‘Sin City’: A Sinful Treat Indeed

There is a mode of thought stating that just because a cast and crew have fun making a movie, doesn’t mean the movie will be fun to watch. Sometimes this isn’t true, but usually it is, and filmmakers get so caught up in the fun they’re having that they forget to consider the audience. Such is the problem with ‘Sin City.’
It’s not that Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, Frank Miller or the rest of the enormous cast aren’t up to the challenge. Indeed, all doubts about the film’s feel are removed the first time Michael Madsen opens his mouth and speaks in a stilted staccato that emulates, embraces and lampoons old-school film noir all at the same time. The filmmakers knew exactly what they were going for, and most of the time they hit it out of the park.
The film is actually made up of three stories from Miller’s ‘Sin City’ comics: ‘The Big Fat Kill,’ ‘That Yellow Bastard’ and ‘The Hard Goodbye.’ Each of the stories is similar, again as an homage to or a sendup of the noir style, revolving around a brutish man who does something incredibly violent for the woman he shouldn’t love but does.
Despite the film’s selective use of color over a predominantly black-and-white frame, ‘incredibly violent’ means just that. Clearly Rodriguez and Co. had much of their fun devising ways for gore to be expressed in black, white and several other surprising colors. Crotches are ripped apart, skulls are crushed, corpses are dismembered, axes are tossed, bows are fired, talons are slashed, guns are put to all manner of creative use … the list of brutalizations is quite thorough.
If excessive violence isn’t your cup of tea, take heart: ‘Sin City’ has enough sex to make Larry Flynt blush. The women who aren’t barmaids or exotic dancers are hookers, so there’s an abundance of nudity, or, in its absence, tight and revealing outfits. Comic book geeks rejoice: Mainstream America can now see just how edgy and cool you always were.
Indeed, the film’s comic book roots are never forgotten for more than a moment or two. The vast majority of shots are framed just like comic book panels, and the script is light on dialogue and heavy on internal monologue to the point that one actively waits for text bubbles to pop up onscreen. The work that Rodriguez has done is really something, much more so than the similarly processed ‘Sky Captain’ from late last year. Whereas ‘Sky Captain’ was content to settle for a certain soft-focus haziness as its look, ‘Sin City’ pays meticulous attention to every crisp detail and makes sure that the audience sees precisely what it needs to. The result is stunning.
So if we tally up the score so far, it would seem to be pretty heavily in the film’s favor. A great cast that invests itself completely in the movie’s universe, a pair of accomplished directors (and Miller) doing what they do best, sex, violence and flashes of humor all covered in a fascinating and completely unique visual veneer