About three years ago, when all the Blockbusters were having their massive, door-crashing closing sales, I bought a movie from a buy one-get one free bin. I looked all over the place for a second movie to get with it, until finally a friend told me it should be a no brainer for me and handed me a copy of Sin City from the bin. Until a few days ago that DVD remained in its plastic wrap, collecting dust on my shelf. Now that I’ve finally watched it, I’m left wondering what took me so long. It’s certainly far from perfect, but Sin City is a stylistically daring, brutally violent feast for the eyes.
Note: Like my last review of V for Vendetta, this is another comic book movie based on a graphic novel I’ve never read. So I’m just going to review the movie on its own merits like I did with V for Vendetta.
Sin City, like I said, is based on the comic series of the same name written by Frank Miller. Unlike Alan Moore with V for Vendetta, Miller was actively involved in the production of the film, and credited with co-directing it with Robert Rodriguez. I didn’t realize going into the movie that it really has three (and a half?) different story lines, based on different books in the series, with different characters and places that often overlap. As it turns out, this is important information to know going in, because I was deeply confused when people I thought were central characters kept dying half way through the movie. Once I got over that, I began to appreciate the dark, foreboding stories on their own, even though I found some (Bruce Willis’s Hartigan story) to be better than others (Clive Owen’s Dwight).
Sin City sports an all-star cast which includes the aforementioned Willis and Owen as well as Michael Clarke Duncan, Mickey Rourke, Benicio Del Toro, Rosario Dawson, Jessica Alba, Alexis Bledel, Michael Madsen, Josh Hartnett, Brittany Murphy and Elijah Wood in an extremely creepy role as a cannibal with a Charlie Brown sweater. Nick Offerman is even in the movie, long before he became Ron on Parks and Recreation. Some the performances are better than others, but for the most part the ensemble cast worked very well together. At many points they are given very cheesy, cliche dialogue to work with, some of which I found induced a couple cringes. Some of the actors, like Bruce Willis, can make these lines work, but others, like Bledel, couldn’t overcome the shortcomings of the writing.
The atmosphere of Sin City is inescapable. There aren’t a lot of laughs in this one, unless you think severed limbs are hilarious. This movie is really a story about the city itself, and Basin City is constructed beautifully by Rodriguez and Miller. Even though the streets and buildings are entirely computer generated on a green screen, they reek with the squalor and degradation of the dystopic city they’re a part of. The city comes alive when you watch this film in a very weird way. You know Basin City isn’t real, but you feel like it could be built from the worst back alleyways and dingy dive bars of every city you’ve ever been to.
The world of Basin City just plays into the hyper stylized visuals of Sin City. It’s impossible to ignore how incredible this movie looks. The black and white visuals interrupted by splashes of poignant colour make for moments of eye candy unlike anything else I’ve seen. The movie is just shot beautifully, and makes very good use of the computer generated visuals to place the actors in the environments seamlessly. Sin City‘s scantily clad women, brutish thugs and sleazy villains, with their intricate and unique costumes, feel right at home in the film’s visual style.
Sin City is the type of movie you could put on mute and enjoy. It’s really the visual elements that make this adaptation worth watching. If you read the comic books, it’s a must see. If you haven’t read the books, and don’t mind some brutal, discoloured violence, then I’d definitely recommend it. If I could say one thing about Sin City, above all, it made me want to read the Frank Miller classics. With the sequel, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For coming out in the near future, I’m sure I will.