Starring Bruce Willis, Clive Owen and Jessica Alba
Written and directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez
Opens Friday, April 1
Check listings (for the love of God)
This is a story of sex and violence. Of crooked cops and well-armed prostitutes. Of psychopathic cannibals. Of serial pedophile rapists. Its called Sin City and its rated R. You have been warned.
Ever since it was announced that action auteur Robert Rodriguez was going to make a film version of Frank Millers celebrated graphic novel Sin City, comic stores have been buzzing with anticipation. This was not simply the usual geek speak where fans speculate about how Hollywood is going to wreck their favourite book. This time was different for several reasons. Rodriguez was so drawn to Millers stark neo-noir that he decided he would do anything he could to get it made. This meant writing a script that was translated word for word from the comic. This meant using Millers artwork not just as a springboard, but as storyboards. This meant bringing Miller on as director. When the Directors Guild of America decided it wanted to shut down the production of Sin City due to a bylaw infraction, Rodriguez renounced his membership to the guild. Fans of the book need not worry about an impure adaptation.
For those who arent familiar with Sin City, the film takes three of the storylines from Millers book and ties them up in one dripping, messy, seemingly misanthropic package, using cutting edge digital effects to bring it to life. In true crime fashion, the film tells the story of three men: Marv (Mickey Rourke), a man driven to find the person who murdered his girl; Dwight (Clive Owen), a man who will do anything for the women in his life; and Hartigan (Bruce Willis), the last good cop in Sin City who is desperate to save young Nancy (Jessica Alba) from her stalker no matter what the cost.
Shot in high-contrast black and white and narrated with a clipped pulpy voice, the film version of Sin City is not only the most stylish film in recent memory, its also the bloodiest. As each character works their way to the end of their vendetta the body count rises, body parts are lost and the rain-soaked streets start dripping with blood. Using computer-generated backgrounds and green-screen shooting, Rodriguez and Miller are able to re-create Sin Citys ambitious lighting schemes and architectural framing with Rodriguez employing no less than three visual-effects houses to paint in the detail. This isnt Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow all retro future and fake. Sin City takes its verbal and visual cues from classic crime novels and B-movie noir and the result is line perfect.
But more interesting than that is the fact that midway through the film, despite the gripping visuals, I completely lost track of how good Sin City looked because I was so swept up by its characters. You cant possibly splatter that much blood around without propulsion and behind the films arterial spray beats an honest-to-goodness heart. At the core of each story is a mans undying love for a woman and what he will do to maintain it. The fact that they continue in the face of extreme violence and unreasonable odds makes their motivation that much more personal if you wipe the blood from your eyes, Sin City becomes a tale of sacrifice.
Indeed, the film is ripe with male comic-book fantasy with impossibly voluptuous anti-heroines sporting next to nothing, and for that reason some may label the film as misogynist. Are the hookers in Sin Citys Old Town victims or are they completely in control? Its all in how you look at it. There may be an almost invisible line between good and bad, but despite the fact that Dwight, Marv and Hartigan do despicable things, they do them for what they believe are the right reasons.
With its non-linear episodic delivery, not to mention an appearance by special guest director Quentin Tarantino, its easy to compare Sin City to Pulp Fiction. Both films are groundbreaking crime thrillers that will define cinema for years to come. Though some might argue that he simply cribbed dialogue and stage direction from Miller, there is no doubting Rodriguezs talent. Not simply co-directing, he filmed, edited, scored and lit the film, and in the process actually made a case for using computer-generated effects. Make no mistake, this is Rodriguezs masterpiece. Steeped in film history, packed with unflinching performances by a host of brilliant actors, this film is everything a motion picture should be.
If I see a better film than Sin City this year, I will be completely surprised.