Almost all comic book fans worldwide are
already familiar with Frank Miller. Whether it be through his
groundbreaking BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS books, or books like
300 and RONIN, at some point his work has come in front of their
faces. But Frank's most popular creation was his seedy film noir
universe featured in the SIN CITY comics. The storylines started
out in a very sporadic fashion, appearing in brief segments inside anthology
books. But it didn't take long for Dark Horse Comics to see that Miller
had a hit on his hands with these gritty characters. Over time they
released more specific mini-series and one-shots, and over the years it's all
been collected more than a few times in graphic novel form. Miller has
had experience with Hollywood productions before on films like ROBOCOP 2 and
3. But those times left a bad taste in his mouth, to the point of where
Frank refused to let any of his comic stories be bastardized no matter how
much money was involved. Then Robert Rodriguez came along.
Rodriguez is known for being a director with a distinctive vision, who can get
impressive things done for not a lot of money. He also happened to love
Miller's work. Robert wanted to prove to Frank that he could do SIN
CITY right, so much so that he shot a short film with big name stars just
so he could illustrate his passion for the source material. Well it
worked. Miller agreed to let Rodriguez do SIN CITY as a film, and
the results are nothing short of amazing.
The film opens with a short
story, which is solely meant to set the tone for the experience we're about to
have. And this film is just that, an experience. Those who have
read the stories will know what to expect. Those who haven't will be
thrown into something unlike anything ever seen on the big screen. The
movie is broken into three different stories, which all have a few things in
common, and all of which take place in Sin City. We're given an early
lead-in to one of the stories, involving a cop named Hartigan (Bruce Willis),
but his tale is ultimately elaborated on last.
The first story focuses on Marv
(Mickey Rourke), a large brooding man with a face like a brick. Marv has
just had an amazing night of passion with a beautiful girl named Goldie (Jaime
King). After falling asleep, he wakes to find Goldie dead, and the cops
headed his way. It's too convenient. Marv knows this must be a
setup, and sets out to find those responsible.
The second story introduces us to
Dwight (Clive Owen). He has recently started dating Shellie (Brittany
Murphy), and doesn't take kindly to her old flame showing up drunk and angry.
Jack "Jackie Boy" Rafferty is the man in question, and he's less than
respectful to Shellie, regardless of their current relationship status.
Dwight sees Jack as a threat, and follows him into the dangerous "Old Town" section of
Sin City. While there Jack causes trouble with the local prostitutes,
and just about starts a war as a result, which Dwight gets caught in the
The final story revolves around
John Hartigan. Though the film does a good job of teasing this storyline
early on, it's true meat is contained here. Hartigan rescued an 11
year-old girl from a psycho rapist. An act that should have made him a
hero. But this rapist was the son of a prominent city figure, and the
brave act got manipulated into Hartigan becoming a patsy used to cover up what
really happened. He ends up in jail, where he spends eight long lonely
years. The girl he saved, Nancy Callahan, wrote to him for a bulk of
those years, which helped keep him going. Once he gets out, Hartigan
goes to find Nancy, who is now grown up and dancing at a strip club (enter
Jessica Alba). But John realizes that his tracking down of Nancy may
actually be putting her back in danger, and once again finds her life in his
To say that
Robert Rodriguez wanted to stay faithful to the source material is truly an
understatement. This film is perhaps the most incredible interpretation
of a comic book ever done. Most of the stories are told line for line
and panel for panel straight from the comics. The visuals are exacting
in every way to what those books showed. With the exception of the strip
club set, the entire film was shot on green screen, adding in digital
backgrounds later. Every character used from the comics is brought to
life in exacting detail. The casting choices are perfect for each
character, and yet so
impressive for a film this modest. This film isn't just a good homage, it's a loving tribute to
Miller's work. Rodriguez was adamant about Frank receiving a co-director
credit, so much so that he resigned from the Director's Guild of America to
make it happen. Considering how this movie was made, filming without
sets, the finished product is incredibly impressive. Each shot is
perfectly done, taking us deep into this dark world, and allowing us to share
in these characters' experiences. The actors should be commended too.
For the most part, everyone in this movie plays it as non-glamorous as
possible. The heroes are battered and bruised, and often times pretty
flawed in their own right. The women are anything but role models, and
at times come across as slightly tougher than some of the guys around them.
The violence in hardcore and in your face. Again, this is just like the
comics. Miller always liked to slap our faces with shocking acts of
violence in his stories, and every bit of that is shown here as well.
Now let's talk about the actors themselves.
Mickey Rourke as Marv. Absolute perfect casting. After
watching this I can't even begin to imagine anyone else taking on this role.
