SIN CITY review
Published at: March 21, 2005, 9:46 p.m. CST by headgeek
SIN CITY is a cinematic blowtorch to the senses, burning, exposing and finally annihilating each new noir drenched nerve-ending into another thrilling, ecstatic sensation. From the second Marley Shelton starts to quiver in Josh Hartnett’s arms till the closing of the elevator doors – this movie is a vice holding your head in place – daring you to watch it through the gaps of your fingers – leaving you laughing the naughty laugh at each new delicious sin, like a box of chocolate strawberries shared between lovers – you in your seat and Robert, Frank and the actors and artists on the screen – each celebrating the unmitigated joy of getting away with it, honoring it and bringing it to life. SIN CITY throbs to life with the roar of engines, gunfire, rage, women and men. It’s primal – it’s murderous and it’s vital.
This is completely unlike anything you’ve seen in theaters. It’s the greatest ShockSuspense Story ever told… Each panel stripped down and saturated. This isn’t reality, this isn’t down the corner. The dialogue isn’t realistic, it’s just the way it oughta be. SIN CITY is populated with the subconscious “id”-heroes of Pulp. This is the umpteenth vision of a Meyer-esque dystopian paradise of decaying grandeur and decadence. The characters spout - no erupt with the sort of high living and dying dialogue that gods speak before killing and fucking. You know – the gods that played on silver screens before we started aching to see our own pathetic excuses for lives up there instead. No self-referential post-modern flair… this… this is filled with dialogue for Cagney, Bogie and Edward G. And Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis and Clive Owen relish every line.
Yes, it is Frank Miller’s SIN CITY. Yes, it is essentially every panel brought to life, but in that. In that bringing it to life, it metamorphosizes into something even greater than the comic. Miller’s greatest heroes are thanked in the end credits of the films… folks like Wally Wood and Will Eisner. Johnny Craig and William Gaines. But there’s a fusion here. When this stuff comes to life, it begins to bring on elements from cinematic memory, like that of Shigehiro Ozawa’s GEKITOTSU! SATSUJIN KEN mixed with Robert Aldrich’s KISS ME DEADLY and Edgar Ulmer’s DETOUR, the glorious surreality of Edward Dmytryk’s MURDER, MY SWEET and diced with the utter cinematic gleeful insanity of Kinji Fukasaku’s YAKUZA PAPERS series and BATTLE ROYALE – with the stylish verve of Miike’s ICHII THE KILLER and the raw sensuality and base depravity of DePalma’s BODY DOUBLE & FEMME FATALE & DRESSED TO KILL & SCARFACE. Sure there’s the crazed pulp roots steeped in the pages of Mickey Spillane, Robert E Howard, Jim Thompson, Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. But then there’s Marv… and for me… Marv comes from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ THE MUCKER – all the way back in 1914. SIN CITY is the results of all of this and more. It’s everything that made Robert and Frank’s dicks hard since they discovered it tented in their laps. Every woman that made them lust, every sin they ever thought. This is the culmination of dreaming the big dirty dreams about dicks and dames with all the dead dorks they leave pushing posies in their destructive wake.
Do I love the film?
I revel in it. I came back to my pad – opened up a bottle of tequila and called up friends to throw the wickedness of this thing about us. This is a film to watch and get drunk and get stupid happy fucked by. It’s 145mph with no hands on the wheel and a head lapping your lap sorta twitter. It feels criminal, like you should be locked up for having indulged in it. Nearly 8 years ago I had my first conversation in person with Robert Rodriguez. He drove me out to his house. We went up the spiral staircase to paint models – and at one point he asked me if I had read SIN CITY – we then began to geek about Miller – and how nobody could really do those books justice. There was a threshold of cool that cinema could touch, and Miller’s SIN CITY was out of reach. Animated wouldn’t have the vitality and carnal eroticism and fury needed – and live action? It simply wouldn’t look right. In my mind, I left the question there. Robert has apparently been spending time considering it. THANK GOD!
