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00591 - SIN CITY

MovieHype00591 – SIN CITY

I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out the best way to talk about SIN CITY.  Maybe I mention Robert Rodriguez and his take-no-prisoners style of directing, how he does everything from the actual shooting to the editing to even writing the score, all to get exactly the look he wants. Would that more movie-makers were like him, refusing to compromise their vision to lowest common denominator demographics and the look-over-your-shoulder fear of fundamentalist backlash.

Maybe I make this review about the art and artifice of filming comic books. How so many have struggled—in vain—to get the look, the feel, the je ne sais quois of the graphic novel onto celluloid. There have been some noble efforts—the first BATMAN, HULK—which tried to give us a comic-book feel, and for my money UNBREAKABLE did the best of giving us shot-for-shot what a panel might look like. None of these come close to SIN CITY, which quite simply is Frank Miller’s graphic novel, enough so that Rodriguez included Miller as director, feeling that the comic had basically story-boarded the movie for him. (This sharing of credit was against Directors’ Guild rules, which prompted Rodriguez to resign the Guild, rather than compromise, saying, “I got into this to make great art, not be a part of some club.”)

Maybe I talk about the revolutionary backgrounds, which along with last year’s SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW and the new STAR WARS movies, is heading up a sea-change in how movies can look. Except that SIN CITY is not interested in making its palette photo-realistic, instead going for the heart of Film-Noir—if that Film Noir had Thorazine-induced nightmares.
Maybe I should make this review a dissertation on the throwback iconoclastism of a new breed of film, unflinching in bringing us the movie traditions of the ‘30s and ‘40s. in the sometimes raw and nowhere-but-on-screen language that permeates these films, back when men were manly men and girls were actually feminine and shapely, but still tough as nails too.

Where subject matter can be broached that in real life would be ridiculous or downright offensive, and we can groove to it, because this is not the Cinema of the ‘70s, with GODFATHER, TAXI DRIVER, DEER HUNTER, trying to bring us real people, real emotion, real loss, real life. No, this is Hollywood, dammit, and we want movie-gods saying movie-god things. We expect our flinty eyed hero not to break down and get in touch with his softer side, but to suck it up, toss off a one-liner, and mow down the bad guys with a beautiful dame at his side (preferably a machine gun-toting dominatrix, but hey: any port in a storm).

Maybe I approach this from these god-like characters, and talk about how—almost without exception—SIN CITY was the role and performance of these actors' careers. Rosario Dawson: where are blood-thirsty women like you when I need them? Alexis Bledel: I could spend a happy lifetime lost in your eyes.

Old Favorites; Rutger Hauer, Michael Clarke Duncan, Powers Boothe, Benicio Del Toro, and my man Bruce Willis: somewhere there is an Actors’ Valhalla, where you will never grow old and can tell your war-stories over mugs of mead. Young Actors long in my Dog House; Josh Hartnett, Brittany Murphy: you did what was asked of you even if it made you look silly. All if forgiven; welcome home. To Devon Aoki and Elijah Wood: without saying a word you impressed, inspired and at times downright terrified me. Wow. Clive Owen: You continue to be the Man. I will cast you in any part I get the chance to. Jessica Alba: the Light willing, I will marry you one day.

And to Mickey Rourke: what can I say about your Marv? I know not the words, other than this: at times Marv shares the screen with Carla Gugino, a very naked Carla Gugino. And though God gave that woman luscious ripe breasts and an impossibly rococo ass, I STILL couldn’t take my eyes off of Marv. That’s respect, baby.

Maybe I launch into a discussion of the coolest movies of all time, and what makes a movie cool. We could argue over SEVEN SAMURAI, EMPIRE, RAIDERS, BLADE RUNNER, even recent faves like OCEAN’S 11 and THE MATRIX, and ask whether anyone surpassed the genius that is Tarantino. But that argument—fun as it might be, should live in the INSTITUTE. And, perhaps one day we will do that.

There are a lot of ways I could approach this review, all of them interesting, all of them touching the heart of the matter but not capturing its essence. I won’t say SIN CITY is for everyone. Though 1/50th as gory and violent as THE PASSION and 1/100th as realistic of that depiction therein, some will be turned off by the language, the brutality, and the gall of a director presenting a film ass-backwards from anything resembling the tried-and-true formula that is modern Hollywood.

Some won’t get it, some won’t like it, and some won’t care: but none of these are my people.

April 11, 2005

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