Director: Robert Rodriguez
With: Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke
Runtime: 124 min
Quentin Tarantino was recently voted one of the most influential directors of all time, and although he only ‘guest-directed’ one scene of Frank Miller’s Sin City his influence is prevalent throughout. Sin City is a film very much in the Tarantino mould: a cool but brutal, modern classic. Its no over-statement to call it the first true successor to the glorious bravado and swagger of Pulp Fiction. The structure is even reminiscent as director Robert Rodriguez weaves together three separate and personal stories of passion, revenge and mind boggling violence against the bleak canvas of a sprawling metropolis filled with amoral low-lifes, vicious power struggles and yet more violence! It is simultaneously a faithful and detailed adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novels and a wonderfully original, rule- breaking, genre-defying movie.
The most remarkable and breath-taking aspect of Miller’s stunning creation is the use of colour. The film is shot entirely in black and white; the rare splashes of colour are used as a weapon for dramatic and artistic impact. It works superbly, adding a captivating and shocking edge to the atmosphere of sinister tension and simmering passions. It’s especially effective in moments of extreme gore and savagery; the violence made more cartoon-like. It stops it from becoming gratuitous, merely omnipresent.
The acting isn’t bad either; a large and eclectic cast of nobodies, much-maligned journey-men and Bruce Willis add flesh to the stylish bones. Mickey Rourke is a revelation as the sweet yet sadistic freak Marv. Actors like Benicio Del Toro, Rosario Dawson and Clive Owen work wonders with a clichéd script, making the strangely similar characters seem believable and important. Its not easy to make an audience care about two dimensional characters whose contrasting moral codes are as black andwhite as the colour scheme of the film itself. Don’t get me wrong, it won’t win awards, but then Sin City isn’t that kind of film: it’s an edgy and increasingly notorious cult classic rather than an Oscar-polishing Hollywood love-fest. The ultimate effect is a triumph of style over substance, undoubtedly the film’s greatest asset (other than the scintillating Jessica Alba, this summer’s biggest new star).
There are those who will criticise Sin City’s lack of morality, its sexist outlook and its horrific violence (when you have to use a plural to describe castrations you know you’ve stepped over the line) but these critics miss out on the film’s vital point. It is an adaptation of the highest fidelity, both a tribute and parody of 1940s ‘film-noir’, simultaneously mimicking and replicating the classic crime movies now deemed either too dull or pretentious for modern consumption. These criticisms cannot be levelled at the awesome adrenalin rush that is Sin City. It is the boldest, coolest and most exciting film I’ve seen in a long while, and a far cry from the turgid comic-book rubbish which currently congests the cinema screens. If you like crime films, cool films, Tarantino-esque films, or films at all, then see Sin City. See it, see it now, and if you can afford it at this late stage of the year, see it again.