'Sin City' *** 042105
Theatrical Review (2005)

The Work = ****
To start this review I suppose I should say I have had a silly day dream type thing of directing a movie adaptation of 'Sin City' since my days in high school. Ridiculous I know. So, there was a slight pang of jealousy when I read that Robert Rodriguez was developing the project. Of course, all I had to do was see the teaser trailer and I was instantly psyched to see it.

'Sin City' the film turns out to be quite good. Rodriguez makes a direct adaptation, taking three 'Sin City' stories and in some cases putting them frame for frame onscreen. It is no wonder the film is such a close adaptation since he took the unusual step of having the comic’s creator Frank Miller onset working with him. In fact Rodriguez dropped out of the Director’s Guild so he could share a directing credit with Miller. (Quentin Tarantino is also listed as a guest director. Supposedly he directed the scene with Benicio Del Toro and Clive Owen in the car together. I don’t know how much of that scene was Tarantino’s.)

The casting is out of sight. Most of the actors look just like their comic book counterparts and when they don’t Rodriguez uses some good ‘ol prosthetics to make them so. The first of the three stories comes across the best. It follows Marv, played by Mickey Rourke. BEGINNING OF SPOILERS: Marv is a somewhat insane tough who ends up chasing down a twisted cannibalistic serial killer (played by none other than Elijah Wood.) END OF SPOILERS This story had the most shock value and was the most interesting.

The other stories follow similar tough guys (although they are saner and less scary looking.) Bruce Willis stars as Detective Hartigan in one story that sort of opens and concludes the film that has him chasing a twisted rapist and murderer. Clive Owen plays a hood named Dwight, helping to prevent an all out war between 'Sin City’s prostitutes, gangsters, and its cops.

My only real complaint is the film gets a bit repetitive towards the end. Running over two hours it seemed a little on the long side. The thing is, reading the comics over a long period of time, I didn’t notice how similar they were. Once the shock value wears off and once the look becomes commonplace there is not a whole lot to the biggest draw of the movie, its style.

For those of you who know the 'Sin City' comics the movie combines three stories. The Marv story is the first 'Sin City' story, (originally just called 'Sin City', it has been retitled 'The Hard Goodbye'.) The Bookend story following Hartigan is from 'That Yellow Bastard'. Dwight’s story is from 'The Big Fat Kill'. The Opening before the credit sequence is actually a separate short story from 'The Babe Wore Red'.

I wish that Rodriguez had chosen 'A Dame to Kill for' instead of 'The Big Fat Kill' only because both stories follow Dwight but I’ve always liked 'A Dame to Kill for' and thought it was a stronger story. That being said, the stories that were selected oddly enough seem to give Rodriguez some real structure. I have seen several of Rodriguez’s movies and they always have something in it that I like but they also are very often all over the map.

'Desperado' and 'Once Upon A Time in Mexico' are two films that come to mind that while I enjoyed parts of, as a whole I found unsatisfying. Having read about Rodriguez’s directing style I suspect that some of that may have from him making up much of the films as he went along. That may create great sequences but it can also make them not necessarily fit into the film. By following the comic books and having Miller there I think it clamped down his improvisations forcing him to keep them in line with the story.

I suspect that had the Marv story comes last, as the finally, the film might have worked better for me. There is a real charge in sequences of his story that is not as present in the other stories. Part of it may have to do with the simple minded lug somehow being the most sympathetic. After all, Marv may not be an innocent but he does have a certain innocence about him, especially when it comes to women.

My slight complaints aside it is an impressive display of style. Be warned, this is an extremely violent movie. It’s rated R for a reason folks, and had this one not been so stylized it probably would have gotten an NC-17 rating easy. I was shocked to see a very young looking girl come into the theater with her father when I saw it. Had I been taken to see this film when I was that age it probably would have scared the bejesus’ out of me. So, that is where I will leave it, 'Sin City' is a good movie. It does get to be repetitive after awhile but that may just be me. Recommended but be forewarned it is very violent.


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