Sin City (Review)
From director Robert Rodriguez we get a film geeks have been drooling with anticipation for since it was announced. The news from Sin Cityland just got better and better, as Frank Miller was announced as a co-director (something Robert Rodriguez quit the DGA over,) the black and white imaging was announced, the pre-footage was shown at the convention, Quentin Tarantino was announced as a guest director, and the first trailers hit. The result is one of the most faithful comic book adaptations in history, and one of the best comic book movies in history. A mix of three Sin City stories and one short story (plus an added story tacked onto the end that’s not from the comics,) they are put together well, and set the tones for the Sin City universe.
The stories are: “The Hard Goodbye”, “The Big Fat Kill” and “That Yellow Bastard” with short “The Customer is Always Right” to start things off right. I read “That Yellow Bastard” when they first came out, and reread them all a few months before the movie arrived in anticipation.
The style of the film is black and white digital, with certain elements colorized for plot purposes or just for style, pretty much keeping with the color scheme of the comics and setting the noir elements of the film. Some of the dialog comes off as cheesy or just over the top, mostly as it is direct from the comics with zero alterations. Once you get used to the style it becomes less noticeable, and even better at setting the tone. Repeated viewings should allow you to drop right in without having a few uncomfortable moments trying to figure out the speech patterns.
We begin with “The Customer is Always Right” with Josh Harnett as a hitman, and Marley Shelton as the Customer. After a stylized opening credits sequence, we jump right into “That Yellow Bastard” with Bruce Willis filling the role of Hartigan, the one good cop in Sin City. A psycho has kidnapped a little girl, and it’s Hartigan’s last day on the force due to a heart condition, but he can’t step down while she’s in danger. His corrupt partner is played by Michael Madsen, who seems to be sleepwalking his way through the part. Nevertheless, Hartigan belts him one and goes to save the girl, who is kidnapped by the son of a powerful senator. The son is played by Nick Stahl of Terminator 3 fame, and is soon gunned down by Hartigan and the girl saved, but not until Hartigan is also shot multiple times by Madsen.
Jumping from that story, we head off to “The Hard Goodbye” which was the original story called “Sin City” before changes were made. It stars a hulking brute named Marv (Mickey Rourke) who spends a night of passion with a working girl named Goldie, who he wakes up next to lying dead. The police are on their way, too soon for them to no about it, and he knows he’s been set up. Marv is a real live Superman, who smashes through doors and police, and through car windshields. He escapes for the time being and sets out to get revenge on the person who killed the one good thing that’s happened to him in his life. Marv speaks some over the top lines and does some over the top things, but after a few minutes you start taking it in stride and it becomes less noticeable.
Marv talks to his parole officer Lucille, played by Carla Gugino, who looks great naked, and then after some hitmen give him some clues via persuasion, he eventually gets to a priest played by Frank Miller, who tells him it goes all the way to Cardinal Roark (the brother of the Senator who’s son Hartigan shot.) Unbelieving someone so high up wants him dead, he is confused, yet goes to check around the Roark farm. There, he is encounters weird guy Kevin, who has the taste for womanflesh, and is superquick and quiet. Marv realizes he killed Goldie, but Kevin gets the drop on him, and Marv wakes up caged, with Lucille in there as well, missing a hand which was snacked on by Kevin. An escape later, Lucille is killed by cops who came to set up Marv for killing Kevin’s victims, and Marv takes them out as well, then heads for Bishop Roark for revenge. The rest of the story plays out just like the comic, which was probably a shock to those who hadn’t read it. The only gripe with this segment is the amount of abuse Marv takes, which is enormous, yet is still walking and fighting. Sure, he’s doped up on medicine, but he’s constantly getting abused. It got to the point where some of the audience was giggling, as it was getting a little ridiculous. There should have been a slight increase in the emphasis of the amount of time that passed to make it slightly more plausible. Besides that quibble, this segment was largely enjoyable.
Jump to “The Big Fat Kill” story, with the new character Dwight (Clive Owen) and problems with a corpse. This is actually the second Dwight story, the first one wasn’t incorporated into the movie, but is referred to (and if filmed in the sequel will see the return of Marv.) Here Dwight is already established (sort of, not to the audience, but he gets an introduction to them anyway) and the story starts out with Benicio Del Toro’s Jackie Boy character knocking on the door of Brittany Murphy’s Shellie, who is Dwight’s new girl, and he is in her apartment already. She lets Jackie Boy and his crew in, and she gets slapped around. Dwight responds by almost drowning Jackie Boy in his own urine in the toilet, and Jackie Boy and his crew leave to look for trouble in Old Town, where the Women of the Night rules the streets with their own laws. Dwight follows so they don’t hurt anyone.
