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.