A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 103 – Sin City

Sin City – June 11th, 2010

A few notes to start with: Tonight is our next Six Degrees connection, moving from yesterday with Jessica Alba. Also, we were faced with a tricky decision tonight in terms of which version to watch. There’s the theatrical version, and then there’s the “recut, extended and unrated” version, which has the movie cut up into its four separate stories and presented with additonal footage. Now, according to the rules, we’re supposed to watch the long version, but it’s not really the movie anymore in this case, is it. So we’re going with the theatrical version and maybe some time when the project is over we’ll do an Extras Extravaganza or something. Do the extended recut of this and the weird chronological version of Pulp Fiction or something.

Now, on to the movie. We saw this in the theater when it came out and I distinctly recall my first comment upon leaving: “That movie was rife with genital mutilation!” And it really really is. I mean, there’s a gun shot to the groin not fifteen minutes in and that’s just the first instance (it’s so not worth keeping track). At least it’s highly stylized genital mutilation. It’s a highly stylized movie. It’s a movie made to be a moving, live action vision of the comic books it’s based on, and it succeeds admirably. Beautiful, even, if you can accept the black and white (and sometimes red and sometimes yellow) gore as beautiful. And I can, because I have nothing but admiration for the feat this movie accomplishes. I’ll get to the story(s) and my issues with it/them, but this movie isn’t so much the story/stories as it is the mood and the visuals, and the mood and the visuals are stunning. It’s neo-noir done as stark and gritty as noir can be. It’s black and white and grey with little pops of color. Sometimes it’s blood, but sometimes the blood is incidental to the scene and so it’s not. Sometimes it’s hair or a pair of sneakers. And sometimes the bright white is the focus, in the lenses of the glasses of a psycho, or the bandages on someone’s face. It’s the comic book. Brought to life.

Based, as this is, on comic books, it’s really a series of vignettes, but the way the movie works, they’re connected to each other. Aside from the capper with Josh Hartnett the movie starts with a story with a soon-to-retire cop, Hartigan (Bruce Willis), going after a sicko who kidnaps and tortures young girls. He’s got a girl named Nancy Callahan now, and Hartigan’s determined not to let him kill her. He manages to rescue her (and inflict some genital mutilation on her kidnapper) before being double-crossed.

Then in the second story, where a tough guy named Marv goes after the creepiest character in the movie, a cannibal named Kevin, played by Elijah Wood, who killed a woman he slept with, he knows a grown-up Nancy, whom he’s a sort of big brother to. Now she dances in a bar where there’s a waitress named Shellie, who’s in the next story. Also, Marv meets a bunch of prostitutes. They show up again too. But I’ll get back to them. I’ve got issues.

Anyhow, on to the next story, once Marv gets his revenge, and we meet back up with Shellie, whose new boyfriend, Dwight, goes after her old boyfriend, Jack, and ends up mucking up a truce between the prostitutes and the cops. And then he has a little driving scene where Jack’s dead body talks to him. It’s a complicated one with mob bosses and tar pits and it all ends with the prostitutes gunning down a bunch of guys.

And then Hartigan wakes up in the hospital and we’re back in time and he’s being framed for Nancy’s kidnapping. We pick up his story where we left it and he spends eight years in jail before getting out and unwittingly leading Nancy’s kidnapper (now a bright yellow freak thanks to the medical treatments necessary to keep him alive) back to a now nineteen year old Nancy. Who has a total thing for him. And so they hide out before dealing with him and we get some more genital mutilation. And then there’s the capper, again with Josh Hartnett.

Now, to my issues. The women in this movie. Every woman is a prostitute, an exotic dancer, and if she’s not, she gets the shit kicked out of her. Shellie and Lucille (Marv’s parole officer) being the specific examples that come to mind. Granted, Shellie has a new boyfriend (and he’s out of his mind, as he himself says) and her new boyfriend takes care of the abusive asshole who liked to smack her around, but she apologizes for going out with the abusive asshole. Basically, all the women in the movie exist for the men. The only really empowered women are the prostitutes, since they’ve brokered a deal with the cops and have their own turf free of pimps and mobsters, but they’re still only powerful in the story because of their sex and because of the fragile deal with the male cops they give free rides to. And then Dwight refers to them as “dizzy dames”. And one of them’s a double-crossing bitch after all. It’s a movie all about manly men saving the poor defenseless women, even the silly ones who think they can defend themselves. Silly hookers. All that being said, Dwight’s my favorite character (aside from creepy Kevin) for his calm, almost deadpan delivery in both his lines out loud and his narration.

