Easily the most visually engaging movie of the year, "Sin City" is this year's "Kill Bill" - bloody, violent and entertaining from beginning to end. While not flawless, it is a gritty, rip-roaring good time, but you have to have a sick sense of humor to enjoy every bloody punch directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller throw your way.
"Sin City," based on three wildly popular graphic novels by Miller, takes a look at the crime-infested Basin City and the good citizens who live within its boundaries - namely corrupt cops, murderers, rapists and whores. Few characters are innocent and even fewer don't enjoy killing; whether it be Mickey Rourke's Marv, Clive Owen's Dwight or Rosario Dawson's Gail, the characters are blood-thirsty to the bone. Needless to say, those who become disgusted by gratuitous violence and other "horrible" things should stay clear of this movie at all costs. For those who take joy in comic violence and find the intentional humor in such stuff, "Sin City" is right up your alley.
Strangely enough, "Sin City" is three stories thrown into one, taken right from the pages of Miller's novels. I haven't read the books, but if you flip through the pages you'll find many of the same shots, dialogue and plot developments. Though Rodriguez blends the three stories together slightly, the movie could easily be split into separate chapters, each with its own beginning, middle and end. The first chapter explores Marv (Rourke), an ugly son-of-a-bitch who's been framed for the murder of a prostitute. He goes on a bloody rampage to figure out who is responsible and enact revenge. In the second chapter, a do-gooding boyfriend (Owen) follows his girlfriend's (Brittany Murphy) ex-boyfriend (Benicio Del Toro), a corrupt cop, into the heart of the red district, only to find that the man's death could tear apart a fragile alliance between various sectors of the city. In the third chapter, an ex-cop (Bruce Willis) who was falsely imprisoned for child rape gets out of jail and attempts to save the girl he was accused of raping (Jessica Alba) from the wrath of Yellow Bastard (Nick Stahl). Sounds pleasant, doesn't it?
While I wouldn't condone merging the plots together, some may find the distinct stories as awkward or even shallow. After all, is there not enough material to make a single story into a feature-length movie? Furthermore, each story basically revolves around killing people; some may not take kindly to such simple stories. That being said, I had no problem with it. While it would have been nice for a more cohesive plot line, the three stories are all equally entertaining. Marv's lust for bloody is especially thrilling.
Of course, what really makes "Sin City" tick is the direction by Robert Rodriguez. Rodriguez, who is responsible for one of my favorite action movies of all time - "Desperado" - and for one of the worst action movies of all time - its sequel "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" - has turned Miller's novels into a work of art. The all-star cast has been filmed entirely on green screen (much like last year's "Sky Captain") and the world of Sin City has been drawn in digitally in fabulous black and white. The characters, dialogue and visuals never are taken completely seriously; "Sin City" is the first movie to truly feel like a comic book - and that's a good thing. The special effects are generally awesome, even if they typically don't look realistic. After all, they aren't meant to.
Unfortunately, "Sin City" is not without its flaws. Since it treats itself as a comic book, certain things do not translate well onto the big screen. Some of the dialogue is especially jarring, even if it isn't meant to be taken completely seriously, and a few scenes are especially cheesy (the scene where Marv is hit repeatedly by a car comes to mind). Furthermore, while "Sin City" is always entertaining, it isn't always as engaging as I wanted to be. The stories are fairly predictable and thus I was never able to feel any great sense of suspense.
"Sin City" is not the complete masterpiece I wanted it to be, but it comes pretty damn close. The visual appeal of the movie is enough to make it worth a watch - and no, I'm not just talking about Jessica Alba.
If you're one of many who bought the film on DVD when it first came out, you may be disappointed to know that "Sin City" is now out in a "Recut Extended and Unrated" version, which basically kicks ass. Not only does it include the original theatrical release, but it also includes the recut and extended version (how'd you guess?) that splits the movie into four completely separate chapters with opening and closing credits and additional scenes. Other features on the disc include a 15-minute film school lesson by Robert Rodriguez, the movie in green screen format so you can see it from how the actors did before the special effects were added. There are tons more special features, but those ones by far and away are the most noteworthy. This is definitely a package worth owning. Oh, it also comes with the original graphic novel for "The Hard Goodbye," which is one of the four stories in the movie played out by Mickey Rourke.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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