Archive for the ‘Sin City’ Category

201 – Sin City

May 1, 2005

The most striking aspect of Sin City, aside from its amazing cinematography, is that it’s in the wrong medium entirely. Based on a series of graphic novels by Frank Miller, Sin City manages to be both provocative and ridiculous, and to achieve the former it requires that the viewer not only suspend disbelief but throw it out of the window of a moving car over a large body of water.

The movie is split into three stories that overlap each other slightly: “The Hard Goodbye,” “The Big Fat Kill,” and “That Yellow Bastard.” All of them take place in a mythical hellhole called Basin City, whose appelation is, of course, shortened by all who reference it, given the death and sex and violence and other varied depravities that take place in it.

In the first story, Marv (Mickey Rourke) is an ugly, scarred thug who wakes up to find that the girl next to him in bed, Goldie (Jaime King) has been murdered during the night – and that the cops are on their way to get him for the crime. Marv doesn’t go quietly, naturally, and vows not to rest until he’s found Goldie’s killer and avenged her. The second story is about an ex-photographer (Clive Owen) who – with the help of gun-totin’, knife-wielding hookers – kills a cop and then has to cover up the crime. And the third story is about an honest-joe cop named Hartigan (Bruce Willis), who saves a little girl from molestation and death – but is himself framed for the crime.

If the movie had been presented in realistic animated form, it would have been such an easier sell. When I watch a cartoon, I know that the anvil landing on Wile E. Coyote’s head isn’t hurting the poor canine. But I do expect that most of the laws of physics should apply – if the coyote throws something into the air, it will indeed come down eventually. When I watch a live-action movie, I expect every one of the laws of physics to apply – or, at least when they don’t quite follow those rules, my brain doesn’t register it and instead focuses on the nifty special effects.

But this movie is kind of stuck in the middle. Marv runs *at* a speeding police car and jumps at it, his legs driving into the windshield. Okay, if that were a cartoon I wouldn’t give it a second thought. If it were a live-action movie, I might – unless Marv were some supervillian bent on world domination and his ability to jump into windshields at 80 mph could thus be explained. But because he wasn’t – he’s just some giant schlub with a lot of scars – my brain immediately did a double take – “Huh? Wha?”

Aside from logic, there’s the dialog itself. In comic books – sorry, graphic novels – the dialog is *supposed* to be melodramatic, even stilted, especially when the story is set in a noirish age (think 1940s New York City). But in a live-action movie, this just plain doesn’t work. Indeed, the dialog was completely unconvincing and insincere; it sounded more fitting for the back of a cereal box. Miller’s dialog was childish and absurd; at no point did his words allow me to buy into the entire concept of a “translated” graphic novel. (Example: On two occasions someone utters, “Yeesh!” in reaction to some kinda bloody mess. Who in the world says “Yeesh”? Honestly.)

The very first scene – a meeting betwen Hartigan and his partner, Bob (Michael Madsen) was howlingly awful, and I initially thought the dialog was intentionally being exaggerated for (melo)dramatic effect. Then I quickly discovered that the entire movie was going to be like that, that this wasn’t some sly commentary about how awful the dialog was in old-time mystery films.

Given that Robert Rodiguez codirected (with Miller) and that Quentin Tarantino was listed as a “guest director,” I expected some wit, even if it were in the form of gallows humor. Sadly, none was to be found, and the movie was instead as soulless and empty as the denizens of Sin City itself. The bad guys weren’t charming, the good guys weren’t normal, and even the reverse wasn’t true. No one was likeable, which is a good thing in a purportedly gritty crime drama, but neither was anyone unlikeable; the fact is, I didn’t care anything about the characters one way or another, and that’s a serious misstep on the part of the screenwriter.

Far too long (124 minutes, but it felt like five hours), Sin City misfired for me on all cylinders. Booze, broads, and bullets (to take a phrase from the film) are all great, but even the explosions and gunplay – not to mention scads of scantily clad women holding said guns – couldn’t overcome the vast pile of ineptitude in nearly all aspects of the movie, from casting to dialog to pacing to good ol’ fashioned logic. Only saving grace is the excellent cinematography, but it’s not enough to resuce an abysmal effort.

Sin City: *