A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

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 | , , ,

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