Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Movie Review: "Sin City"

Starring Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Benicio Del Toro, Clive Owen
Directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez

Unabashedly violent with attitude to spare, "Sin City" could easily be seen as the most visually dazzling film released from Hollywood in years. If only Hollywood could take credit for it.
No, credit for this tough-talking, hard-boiled picture rests solely in the hands of co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller (with a guest directing assist from Quentin Tarantino), with the script a faithful adaptation of Miller's graphic novels. Rodriguez shot and edited the entire film in his own Austin, Texas studio – even choosing to resign his membership with the Director's Guild of America after the DGA refused to allow Miller to be listed as co-director.
It has to say something about the attraction of the material and working with Rodriguez himself when such a remarkable cast can be assembled. With some of the cast playing less-than-desirable characters (OK, most of them), there is certainly a sense of a team effort involved. Heck, Elijah Wood doesn't even speak a word as his character and he just finished playing the lead role in the three "Lord of the Rings" films.
Filmed with the actors playing against a green-screen that meant that all backgrounds would be filled in later via CGI, Rodriguez did a remarkable job in bringing Miller's black-and-white comic series to vibrant life. Most of the movie is in black-and-white, with color strategically placed in certain scenes, such as bringing attention to a character's blond hair or a woman's red lipstick.
Utilizing interrelated stories that have characters crossing over, "Sin City" feels like a more stylish, yet very violent film noir movie. The three main stories star Bruce Willis as Hartigan, an honest cop looking to save a stripper (Jessica Alba) from a murderous pedophile named Yellow Bastard (a completely unrecognizable Nick Stahl); Mickey Rourke as Marv, a very rough looking ex-con who vows to avenge the murder of a hooker (Jaime King), for which he has been framed; and Clive Owen as Dwight, a mysterious man who finds himself right in the middle of an oncoming war for a part of the city after the death of a cop (Benicio Del Toro).
With a violent streak that lands the movie a heavy R rating, "Sin City" is by no means a family film. And with storylines that weave in criminals, prostitutes, corrupt politicians and ethically-challenged police officers, its appeal is clearly not widespread. While there are some interesting female characters that generate good performances from Alba and Rosario Dawson, among others, women may find the movie too testosterone-filled for its own good.
Indeed, so much attention has been given to the look of the movie, that the story sometimes feels like a bit of an afterthought. The cast is certainly game for whatever Rodriguez and Miller throw at them, but some of them seem underutilized, if not completely wasted in their brief screen time.
Still, if you've got a tolerance for violence and being in the company of a few unsavory characters for a couple of hours, "Sin City" can certainly provide you with some sights heretofore unseen. It's a feast for the eyes – if you can bear to watch.
Grade: B+
(Rated R for sustained, strong stylized violence, nudity and sexual content.)


Anonymous said...

I don't know, Cullinan. I really thought Sin City was awesome. I watched it with a guy who was here in Puerto Rico working from Missouri and we both said that we have to see it again. B+ seems kind of low for the grade.

Jack said...

I watched this again this weekend. I was able to catch more of the story intersections and intricacies this time around. It is so visually compelling that the story is affected. But I don't think that is because the story was an afterthought. It's just that my eyes were busy taking in the colorful use of black and white. This movie really deserves a second or third watch to really appreciate it and for the story itself to really come through. I agree with Mike West that the B+ is too low.