Still, I can’t help but feel kind of icky for liking this movie. And I do like it! It’s a beautifully done movie, and the stories are well told. There’s fantastic action and some great acting (the cast is full of great names, which is what made this such a perfect connection for Six Degrees). I’ve just got some problems with the gender dynamics on display. Sure, there are more crooked and twisted and dirty men in the movie than crooked and twisted and dirty women. But that’s because only the prostitutes have enough power to be crooked, and one of them is! Otherwise the men have all the power, so they’re the ones who can abuse it. It’s frustrating. But the style and the crafting of the movie redeem it enough for me to still enjoy it. That and all the genital mutilation.

June 11, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | 2 Comments

Sin City

June 11, 2010

Sin City

I saw this first in the theaters, and loved it. When I got it on DVD I sat down and watched the movie with Frank Miller’s books in my lap and followed along with the action. It’s astonishing just how perfectly the movie matches itself to the books. I attribute it to the co-directing credit that Robert Rodriguez gave to Frank Miller. Frank was on the set during the filming. You might recall that way back when we reviewed Pirates of the Caribbean I attributed some of the success of the first movie to the fact that the writers were on set, and I think part of the pure vision of this movie comes from the same source. When we reviewed 300 I noted that Zack Snyder had done such an amazing job channelling Miller’s vision to adapt the book to the screen. This movie is something other than that. It’s not an adaptation of the original work. It IS the original work. The comic books are pretty much the animatics for the movie.

The other amazing thing about the movie is just how much of it is the work of Robert Rodruigez. Sure every frame and every word is directly from the books, but the movie belongs to Rodruigez as well. He filmed it, edited it, scored it, even did the special effects. Without Rodruigez this movie couldn’t exist, because he very much made it, almost with his bare hands. I kind of picture the filming of this movie as being like one of Marv’s one-manned killing sprees. Single-handedly, and with one hundredth the budget of a big summer blockbuster he crafted this. Raw and cool and impossible.

Sin City is actually three books out of the seven that Frank Miller wrote. The Hard Goodbye, That Yellow Bastard and The Big Fat Kill. All three are over-the-top noir tales of gruesome life and death in Sin City. They’re cleverly edited together to show they’re all taking place in the same sad city and with the same crew. Dwight from The Big Fat Kill briefly appears in Marv’s episode. The evil Roark family is prominently featured in both That Yellow Bastard and The Hard Goodbye. But beyond that it’s three stories of indomitable lugs who pay for doing the right thing in a city where everything is run by the mob and by a corrupt family of killers.

The movie is bookended by Bruce Willis as Hartigan, the lone good cop in the whole Sin City police force (or so it seems.) He’s on the trail of a killer who rapes and murders little girls. A killer who is the son of a corrupt Senator. Sure he saves the girl, but things don’t go well for him. Then there’s an absolutely brilliant career-reviving performance by Micky Rourke as Marv – the impossibly burly and unstoppable killing machine who gets framed for the murder of a pretty girl, and goes on to hunt down the killer. And then there’s Dwight – who tries to do a good thing for his new girlfriend, protecting her from and ex who has beaten her in the past, and gets mixed up in a battle between the mob and the police and the whores of Old Town.

Sometimes things are made difficult for the movie by the way it so tightly cleaves to the books. The whole movie is told through this hard-boiled monotone reading of the internal monologue of the characters. For the most part it works really well. I mean, these characters are all hard as nails and completely unstoppable. So it’s alright that their dialog, which reads well on the page, is a little stilted coming out of the mouths of actors. (Michael Madsen in particular seems to have trouble wrapping his lips around the hammy dialog of his character, Hartigan’s corrupt partner.)

Even so, I love this movie because it is such a bold and different thing. Sure, Frank’s characters are brutish and unlikable much of the time. Sure the violence and blood is far above and beyond practically anything else we own, and sure the dialog reads like something from a comic book. But that’s the appeal of it. It’s pure unadulterated male machismo. All guys protecting dames in distress and beating the living crap out of each other. Full of unnecessary nudity and, as my wife and I often say of this movie, rife with genital mutilation. There’s nothing nice or politically correct or refined about this film. But it’s a major accomplishment.

June 11, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment