Frank Miller's Sin City (2005)

This is the place to talk about films from around the world.

Frank Miller's Sin City (2005)

Postby wpqx » Sat Jan 21, 2006 6:52 am

Let A voice his displeasure here, but this is my film of the year for 2005 and since I've gotten a fresh look at it, courtesy of a well stocked special edition DVD, I felt it deserved a new home. Consider this the thread about the extended cut. The film is laid out differently, with the stories seperately told and not intercut. Some are extended, others you barely notice a change, but you realize that longer or shorter Sin City is the most imaginative film of the last year.

Now the auteur critic in me is wondering exactly who's teh one responsible for this unique vision. Robert Rodriguez is something of a super auteur, directing, writing, shooting, editing, scoring, and probably catering as well. He shares a ridiculous amount of credits for this film, as he does with nearly all of his others, but taking a look at the Hard Goobye I realize that it might not be his vision we're seeing. The vision is Miller's. Marv's story is told almost shot for shot and word for word the same. It was simply multi-tasking Rodriguez's job to transport it onto the screen. Sin City seemed to sway from the typical comic book movie by not coddling to the younger superhero friendly crowd. Compared to Jessica Alba's other comic book movie Fantastic Four it's easy to see what market was being targeted. Rodriguez had a mission and a vision, and helped to make this film as faithful as it could be. Bless the man for having the foresight to get Miller to go along with him, something that may have helped Batman out considering everyone knows Frank Miller's Dark Knight is the best that DC has ever mustered.

Lest I digress. The film is a three act structure with a prologue and epilogue neatly fit in. The Customer is Always Right segment features Josh Hartnett as a ridiculously charismatic hitman, and helps to set the mood at the beginning. With this first scene, we see the mix of beautiful people, a rain soaked city, a noir atmosphere, accented color, and of course a little violence. Like Tarantino's blood soaked black and white segment from Kill Bill Vol. 1, you sometimes wonder if the choice of color helped keep the film in an R rating, somehow you also wonder if anyone would have cared if it didn't. Watching this story out of the film, it doesn't carry the same weight. The pay off of seeing the hitman and Becky in the elevator doesn't elicit the same ovation of witnessing the Big Fat Kill segment.

Let's discuss that while we're at it, seeing how chronology is not of essence in watching the extended cut, so we'll jump into the middle. The Big Fat Kill is the least rewarding of the stories, because the motive isn't simple retribution. There is a modified tale of revenge, but it is hardly the type of corruption being destroyed Hard Goodbye, or the Knight in Shining armor grandeur of That Yellow Bastard. The story remains entertaining, and is probably the most ambitious. The Big Fat Kill is the story that probably could have best sufficed to make an entire movie. Let's face it, the other stories are simple and swift. This one is all over the place. We don't really get to see Shelly (Brittany Murphy) and Dwight (Clive Owen) have any sort of relationship. We see her wink at him in The Hard Goodbye, and by the time it's their story, they've already slept together. Personally I would have enjoyed a quick sex scene like the one between Goldie (James King) and Marv (Mickey Rourke). But perhaps that's just because Brittany Murphy has never looked finer, and pardon me for wanting to see her naked.

The story isn't really hers though. We are led to believe it might. The damsel in distress, she is the beginning of the piece, and being the big movie star in the segment, it is likely to be her story. It isn't though, as Clive Owen effectively makes it his piece, or to a great extent his story. Owen hasn't been in many movies, but he has a way of being absolutely perfect for certain roles. He is resourceful and charismatic enough to pull this off, but he has that added degree of being just cool enough to make you believe that he's a real pro at whatever he does. There is an unspeakable charisma to the heroes here. Josh Hartnett the obvious hearthrob, but Bruce Willis is the perfect action star for this, and Mickey Rourke goes beyond makeup to give the most memorable perfomance of the year, and his entire career (which if you think back actually IS saying something). Owen fits right into this hero archetype that is being established in the world of Sin City. He's slightly crazy, as Marv certainly is, he's defending a lady, as Hartigan (Willis) and Marv were, and he's a remourseless assassin like Hartnett. These characters are all on a common thread.

What makes The Big Fat Kill so different is that the women are not helpless victims. They are not in need of defense. In fact it is Dwight who leads them into trouble in the first place. Sure Wendy (King) may act tough, but she's too foolish to actually be able to fend for herself. The women here can and do. As we saw in Marv's story, he technically could take them, but well Marv's a little superhuman. The women of Old Town (all of which scantily clad prostitutes) are resourceful, violent, vengeful, and packing heat. The only one that doesn't seem to be handy with a gun is the rat in the bunch Becky (a beutifully blue eyed Alexis Bledel). She plays a bit on the damsel in distress role, and hence the reason she has no respect from her kind. She is a crutch that they have had to bear, and she is the weak link dragging them down. Again in a feature length version of this story, Becky's background, particularly with her mother could have been better illustrated, but well time is of the essence here.

This segment has the already famous Tarantino scene. A simple conversation between the dead Jackie Boy (Benecio Del Torro) and Dwight. It has a Tarantino stamp on it, but could possibly be done away with. The look however doesn't change, and it still fits in with the rest of the picture. Dwight also fits in with Marv by being slightly dellusional, again they're all connected. Miho (Devon Aoki) is the deadly assassin of the group, the most resourceful and comes off as a female Kevin (Elijah Wood). She's silent, deadly, and too quick to second guess. Unfortunately she's almost too quick, and it is her bloodshed that motivates the whole conflict.

I will make no secrets about what my favorite segment of the film is, and that's the Hard Goodbye. This is what sets the film up, being the first of the three major stories, and I can't imagine anyone not being entertained by Marv. I remember in the theater I was the only person who cheered Mickey Rourke's name during the opening credits. I kind of laughed at the idea that he was in a big modern movie. I had no idea he would absolutely dominate this picture. Through him Marv is the most memorable character. The one legitamate super hero in the story. A slightly dellusional maniacle ape of a man that can't seem to be killed, and one that seems to enjoy pain, both inflicting it and feeling it. Look at him and you'll see the biggest smile on his face when he's covered in blood, regardless of who's it is. Miller himself thought Marv was the most interesting character in his Sin City world, and how can you blame him? By the end of his first fight with the cops you are completely on his side and you also realize that there probably isn't another actor alive better than Rourke for this role.

His tale is strictly revenge, but in a much more entertaining fashion, albeit less emotionally stirring than Hartigan's in That Yellow Bastard. Marv is the only one avenging someone's death, and by his math one Goldie is worth about 40 or Rourke's (Rutger Hauer) men. I just realized the slight irony in names there, but that's hardly intentional. Much praise goes to Rodriguez here because who on earth could have thought Elijah Wood could pull off a creepy, bad ass, villain? I still here people laugh as if I was crazy when describing his character. Also a bit of irony that the only nudity in the story is not in The Big Fat Kill (which features an entire cast of whores) but in Marv's, and the majority of it comes from his parole officer (who was cut from Hartigan's story). The extended cut features a scene of Marv at his mothers which lets us know that Marv actually is human, or at least one of his parents was a regular person. It also adds to the effect later in the film where Marv agrees to confess after they threaten to kill his blind mother. I do however believe that the scene is slightly slow, and sets off the general fast pace of Marv's tale. And what delicious revenge, he goes to town on Kevin and it is rewarding in a way you can't imagine. Miller has a sick mind for revenge, and it's part of the genius of Sin City.

