A triptych of dark, violent tales set in a fallen cityof corruption and grime, the film is a collaboration between film directorRobert Rodriguez (of "Desperado" and "SpyKids" fame) and graphic novelist FrankMiller (responsible for the gritty reinventions of Batman and Daredevil),whose unique touch in the unusual role of co-director is unmistakable.
Pages from the "Sin City" books were clearlyused as storyboards for the stunning, stark black-and-white cinematography,which features exclamation points of illustrative color: the golden tressesof a beautiful femme fatale, white-on-black silhouettes, red splashes ofblood from brutal murders that occur just out of frame.
His influence can also be felt (along with that of Rodriguezpal Quentin Tarantino, who is curiously credited as a "special guestdirector") in the "Pulp Fiction"-like plot structure thatlends itself well to the interconnected short stories, each of which makeup in atmosphere what they sometimes lack in profundity.
One follows an aging police detective (Bruce Willis, sportinga wicked X-shaped scar on his forehead) -- who is hardened but honest toa fault (one of the few in this sleazy town) -- as he desperately triesto rescue a 11-year-old girl from a serial-killer child rapist with powerfulpolitical connections that have helped keep his crimes quiet.
The second concerns a muscle-bound brute (Mickey Rourke)with a face like a cinderblock, whose tender spot for a slain hooker leadshim to cut a path of violence and murder through the city's underworld-- and into its political elite.
In the third, a killer fresh from a prison break and face-alteringplastic surgery (he now has the handsome mug of Clive Owen) doesn't quitemanage to skip town before he finds himself embroiled in a turf war betweencrooked cops, a powerful street gang and a battalion of gun-toting prostituteswho run the red-light district themselves -- and repel with ruthless forceany pimps who think otherwise.
Thick with character-enriching internal dialogue ("Ilove hit men," growls Rourke in voice-over while roughing up a pairof thugs. "No matter what you do to 'em, you don't feel bad.")and deep-shadow ambiance, "Sin City" couldn't be a more vividcinematic realization of Miller's vision or a better example of Rodriguez'sexplosive imagination as a director. (Like last year's "Sky Captainand the World of Tomorrow," the actors were shot on green-screen soundstagesand the world around them was filled in later with seamless computer graphics.)
But this groundbreaking movie is not without its weaknesses.
While digging luridly and graphically into the ugly underbellyof this fictional metropolis, "Sin City" only skims the surfacesof its protagonists' souls. Willis and especially the heavily made-up Rourkegive their ruffians some leathery layers, but the script offers no sensethat they even exist beyond these turbulent episodes. (Clive Owen's rolehas less dimension, and his narration seems almost soft-spoken after thegruffness of his predecessors.)
While memorably hardy and resilient, the film's dead-sexytough-cookie female characters are nonetheless largely underdeveloped sexobjects, despite sharp comic-book noir performances by Jamie King and RosarioDawson (dangerous prostitutes), Brittany Murphy (trampy barmaid), JessicaAlba (vulnerable stripper), and the talented CarlaGugino (curvy lesbian parole officer).
"Sin City's" most awkward problem is its unexpectedreturn to the Willis story just when it seems as if the film is wrappingup. Even through the narrative recovers its rhythm, this lengthy epiloguecontains dubious plot points and scenes that seem to rehash moments fromearlier in the picture.
But none of these shortcomings subtract from the virtuosoembodiment of Miller's inimitable style as an artist and storyteller, orfrom Rodriguez's intrepid gift for combining revolutionary filmmaking withcrowd-pleasing commercial accessibility. "Sin City" may be tooimperfect to be called a masterpiece, but it's certainly an unforgettablework of art and entertainment.
Run time: 124 mins
In Theaters: Friday 1st April 2005
Box Office USA: $74.0M
Box Office Worldwide: $158.7M
Distributed by: Dimension Films
Production compaines: Dimension Films, Troublemaker Studios
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 78%
Fresh: 190 Rotten: 55
IMDB: 8.1 / 10
Starring: Bruce Willis as Hartigan, Mickey Rourke as Marv, Clive Owen as Dwight, Jessica Alba as Nancy Callahan, Elijah Wood as Kevin, Josh Hartnett as The Salesman, Jaime King as Goldie/Wendy, Rutger Hauer as Cardinal Roark, Benicio del Toro as Jackie Boy, Rosario Dawson as Gail, Michael Clarke Duncan as Manute, Devon Aoki as Miho, Alexis Bledel as Becky, Brittany Murphy as Shellie, Powers Boothe as Senator Roark, Marley Shelton as The Customer, Nick Stahl as Roark Jr./The Yellow Bastard, Michael Madsen as Bob, Carla Gugino as Lucille, Makenzie Vega as Nancy (11 Years), Frank Miller as Priest
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