I’ve been quasi terrified about this movie for 2 years now. I wasn’t happy with ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO. The film had moments that were fantastic, but just wasn’t the film I dreamt of with Robert. In fact, I felt it so missed the mark I was hoping for, that I honestly felt there was a good chance he wasn’t ready for this film. I prayed I was wrong, but honestly – I heard him saying the right things, casting the right people and when I was working with him on PRINCESS OF MARS – I saw things that made me hope he was getting it right… but I just didn’t know for certain.
Now I do. This is the best film that all parties involved have ever made. Robert, Quentin or Frank Miller. I know that's a bold statement... but for me - this film combines the cinema of cool with a look and characters that at least after this first viewing drove me out of mind crazy in love. I know that in all 3 of their careers to date, I've never loved a single character as much as Marv or Dwight. That this film is drunk in love with the possiblities of Digital Cinema to transform film into any vision a filmmaker can dream of. It is an earthquake of cool! The film forces you to consider all the looks of paintings and graphical exploration that have never been captured on screen. How movies don't need to look like the world outside, nor do they have to look like anything we've seen on screen before. Literally - they can be anything you dream of... or even Frank Miller can dream of. This is the boldest, coolest and in my book the most exciting thing I've seen in the longest goddamn time.
Mickey Rourke and Greg Nicotero’s MARV is something out of the inky black type of a pulp page. The sort of low vulgar brute of a man. The sort that’d populate the nightmares of Mike Mazurki, Harold Sakata and William Smith. He’s the Id Monster’s worst nightmare. A beast of a man carved out of concrete and steel dreaming of silky flesh and honey dipped hair. When he roars out dialogue, be it verbally or mentally – he’s a Harley revving up for a rumble. I can’t even begin to do it justice. As perfect as Rathbone’s Holmes, as Olivier’s Hamlet, as Connery’s Bond. It’s a part so iconic that his image is sledge hammered into importance. You can shoot him, run over him, stick him, electrocute him and he’ll just keep coming. He’s the Mutherfucker of Mutherfuckers, the baddest of the bad and the coolest of the cool. He lumbers like Baryshnikov danced. He’s as subtle as a tsunami. He’s a character we must see more of. I could watch 20 films of that guy. He’s amazing to watch. Just amazing. How great is he? Carla Gugino is breathtakingly bare ass naked with the finest cinematic rack of joy in quite some time… and you’ll be watching Marv. Why? Cuz every second on screen, you’re convinced that at any moment, he’ll reach off that screen, grab you by the scruff of the neck and Notre Dame ya like a farm-bred chicken plump and ready to serve.
Bruce Willis? His Hartigan never quite seems as old as they say, but so what. He’s cool enough to be Hartigan. That scar rules, and he really does go for it. You know the book – you know what all he goes through. It’s there in them sad pissed off eyes. He’s not fighting some elegant monologue drunk Euro-trash. Here, he’s up against the king of pissers. A character so disgusting that you just can’t wait to see him buy it. But no death would do him justice. Nothing could, but Bruce does. Like some crazed primal fusing of Sonny Chiba’s STREETFIGHTER and Vincent Cassel’s Marcus from IRREVERSIBLE and the never-say die of his own John McClane… Bruce nails it.
Then there’s Clive Owen – who isn’t quite like anything I can put a finger on. There’s a swashbuckler’s flair to the man and the red Cadillac he drives belonged to VIVA LAS VEGAS long ago… but he owns it now. Dwight never came to life for me in the books as well as he does here. The reason, Clive Owen. He’s amazing to watch. The bathroom scene between him and Benicio – CLASSIC. I’ve never seen an actor take a scene away from Benicio till today. Holy shit he rules. He’s like an eloquent pissed off John Wayne version of Chow Yun Fat. He reeks of cool, even in tar, a sewer and everywhere in-between.