Marv is a tortured soul, but serious tough guy. I mean who better?!
The facial prosthetics are a little intense at first, but when you see Marv
running around the alleys, or just laying in bed, it's like seeing Frank's
beloved character in the flesh. Remember how good Ron Perlman looked as
Hellboy? That's what is going on here. Perfection.
Clive Owen as Dwight. Cool and
mysterious. Dwight is a character we never find out too much about, but
he works. He works because he's a mystery to those around him.
Maybe he's not much of a threat, but he sure knows how to act like one.
He's cool under pressure. Owen has fun in the role, and it's fun to
watch him. He manages to convey more power and presence in this short
story than his entire screen time in KING ARTHUR. It think it
takes stories like this to show us what Clive is capable of.
Benecio Del Toro as Jackie Boy.
Wow, what a creep. There's something to be said for playing a bad guy so
well. From the moment we see Jackie, we know he's an evil bastard.
Benecio is the very definition of sleaze. Without even knowing much
about his background, we really want to see him go down. There's a lot
of makeup on him too, to help him look more similar to the comics, but Del
Toro is a strong enough actor to outshine all that. His delivery and his
eyes make this character work in a big way.
Rosario Dawson as Gail. Okay,
she's hot. I've always thought Dawson was attractive, but seeing her
play this bad girl with extreme attitude sealed the deal. There were a
few moments in her acting where the dialogue didn't quite feel natural, but
this may not necessarily be her fault. Some of those lines in the comics
just don't translate smoothly on film. But we can forgive it, because
this is so unlike a normal movie, just like the comics are so unlike normal
Bruce Willis as Hartigan. It
could be said that Bruce has a tendency to play disgraced cops a bit often.
I for one am very glad he took this part though. He sells it, and it
works very well in the story. In fact his character may be the most
unglamorous of all, but we want to see him win. There's something about
Willis that makes us want to see his character succeed. Hartigan takes a
beating, over and over, and keeps coming back for more. His relationship
with Nancy is sincere, and though at times a little screwed up, his intentions
Jessica Alba as Nancy Callahan.
Hawt. I mean come on, how incredibly smoking can one woman be? I
even heard women around me going "Dang, she's so sexy!" While Nancy
doesn't exactly have a lot to do other than look stunning, Alba definitely
makes an impression. Her longing looks at Hartigan combine elements of
sexy and cute in unbelievable ways. This is a face I would never be able
to resist falling in love with. And that's just it, we as the audience
have to fall in love with her the way Hartigan does. And oh yes, we do.
Brittany Murphy as Shellie. It's
another one of those unglamorous roles, but she's good in it. We feel
bad for her when bad things happen. Granted, it's not a meaty part, but
she's a good choice to play it regardless. It's also nice to see her
break away from that good girl image she's had lately. We get the sense
that Shellie is trouble, but still worth helping out, if for no other reason
than she deserves a shot at improvement.
Elijah Wood as Kevin. Holy crap on a
stick. I've met Elijah, and even hung out with him. During that
time we talked primarily about comics. Elijah is a comic book fan, so
I'm sure he was stoked about being in this movie. He is so freaking
great here. The character of Kevin is simple. He's a silent
killer. He never speaks. And he has a cold and calculating stare
that would give you nightmares for months. Now those of you that
remember Elijah as the sweet and lovable Frodo... kiss all that goodbye.
He is pure evil here. In fact out of all the characters that have to do
a lot with a little, Wood takes the taco. Easily one of the most
memorable characters in the film, and all without a single line of dialogue.
Watching this movie is like re-reading those
stories, only seeing things in a whole new way. It's just so much fun.
Now the question remains, will mainstream moviegoers who don't read comics
enjoy this? Not sure. Personally I look at SIN CITY as a
really cool ride. Hop on and just enjoy it for what it is. As an
adaptation it's truly brilliant. As a movie it's just exciting to watch.
The visuals are enough to keep even the most cynical folks interested.
After viewing each story I started thinking this might have worked even better
as three different movies, or even a cable mini-series. I'm sure the DVD
will be a fanboy dream come true. For now I'm anxious to take in SIN
CITY again. Movies like this don't come along very often. My
friend Jaime and I were saying this kind of looked like a DICK TRACY
for adults. In many ways this film succeeds where DICK TRACY
unfortunately failed. Warren Beatty's film had great intentions toward
bringing it's source material to life on the big screen. SIN CITY
however nails it perfectly.
BIGFANBOY.com score - On a scale of
1 to 10, 10 being the best, I give SIN CITY a 9.
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