Sin City (2005)

Director: Robert Rodriguez & Frank Miller
Cast: Jessica AlbaClive OwenMickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Benicio Del Toro, Rosario Dawson, Elijah Wood
Plot: A film that explores the dark and miserable town, Basin City, and tells the story of three different people, all caught up in violent corruption.

Genre: Crime/Thriller
Awards: Won Technical Grand Prize, nominated for Palme d'Or (Cannes).
Runtime: 124min
Rating: R21 for sustained strong stylized violence, nudity and sexual content including dialogue.



“I love hitmen.  No matter what you do to them, you don't feel bad.

Robert Rodriguez has always been known as a maverick filmmaker, a fearless soul who goes all out to make the films he wants to make... including the ‘Spy Kids’ movies, which bring to mind his split filmic personality of sorts.  He could do a kid-friendly comedy like The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl (2005) and then follow up with a hyperviolent grindhouse picture like Planet Terror (2007).

He doesn't care what you think, and he has Quentin Tarantino as his best pal, so discredit him at your own risk.  Tarantino actually helped in directing a sequence in Sin City after Rodriguez did the score for Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004), and this is despite Tarantino's well-documented distaste for digital filmmaking.

Digital filmmaking is the name of the game here in Sin City, in particular its pioneering use of the green screen in creating a full-length live-action picture.  Rodriguez showed Frank Miller, the graphic novelist who wrote Sin City, that it could be accomplished with the opening scene, and the rest is history. 

Sin City is not so much a big-screen adaptation of Miller's work; instead, it works as a visual translation.  It translates Miller's beautifully-drawn frames into spectacular moving images.  Using Miller's work as a ready-made storyboard, Rodriguez directs an ensemble cast of established and new actors who collectively perform their roles to what I call 'memorable perfection' - not exactly perfect, but perfect in memory.

Sin City stars Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Clive Owen, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Benicio Del Toro and many more as inhabitants of Basin City, a place where the darkest of nightmares reside, and one infested with female-related crimes.  The film adopts a narrative consisting of three main threads with its own protagonist, antagonist, and oddball characters. 

They are interconnecting threads, albeit loosely, and the entire plot follows a circular logic ala Pulp Fiction (1994).  While occasionally the plot doesn't quite summon our attention, Sin City remains thoroughly entertaining simply because it is so visually-arresting.  Rodriguez won an award at Cannes just for the film's 'visual shaping', whatever that means.

It is also entertaining because it is excessively violent and twisted.  Cannibalism, mutilation and dismemberment accompany the modes of killing, and they are represented in sadistic and fetishistic fashion.  As Rourke's character Marv asserts: how a person dies is more important than the moment of his or her death. 

Sin City is rendered with a noirish sensibility, and this coupled with the graphic novel visual style, makes it more palatable to mainstream audiences - there is macabre beauty in Rodriguez's and Miller's vision, one that is put across quite brilliantly.  Sin City is guilty pleasure at its highest point, meaning that you will have one of the most fun two hours ever, if you can stomach the gruesomeness, ultraviolence, and of course, the sheer audacity of this sort of filmmaking.

Verdict: One of the most visually-arresting films of the 2000s, this twisted and excessively violent tale is shot with a noirish sensibility, providing as pure a guilty pleasure as there can be.

GRADE: A- (8.5/10 or 4 stars)

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