Review: Sin City

Sin City, where men are men and the women are strippers, waitresses or hookers and cops, clergy and politicians are the bad guys.

If you are a fan of the graphic novels you will love this movie. If you are a fan of hardcore, violent, sick, dark, tough guys, then you have found your nirvana. If you love hearts and flowers, sugar and spice and everything nice, then avoid this movie at all costs.

Finally, someone has done what I’ve always wished for in comic book movies – use the comics themselves as the storyboards. Watching this movie I was struck by how many shots were direct panels from the original stories. I knew that there was going to be a few character moments throughout, giving a nod and a wink to Frank Miller’s own graphic eye, but this movie is simply the comic come to life.

I was encouraged by the early comparisons to Pulp Fiction and in fact there is a bit of that going on here. Characters come and go and flow in and out of each other’s stories quite nicely. It brings a sense of continuity to the events unfolding.

I read when Frank Miller was in on the casting of Marv, he had a clear idea of what kind of actor he wanted. After seeing Mickey Roarke, he wrote in his diary, “Mickey Roarke IS Marv.” After seeing his performance, even with the prosthetics, Roarke comes across exactly like the comic – over the top, heartless at times, funny, dedicated and faithful to the memory of Goldie.

Jessica Alba must have trained at the same stripper school as Natalie Portman in Closer. Neither dance topless in a topless bar, yet still have plenty of admirers. That somehow didn’t seem quite right and since Nancy is topless in the graphic novels, I’m guessing that’s the reason it didn’t sit well with me. Everything is slavishly faithful to the story, that when you have even a small change, it is jarring or even unrealistic. Don’t get me wrong, Basin City and its denizens of characters aren’t even close to being realistic. However, not seeing a stripper get naked took me out of the suspension of disbelief. Well, its either that or I was just disappointed that I wasn’t going to see Alba nekkid.

My girlfriend would have hated this movie and I would imagine your girlfriend would too. It’s not a movie for the ladies in our lives, even though it has strong female characters. Rosario Dawson might be playing a comic book character, but her outfit plays better on the Sunset Strip.

The violence, also, would be a turn-off for many people not just the females in the audience. It is strong, graphic and bloody in a black and white sorta way. In fact, I’d say its short of a slasher flick and more in tune with the Kill Bill movies to give you some kind of measure.

The dialogue was pure comic book tough-guy-speak and while it didn’t ring true, it did have its own style. The voice overs worked well for the most part except during the Clive Owen drive to the tar pits when it was both internal monologue and regular dialogue at the same time. I’m sure it read better than seen on screen.

I would be remiss not to mention the visual style of the movie. Director Robert Rodriguez has transformed the stark black and white (with a touch of color) graphic novels into a black and white film (with lots of touches of color). The Yellow Bastard looked as creepy on film as he does in the book. Little touches of red lipstick or dress, flowing blonde hair or my favorite of flesh tone when a policeman’s light hits a character all expand upon the novels in a subtle yet effective way.

Overall, I loved the flick. To me, The Crow is the best comic book adaptation, but Sin City comes very close. I’d like to think that this bodes well for more non-superhero material finding its way to the local cineplex. I can’t wait for Hollywood to take closer notice of Sandman, Queen and Country, The Losers, Orbiter and Subatomic.