April 4, 2005

Sin City

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The second of the three sequences that index Sin City follows Marv (Mickey Rourke) as he is shot a thousand times and beaten unmercifully in his quest for the killer of the whore he dated. After the 126 minutes of Sin City had played out, I felt Mickey’s pain. Not that that is a bad thing. I had been visually and mentally assaulted by a relentless group of cops, mercenaries, hookers, murderers and creeps … and I can’t wait for a repeat viewing. Sin City comes to us from self-made indie sensation Robert Rodriguez and the graphic novel wizard Frank Miller. What they have succeeded in doing is drawing out a visceral scope of images that pay homage to so many genres and styles while coming across as fresh and, above all, strikingly beautiful. The word on the street is that this is the Pulp Fiction of the new decade and, to a certain extent, sure. Tarantino directed a scene, it interweaves three plots of revenge (slightly) and will no doubt reignite a has-been’s career (Rourke)… but the only thing that the two visionary stories noticeably share is the way they will change how movies are made… experienced.

Rodriguez, a proponent of digital video, used the innovative high definition video cameras. Filmed entirely in a green room like last year’s Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, the project’s budget was a mind-boggling cheap 40 million – mere table scraps for the required effects (coming to us from a team of approximately 80 miracle-workers) and its dynamite cast (Jessica Alba, Bruce Willis, Clive Owen, Rosario Dawson, Josh Hartnett, Michael Madsen, Brittany Murphy, Elijah Wood, Benicio Del Toro, etc). Sin City has achieved what dozens of emerging films are attempting to but failing at achieving: successfully capturing the comic book world. Challenged only by The Crow as the best comic adaptation in the celluloid history, Sin City used the original graphic novel instead of revised storyboards. Its colors, movement, gratuitous violence, dialogue, Sunset Boulevard voice-overs, poetic sexuality and wide-reaching world of twentieth-century Americana all demand your attention, energy and suspension of reality (like any good comic should). Think film-noir’s grit with the Matrix sensation, with the mafia of tough hookers one-upping anything Trinity ever offered us.

Clive Owen and Rosario Dawson’s characters rekindle an old relationship in third portion of the film. A common exchange between them is “I’ve loved you always and, yet, never.” That somehow captures the indescribable magic that is this film: for all intensive purposes, the plot is one dimensional (what comic isn’t?), and you will no doubt be exhausted by death upon merciless death. Even the one-liners get old at times. And yet, between the blood, breasts and burning colors is a collective energy that begs to be watched. From the opening and, quite possibly best scene, of Josh Hartnett romanticizing a blonde bombshell, we are catapulted into images, silhouettes, dimensions and exchanges that, until now, were only possible in the motion lines and gutters in between the pages of the newest Marvel edition.

I’ll be honest. Even as a writer myself, I never thought that the words in a comic book mattered all that much. It was about being able to visually place yourself in the hero’s cruxes and, in the end, feeding off the victory and relishing in the joy that, while the real world might not be fair, heroes always save the day. The performances in Sin City are nothing short of astonishing – as are the make-up, the writing, the cinematography, directing and overall production.

In the end, it wasn’t any of these things in particular that stood above the non-stop guilty pleasures of world class special effects, images that will last a life time, philosophical action and romanticized violence. In the end, really, I finally felt that ‘fuck yeah’ potency that bubbles at the end of any DC fable. With Sin City, despite all of its mature content, I felt like a kid again.

Archived article by Dan Cohen
Sun Staff Writer