Genre Spotlight: Sin City
Hey, everybody, remember when Robert Rodriguez made movies that weren’t supposed to be bad? Before he pretty single-handedly started this “ironic movie” thing that’s currently happening? Yeah, me neither. But at some point before these dark days, he made Sin City, based on the comic series of the same name. And it was fantastic.
The film is composed of four segments, each with a more-or-less self-contained storyline (though characters do appear briefly outside of their own section), all occurring within the fictional Basin City, or, as it’s more commonly known, Sin City.
“That Yellow Bastard,” features rare straight cop Hartigan (Bruce Willis) saving little Nancy Callahan (who is played in her grown-up form by Jessica Alba) from being raped and murdered by Roark Junior (Nick Stahl). His actions come with a price, though.
“The Hard Goodbye” stars Mickey Rourke (in his first major role in quite some time) as Marv, a hulk of a man who suffers from periodic mental episodes but is essentially a decent enough guy, tracking down the murderer of Goldie, a prostitute who came to him seeking protection. This segment also features roles by Elijah Wood, Carla Gugino, and Rutger Hauer.
“The Big Fat Kill” follows newly returned criminal Dwight (Clive Owen) as he tries to prevent street war between a gang of prostitutes led by Gail (Rosario Dawson), the Basin City police, and the mob. Other stars making appearances include Michael Clarke Duncan, Brittany Murphy, and Benicio del Toro.
“The Customer is Always Right” is not as long a story as the other three, clocking in at maybe 10 minutes at the most. It follows an assassin known as The Salesman (Josh Hartnett) as he completes two of his jobs.
When it was released in 2005, Sin City was unique (for the time period) in two major ways. The first is the interconnected anthology format of the story. The film begins with the first part of “The Customer is Always Right,” then proceeds through “That Yellow Bastard” part 1, “The Hard Goodbye,” “The Big Fat Kill,” “That Yellow Bastard” part 2, and then returning briefly to “The Customer is Always Right.” Characters appear in stories in which they are not the focus, providing a better picture of the world in which the stories occur. Dwight, Marv, and Hartigan all visit the same bar on the same night in two of the stories; Elijah Wood’s character appears briefly in “That Yellow Bastard”; Nancy appears in “The Big Fat Kill”; and Brittany Murphy appears in all three of the main stories.
The other unique quality, or, more accurately, set of qualities, is the highly stylized film noir sensibility of the movie. This is very much present in the source material, but it is expertly carried over by Rodriguez. The dialogue would be ridiculous under almost any other circumstance, but it works in the world they create here. Visually, it is almost entirely in grayscale, sometimes straight-up black and white, with selective color inclusion, creating a stark impact on-screen. There is an anti-chronological mix of technology and dress that helps create this city that stayed in the early 1900s while the rest of the world moved on.
The acting is uniformly excellent, even from actors I normally strongly dislike, like Benicio del Toro and Brittany Murphy. Mickey Rourke is the standout performance; his portrayal of Marv is a role that he hasn’t even come close to exceeding in his roles following Sin City.
If there is any fault to be found with Sin City, it’s that it (along with the success of 300) gave Frank Miller enough Hollywood pull to make 2008’s The Spirit, which should never be inflicted upon anybody.
If you like the Sin City comics; if you like actiony film noir; if you generally like Robert Rodriguez’s work; then Sin City is definitely a must-see. In addition to the theatrical cut of the film, there is also a “Recut” edition of the DVD which reorders the stories so they are all self-contained, as well as adding a little bit of new footage. See it. Do it for the children.
Posted on June 3, 2011, in Comic Book Films, Genre Spotlight and tagged Benicio Del Toro, Brittany Murphy, Bruce Willis, Clive Owen, elijah wood, Frank Miller, Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke, Robert Rodriguez, Rosario Dawson, Sin City. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.