In the theatrical release That Yellow Bastard had the biggest payoff. It's prologue begins right after the credits, but we have to sit through Marv and Dwight's tales until we get to the conclusion. This lets us see it early on, and we discover not too far after this opening scene who Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) is. Showing this early works to let us know that this has taken place earlier. We see Nancy as an 11 year old girl, but in Marv's tale she's the full grown Alba. There's a practical reason for That Yellow Bastard to begin when it does. Closing the film with it, gives more than a sense of having this be a senseless sensational blood bath. There is emotion and complexity to this tale. It involves political cover ups, a spoiled rich kid, pedophelia, age difference in a relationship, health problems, and the always entertaining how to get out of a noose routine. It also helps to test our memory, as Hartigan says he has to take out their weapons, both of them. It has a much greater effect at the end, and it is the one moment of the film that still made me wince.

There is more Sin City on the way. The sequel is in the works, and there are several characters from Miller's world that haven't had their moment on screen yet. I don't see it as a franchise, but if the format of copying the book to screen format continues, I see no reason why Sin City 2 won't be among the best films of this year (provided it gets released). Rodriguez made the best film of the year entirely on a green screen, yes all that great noir setting was computer generated. A great way to get a distinctive look. The film always seems like it's in it's own little world, and that's because it is. A twisted, @#%$ up world, but one that's damn entertaining to visit.

Re: Frank Miller's Sin City (2005)

Postby arsaib4 » Fri Jan 27, 2006 12:31 am

Didn't realize that I haven't posted my review on this site, so here it is.

In Sin City, director Robert Rodriguez - with the help of his creative partner, Frank Miller - has primarily incorporated three of Millers stories, The Hard Goodbye, The Big Fat Kill, and That Yellow Bastard, into a Pulp Fiction-type narrative, but unlike the model, it never becomes cohesive nor does it ever come alive enough to be cared for. Who wouldve thought that Rodriguezs biggest sin would his faithfulness to the source material?!

The third story arc of the graphic novel, That Yellow Bastard, is featured first in the film as we see Detective John Hartigan (Bruce Willis), a burnt-out cop with a bum ticker on the brink of retirement take down a child molester (Nick Stahl) - son of a high-class official (Powers Boothe) - as hes about to rape an 11-year old Nancy (Makenzie Vega). However, he is deceived by a friend (Michael Madsen) along the way and gets framed for various other crimes including the kidnapping of the little girl. We later find him rotting away in prison with the only ray of light being the weekly letters from Nancy who knows the truth.

The famous first arc which started it all, The Hard Goodbye, was originally published in 1991 as part of the Dark Horse anthologies and is presented next as a hideous tough guy named Marv (Mickey Rourke) spends the night with a kind hooker (Jaime King) and later finds her dead body laying next to him. Much like Hartigan, hes also blamed for the act but he fights his way out and makes his mind about avenging the woman in hysteria. There is no settling down! This is blood for blood and by the gallons, and he isnt kidding! What he finds is that this murder is linked with the highest of places and in his way is a silent killer (Elijah Wood).

As most of you have seen or heard by now, Sin City is as visually striking as any film ever made. And as I mentioned earlier, its faithful to a fault . One simply cant take a graphic novel (a friend claims that "calling a bunch of comic books a graphic novel is akin to comparing rock n roll to Barry Manilow. Why dress up a bastard child?" This is hard to argue even though I kind of disagree) and put it on the screen with all of its content intact. I hate to be so obvious, but on paper, the characters themselves arent judged by their dialogue and actions; its a freeze-frame and rest is up to your imagination. In Sin City the constant voice-over narration by both Willis and Rourke - while theyre walking around causing mayhem, constantly getting stabbed, shot, run-over by cars etc., then getting up and circling again - becomes tedious after a while and at various points I wasnt sure whether to laugh to not. I dont think the intention was there from Rodriguez to initially present these characters as humorous, but they needed to be fleshed out, with substance and weight. And whose brilliant idea was to cast Willis and Rourke? Yes, they do look like the character in the comics but once again, this is a film and it requires the participants to contribute. Im sure Willis has acted in a few films in front of a blue screen (or is it green?) but it seemed like he wasnt sure whether to give a professional performance or ham it up. Same goes for his partner Michael Madsen in the initial reel. As for Rourke, a friend said that she would rather watch a colored screen, and I dont blame her, although he did try.

Take, for example, Millers dark and brooding Daredevil, (made out to look like your average PG 13-ish comic-book adaptation of the month) in which a non-actor like Ben Affleck was thoroughly outclassed by the villain played by Colin Farrell. And even though I dont care for Spider-Man and/or Tobey Maguire, and a lot of people werent happy initially upon his selection, but he isnt only a minimalist when it comes to his own performance but he has the same effect on his outlandish surroundings. Same cant be said for the two I talked about earlier.

In Sin City, things do start falling in place once its labyrinthine third part is introduced with Dwight McCarthy (Clive Owen). And when we find Jackie Boy (Benicio Del Toro) and his band of brothers outside the apartment of a local barmaid, Shelly (Brittany Murphy), the film gets a jolt of subversive charge it was looking all along for. (Dwight comes from The Big Fat Kill, even though in the novel, he was first introduced in A Dame To Kill For, the second story arc of the novel which isnt given priority here and thats a mistake because Dwights background and his exploits were key part of it and the film couldve used a bit more focus earlier on although all isnt lost with this pick.) One wouldnt mistake Jackie Boy and his thugs belonging to any place else other than the City of Sin, but apparently Dwight got his haircut from one of its suburbs. Anyway, the barmaids preference, Dwight, ends up making Jackie Boy taste his own medicine (youll see what I mean or you already do) and then follows him and his friends as they make their way toward an area controlled by woman who offer their services independently. Led by Gail (Rosario Dawson in a bewitching outfit), who shares a past with Dwight, they prefer to stay out of trouble but when Jackie Boy sets his eyes on a young one (Alexis Bledel), Dwight and Gails gang join to help not realizing what might be the consequences

Not only this story is the most complex, with an amalgam of issues including, territory, loyalty, jealousy, misidentification, corruption etc., but here the noir element also properly surfaces as theres an unknown outside threat looming large if certain acts arent atoned for and love triangles are omnipresent. Also, right about at this stage one could also hear Tarantino breathing over the shoulders of the director duo as the violence, now mostly off-screen, is given perspective with a surreal comic-tone; whether its the Asian silent killer Miho (Devon Aoki) cutting down bodies so they can properly fit in the trunk or Dwight and a rather @#%$-up Jackie Boy having a conversation. The voice-over narration is also more controlled, but most importantly, and unlike the previous segments, these actors make their lines work; the same ones that looked so out of place earlier.

Unfortunately, whatever momentum Sin City had gathered at this point dissipates when it revisits the shallow, meandering tale of John Hartigan, still suffering in prison, thinking of the little girl Nancy who he refers to as his daughter and what might have happened to her in the meantime. He eventually finds his way out of prison to look for her and ends up finding her working as dancer (Jessica Alba) in a local bar (same one where Shelley and Dwight first locked eyes). The senators son also resurfaces, now as The Yellow Bastard (an excellent Nick Stahl, once again) still chasing after the girl. The girls intentions and perhaps the fact that she now has a fine looking body, Hartigan becomes a little confused whether to hug her or @#%$ her. This morally bankrupt storyline perhaps ends on a right note, unlike the other recent release, Old Boy. That film not only romanticized its incest-laden relationships but offered us such grand statements as if one spoke out against it, theyll badly suffer which they can correct by practicing hypnosis. What a disgrace! But may be Im too old fashioned and well soon see the subject being part of a must-see comedy on NBC.

While Sin City will never be mistaken for a monument of moral righteousness, it doesnt exactly wallow in mud either. Theres a streak of integrity which runs through many of the characters and justice does prevail in most cases. But once again, Rodriguez is simply borrowing from the graphic novels of his co-director. Rodriguez is an honorable filmmaker and there is nothing in his oeuvre that would lead him toward such crassness (after all, he has also directed the Spy Kids trilogy). As some of us know, in graphic novels, these situations are heightened and the damsel-in-distress factor is very high to provide a certain experience for their (younger) male readers which doesnt need an explanation. As for objectification of women, well, one look at Carla Gugino and youll forget what that means.

