breath of fresh air, I think. It’s pulpy, stylized and something different, new, entertaining and exciting, and people are looking for that.”
I agree with something Rodriguez also mentioned in his interview, that moviegoers are drawn to meet people they never meet in normal life and to see things they would never see. Although Sin City certainly fits that bill, I can’t recommend it for anyone under 18.
(Released by Dimension Films and rated “R” for sustained strong stylized violence, nudity and sexual content including dialogue.)
Click here to read Diana’s interviews with Robert Rodriguez and Sin City cast members.