That seems to be an unnecessary action, as the girls of Old Town are capable of taking care of themselves, especially Miho (Devin Aoki) who is a sword-wielding pixie of death. Dwight also meets his old flame Gail (Rosario Dawson.) Jackie Boy’s crew goes to far, and they become sliced meat and Jackie Boy himself is a Pez dispenser. Unfortunately for them, Jackie Boy is a hero cop, and his death would lead to the ending of the truce with the police that allows Old Town to operate independent of the mob or of pimps. They must get rid of the bodies pronto, and Dwight will drive them to be dumped in some tar pits. The scene on the drive over where Jackie Boy’s head speaks to Dwight is where Tarantino makes his guest direction. The tar pits are trapped by Irish Mercs who steal Jackie Boy’s head. Miho and Dwight set out to take it back, but the mob is trying to move in and has captured Gail. The head is recovered, but a final confrontation with the mob must be settled before the story concludes. The ending will vary slightly from what readers of the story remember, but only because it is necessary for the final short segment.
“The Big Fat Kill” is a fanboy’s dream. It is not my favorite story, but it is a close second. Devin Aoki steals this story as Miho, and almost steals the whole movie. It’s a shame she was listed so lowly in the trailer credits, but was a nice surprise to see her included with the alphabetical cast lists in the opening. She also appears in the first Dwight story “A Dame to Kill For” so when the sequel hits she should be there as well. On to the finishing of “That Yellow Bastard,” as Hartigan is framed for the kidnapping for the rape of the little girl. He’s thrown in jail for eight years, with his sole joy a letter each week from the girl sent under a pen name. One day the letters stop, and nothing is heard from her for two months. Than a mysterious yellow man is in his cell, who punches him. When Hartigan awakes, he finds a letter from the girl Nancy, except it contains a severed finger. He realizes she is in trouble and he has to get out, so he confesses to the crimes and gets out for parole.
He searches for Nancy, who turns out to have turned into Jessica Alba and is the star attraction at a strip club. He sees the yellow guy in the audience, and realizes then that it was all a trap so he would lead them to Nancy. Too late, Nancy recognizes him and gives away who she is, and Hartigan must get her out of there, pursued by the Yellow Guy who is shooting at them. Hartigan manages a hit, but they don’t find the body, just foul-smelling yellow blood. They hide at a hotel, but the Yellow Bastard has found them. He turns out he is the same son of a Senator from previous, he just has mutated due to experimental drugs given to regrown his privates, which Hartigan took away in the beginning. Hartigan is tied up and left to hang, while Nancy is taken away to be raped.
Now this one had the most changes, mostly because had the nudity been included it would have pushed it over to NC-17 territory. The removal scene is one of the best sequences in cinematic history, much as it was one of the best comic scenes. I was overjoyed they kept it in the finale for this segment. Bruce Willis pulls off his character pretty well, the only problem is in the story his character is around sixty, yet his wife divorced him to start a family, and he was planning on it himself when he left the force, but he must have had a wife half his age or so. Not that that doesn’t happen, it’s just unusual. It’s only problematic in that I spent time figuring out that instead of enjoying the show, I guess that’s more on my end, though. The Yellow Bastard is colored yellow throughout, much like the comics, and is a good visual effect in the movie medium as it was in print.
Finally we get an end bumper that concludes the small story deviation from “The Big Fat Kill” rather nicely, as far as I know, it was original for this movie. The film itself is stylishly excellent, it rarely deviates from its tone, and delivers in almost every aspect. It is the pinnacle of comic book movies, and will not be matched for a long time. This year is well on its way to making up for the dearth of good films last year. The film is overly violent, and that and it’s tone will turn off people who are not prepared or accepting to the type of film it is, but then the movie is not made for them, so it should not be bent to their liking.
Rated 10/10 (Gold Eye, Off the Docks, Remote, Senator, Yellow Blood, In Cell, Edited for Trailer, Marv, Hired Cop Goon, Pilice Chase)
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