Using a Sony HFC-950 digital camera, Rodriguez shot the film himself. This IS the most faithful comic-book to screen adaptation weve seen yet. Shot-by-Shot the images ring true, but Rodriguezs City behind its inhabitants gets ignored. The bare and shadowy artificial background is even more convincing than what Kerry Conrad did in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow but it still required a sense of juxtaposed reality from the characters, but instead most of them simply end up chewing the scenery around them (Jim Hoberman is right in his assertion that Sin City lacks the human interest that Pulp Fiction had in abundance).

More scope for his visuals was needed but, once again, being true to the source was Rodriguezs mantra. Sin City also features the novels trademark black and white style - with the occasional splashes of color. Watching this film I thought of Road to Perdition, also based on a graphic novel, but one that fleshed out its narrative and its characters while making every bullet count. The film had its own problems, but it created a world which was more easily identifiable and that ended up creating a sense of drama. Rodriquez accomplished half the task w/out every needing someone like the late great Conrad Hall but his own stubbornness cost him in the end. (He even resigned from DGA so Miller can share the credit was him as a director.)

Sin City is one of the most original films ever made. One way or the other this line is being repeated by most of our critics and the fan boys. While that isnt exactly false, it also doesnt mean that this is a great film. Only few of them, you all know who they are as their names are often mentioned here, have decided to review the film while the rest have only used the opportunity to comment on how it looks. Good writers arent necessarily good critics and a lot of us make that mistake after reading well-written analysis, but Im sure no one has made that mistake here if youve gotten this far reading this piece of @#%$.

History indicates that Rodriguezs will follow this up eventually with another similar film, and I have no doubt that he is capable of making a masterpiece using the graphic imagery he has invented, but well have to wait for that one.

Re: Frank Miller's Sin City (2005)

Postby wpqx » Fri Jan 27, 2006 6:03 pm

You might want to update your review, at least about the Cannes comment.

Re: Frank Miller's Sin City (2005)

Postby arsaib4 » Sat Jan 28, 2006 12:10 am


Re: Frank Miller's Sin City (2005)

Postby A » Thu May 11, 2006 9:30 pm

I agree more with arsaib than wpqx. Although I probably would go even further, and call it a failure. For me it failed in the acting department (mostly very unbalanced performances, probably due to "green-screen"), and a script that seems more like a best-of of Miller, than a coherent depiction of the complexities of Millers work. I haven't read all of the stories from the World of Sin City, but imo the film rarely manages to come even close to the comic-books. Rodriguez doesn't really seem to care about his characters, their surroundings and the story. What he's interested in is the mostly the atmosphere and feel of Miller, but he seems to forget that those things are closely connected to the factors he leaves behind on the roadside.
The visuals are interesting, but are not put into service. They stand more or less for themselves, being thus rather showy and pretentious.
Though I'll give the film another - proper - try sometime in the future with the extended version and the right audio (I saw it dubbed )I'll probably at best end up with arsaib's position.
Imo dismissable and a disapointment.

Re: Frank Miller's Sin City (2005)

Postby arsaib4 » Sat May 13, 2006 1:59 am

I might've been a little too harsh in my review, but only because it had the potential to be something quite extraordinary. Still, I liked the film very much, enough to "honorably mention" it in my Best of '05 list. Depending on how the sequels turn out, it could be remembered very fondly.

Re: Frank Miller's Sin City (2005)

Postby A » Sat May 13, 2006 5:58 pm

Ok, with me it certainly won't get a honorable mention, It won't even come close to it. But we'll see.
Time changes everything

Re: Frank Miller's Sin City (2005)

Postby wpqx » Mon May 15, 2006 2:03 pm

Well I still say its the best comic book movie made, and the finest film (that I saw anyways) from 2005. I can't exactly fathom how anyone could not love it honestly.

Return to Film Talk

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 9 guests