- Rated R
- Buy the BD
All photos © Walt Disney
Reviewed by David Medsker
atching a midnight showing of “Sin City” is to appreciate the science that is demographics. The crowd was 99% male, 99% white and 99% 23.5 years old. The only women in the theater were dragged there by their boyfriends. The people responsible for marketing this movie knew their demo and, in tradition with the Frank Miller graphic novels (emphasis on graphic) on which the movie is based, they nailed their target audience to a tree and severed its limbs.
There was talk that this was the next “Pulp Fiction,” that the ‘00s had their first generation-defining movie. Now that I have seen both, I’m not sure that is a fair comparison. There is much to admire about Robert Rodriguez’s movie – the art direction and cinematography are utterly peerless, and the casting is pitch perfect – yet the overwhelming sense of nihilism instills a sense of detachment from the first frame. “Pulp Fiction” was a movie filled with bad guys as well, but eventually you saw a sense of decency in nearly all of them. There are good guys here too, but there doesn’t seem to be any point in rooting for them. Of course, if you know that going in, and are okay with it, then have a seat, because “Sin City” has much to offer in terms of cinematic brilliance. But a word to the squeamish: the hypodermic needle scene in “Pulp Fiction” is child’s play compared to what happens here.
The story is a series of loosely interconnected plot threads involving cops both clean and dirty, hookers armed to the teeth (there is one, count it, one woman in this movie who is not a stripper, a hooker or a barmaid, and the first time that character is onscreen, she’s topless), and the vicious psychopaths who taunt them and love them. John Hartigan (Bruce Willis) is a good cop with a bad ticker, who dares to expose the child-molesting son of the town bigwig (Powers Boothe), only to have his own partner (Michael Madsen) shoot him for it. Then there’s a monster-sized ogre named Marv (Mickey Rourke) who beds Goldie, the hottest thing he’s ever seen (Jaime King, also topless), only to wake up and find her dead. On the other side of town is Dwight (Clive Owen), who isn’t too fond of Jack (Benicio Del Toro) or his abusive tendencies toward barmaid Shelly (Brittany Murphy, who must have had cleavage pulled up from her ankles). Only in a city like this would someone like Elijah Wood’s Kevin be the most disturbed, and deadly, of all.
The narration, done by whoever happens to be the “protagonist” at the time, takes a little getting used to. The first few bits feel stilted and awkward. It doesn’t fall into place until Marv takes over the story line about 10 minutes in. The irony will no doubt be lost on no one when I say that Marv, arguably the biggest psycho of the bunch, winds up being the most likable. In fact, Rourke turns in a performance that should inspire a Travolta-esque change of fortune for him.
The feminist backlash that is sure to follow “Sin City” should be interesting to observe. After all, there isn’t a single female in this movie who plays anything nobler than a hot piece of ass. But this is neither the time nor place for political correctness. It’s a comic book, fer Crissakes. Rodriguez recognizes this and gives the movie the geek fanboy hero worship that it deserves. All car sequences, and there are a lot of them, were clearly shot on blue screens with actors on milk crates, and scarcely have car scenes looked so real. If God was anywhere in “Sin City,” he was in the details.
“Sin City” is stunning, astounding, jaw dropping, all of those things, but with an asterisk. For all of the things that Rodriguez, Miller and “special guest director” Quentin Tarantino got right with this movie, we simultaneously hope that it doesn’t inspire a series of unknown directors to up the ante of hookers in peril. “Sin City” is obviously more than that, but not much more, not more to the point where it needs to be improved or expanded upon in any way. The technical work will never be topped, and the subject matter probably shouldn’t be repeated. So let’s leave this one alone, shall we?
Two-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
No doubt one of Miramax’s most requested movies to receive the Blu-ray treatment, the two-disc release of “Sin City” is essentially a carbon copy of the special edition DVD set from 2005, but with a few exclusive extras that make it well worth the upgrade. The first disc of the set includes the theatrical release, two audio commentaries, an audience reaction track from the Austin premiere, and an all-new picture-in-picture feature called Cine-Explore that incorporates green screen footage and original art as you watch the film. Of the two commentaries, the one featuring directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller is the best, though it’s always a pleasure to listen to Quentin Tarantino (who sits down with Rodriguez for the other track) talk about his love for the medium. Disc Two houses everything else, including an unrated and extended version of the film, and a host of production featurettes ranging from Tarantino’s stint as guest director to everything about making the movie. Rounding out the set is a new edition of “15-Minute Film School,” a recipe for breakfast tacos, a sped-up "All Green Screen Version" of the film, and an interactive comic book (“Kill ‘Em Good”) following Marv's portion of the tale.