Sin City

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Hard boiled Heaven or Stylized Hell?


Frank Miller’s Sin City began its life as a critically acclaimed comic book that paid homage to the pulp-noir crime genre of the 1930s and 40s. More recently it has been brought to life on the silver screen by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller (and apparently Quentin Tarentino)


Sin City takes place in a vaguely geographically defined urban hell (Basin City) that seems to exist in perpetual nighttime. It follows the lives of several of it’s denizens as their miserable, corrupt and violent lives unfold (and sometimes end) around them. Rather than give you a full breakdown of the story I’ll just jump straight into the review.


Why? Because I have a lot to get off my chest about it.


First a little background and a breakdown of the directorial style. Frank Miller is the comic book writer/artist who breathed new life into DC’s Batman in the 1980’s with his seminal work “The Dark Knight Returns” redefining what a superhero comic book truly could be and opening a lot of eyes to the limitless potential of the graphic storytelling format. Needless to say if he is responsible for the best story involving the world’s greatest detective he knows how to write a crime comic. Sin City the comic book was good, very good. Each of its stories was a self contained limited series with plenty of crime, violence, and brooding film-noir atmosphere. They had excellent pacing and plenty of characters that you love and love to hate and all of them expressed in Mr. Miller’s beautiful black and white artwork with its bold lines and dynamic use of light and shadow.


So it is with all this elements of the Sin City comic book in mind that they made the movie. It is shot in black and white (more than likely shot in color and then had it digitally removed) with several splashes of color to accent several of the characters features which is an element taken directly from the comic book for those of you about to accuse Rodriguez of ripping off Spielberg (it was Miller that ripped of Spielberg). For some reason a lot of modern audiences find films shot in black and white visually uninteresting and hard to watch. However the fast pacing and meticulously stylized framing of each and every shot in the movie keep your eyes from ever getting bored. In fact this is almost a weak-spot for the movie. I found myself so engrossed in what I was seeing sometimes I lost the thread of what was going on. It didn’t happen often but I noticed it when it did. Some of the visual tricks might have confused some people as well. For example in some scenes the blood pouring out of a person would be white and glowing. This trick was meant to simulate the artwork of writer/artist Frank Miller who in most of his Sin City work uses nothing but bold blacks and negative spaces. A treat for comic book fans, a dynamic on screen visual, and a bold experiment in filmmaking, but did it work on the non-fan level? You non-fans will have to be the judge of that one.



This movie moves fast, an element I liked a lot. It took another look at the noir genre, keeping the mood but editing out much of the slow brooding pace that classic film-noir have. What’s left is a dark breakneck paces crime-fantasy film with a lot of violent appeal. This is because it is not just one Sin City story. The contents of the movie were taken from three separate Sin City comic series (Sin City, The Big Fat Kill, and The Yellow Bastard). This fact alone could easily give those who have never read any of the comics the impression that this movie is merely a black and white Pulp Fiction rip-off.


The make-up effects were, for the most part, pretty good. I only have one or two complaints. First of I just say right away that most of the costume and make-up was meant to make each and every thing in the movie correspond to its comic-book counterpart and in most cases they were successful. Most cases, that is, except Marv. The Marv of the original Sin City comic was a hulking monster of a man with looks that not even a mother could love. The Marv of the movie had that face…he was freakishly holmly and they did a great job of bringing the face of Marv to life. That seemed to be their only focus as it turns out as the rest of Marv looked kinda spindly in comparison. I’m not saying that Micky Rourke is wimpy by any stretch of the imagination. Micky is a tough ex-actor-turned-boxer-turned-actor again and was perfect for the role. No, where they makeup department let us down was the proportions of Marv. This was fairly disguised during the bulk of the movie but was glaringly obvious whenever Marv had his jacket off. It really shattered the illusion for me. Most of the other makeup mishaps I noticed aren’t really worth mentioning because believe it or not black and white (especially the crisp b/w of this film) captures every mistake made by those who are not familiar with it’s ins and outs. With the exception of the Marv body issue, I give mad props to the makeup team all around.


Now on to the acting. The acting in Sin City was spectacular. It’s very rare that you see a group of veterans and newcomers work so well together I give the acting in Sin City and A-


Why the minus, you ask?


Well let me introduce you to her. Meet Brittany Murphy. Brittany is already known to you fans of the work of Mike Judge as the voice of Luanne Platter on King of the Hill, and while it may have seemed like a smart move to cast a girl who has been playing a dizzy animated bimbo since 1997 as the dizzy bimbo waitress Shellie in Sin City, it was not a match made in heaven. In fact Brittany’s Shellie was not only the most poorly acted character in the movie she seemed almost like she was mangling the character on purpose. Maybe she was under the impression that she was doing a cartoon where you can get away with the campy and groan-inspiring line delivery that she was belching up on the screen or perhaps she thought they were making a comedy. Whatever her reason for acting the part so poorly, I can only speculate. The result of the performance was clear, it diminished the film the whole time she was on screen (okay that’s an exaggeration it was mostly the scenes between Shellie and Dwight). With the exception of B.M. (irony?) a great acting job all around.


As comic to movie translations go this film is by far one of the best, but for non-fanbois this film may be a little hard to wrap your head around. However if you enjoy stunning visuals, violence, grim and gritty characters, gratuitous female nudity, dismemberment, and people getting what they deserve in the most brutal was possible (I know I do) than this movie is for you. 


The good in this movie so overshadows the bad that I couldn’t help but like it. Overall I give it 4 stars.

Lock and Load

HATE keeps me young.