Next – let’s talk Elijah “mean nasty fucker” Wood. I know that doesn’t make a lick of sense right now, but Elijah is like a shrunk down deadly Stan Laurel playing a Tony Jaa inspired version of Hannibal Lecter. He’s a pulp version of the killer rabbit from MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL. Something so cute and cuddily and then… so kick ass that my single thought was, “RUNAWAY!!!” He’s cooler than Gollum in this flick.
The Women of SIN CITY
Each of them is there for a single purpose… to sate each and every perverted drooling doodle of a thought you’ve had. Now it seems that most are throttled by Jessica Alba and Rosario Dawson. And yeah – the impression I get is Jessica is too sorority stripper for me, and Rosario would break my dick off. Jaime King is the Mattel of Sin City fucks, but with this vulnerable pissyness that wasn’t quite me. Brittany Murphy is that slutty yummy – oh my god she died on my dick scary freaky chick. Devon Aoki – I’m convinced would have a ginsu cooch of death. Marley Shelton had the whole classy Oscar Night reward dame vibe going. But the two I loved were Carla Gugino and Alexis Bledel.
Carla is a DePalma gal – and oh my. It isn’t just that she’s the most naked lady in the film… it’s how she wears it. It isn’t posed feeling or unnatural or self-conscious. There’s an ease to her nudity – like she doesn’t mind. Not in a slutty way, but in a “What the hell, why not” kinda way. She lets Marv look and Marv notices, but doesn’t gawk, he’s too cool for that. She doesn’t rush to get dressed either. Sure – she’s playing a lesbian in the film – but she’s my kinda lesbian.
Then Alexis Bledel – I seem to remember that she was a part of some TV show that Herc rubbed his stub to, and wow she’s amazing on screen. She’s probably the least uncovered gal in the film, but wow she’s great. Not the big juicy role, but there’s such a sweetness – and in many ways – she’s the classic femme fatale of the film… Not the more aggressive types. She’s the one with angles, the one that plays innocent. She’s the gal that most manipulates in this film. And for that – she’s my femme fatale fave of the flick.
I could write little 75 to 150 words about every actor, character and scene of the film. From the brilliant look of the film and Frank Miller’s use of negative space. That the music has a jazzy Carpenter throb beneath a sort of Johnny Staccato-esque swing… with electric guitar riffs for the thrill of it. I love Nick Stahl’s YELLOW BASTARD – it’s like his soul was made of piss and it colored him through and through. Rutger Hauer is the Cardinal I always knew he could be. And Powers Booth hasn’t been this cool since talking about a handful of Denver scarecrows and six hundred million screamin’ Chinamen. Creepy as hell contacts – but he is really cool here.
This film will haunt BATMAN BEGINS this summer. It’s hard to want to see BATMAN done any other way than the Miller way. This film… folks. We have a new cool standard, we’ll all be visiting SIN CITY for our kicks, and this film has stiletto Rockettes to kick your ass. Take everyone you know.
God I want to see it again. It’s so cool.
Lou below in TalkBack mentions that I said I wouldn't review another Robert Rodriguez flick. Now strictly speaking - this is FRANK MILLER'S sin city. Ok, gotcha iffy technicality. But - you try coming home after watching this thing - and not picking up the phone, keyboard and not talking or writing about the movie. This is a film drunk on the marrow of movies and comics. I couldn't stop myself. After the film, Father Geek wanted to take me to my fave restaurant to eat my fave spicy food in Austin. Instead - I told him I had to get home. I HAD to write about this. Hell, Robert didn't even know I saw the flick today. He wanted me to see it at the Austin premiere - but I couldn't stop myself. For one - because I'm stuck in the chair till the leg heals better, I'd have a crap seat at the premiere, and I wanted to have a perfectly centered close seat. I wanted shrapnel. And I got it. Robert may be a friend, but if you know me, I'm harshest on my friends. Ask Quint and Moriarty. I'm brutal.