Thursday, April 7, 2005

Sin City

Writer/director/composer/producer Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi, etc. and the Spy Kids franchise, etc) and writer/comic creator/graphic artist Frank Miller (Batman, Daredevil, X-Men and other comics for D.C. and Marvel) have joined together to produce three of Miller’s Sin City graphic novels into one slick motion picture. (Quentin Tarantino was a guest-director; from much of the press about the film Rodriguez has broken many Hollywood standards by crowding the credit lines and breaking lots of other standards, too).


The Japanese actually have the corner on graphic novels (check out any Barnes & Noble or Borders). They are comic books published in paperback form and follow the super-hero storyline, good vs. evil. For U.S and English-speaking comic book aficionados and devotees, however, Frank Miller is a publishing and now cinematic phenomenon for his regular fans, and has perhaps gained some new ones along the way.


Sin City the film tells the story of a good cop (Bruce Willis) in Basin city (looks like Gotham…) who rescues a little girl from the son of a corrupt senator (Nick Stahl is the son and Powers Booth is the senator); the good cop, Hartigan, gets shot and ends in jail for 8 years. Skip to Marv (Mickey Rourke). Goldie, a prostitute, is killed while in bed with Marv who is sleeping. He has mental problems but heroic inclinations. He seeks her murderer and revenge among the clients of the hookers who run the red light district of Sin City. As he tracks down the perp, he finds that the Cardinal Roark (Rutger Hauer) is in league with a strange killer played by Elijah Wood. The Cardinal doesn’t do anything that most fiction has the clergy doing, but it is very gross.


And so on and so forth. Thefilm is two hours and six minutes long. I started looking at my watch an hour into it.


Here’s what I would say about Sin City:


It’s stylish in a comic-book kind of way. Rodriguez uses Miller’s film noir approach completely; from the one volume I have (Sin City: the Hard Good-bye), he practically copied the scenes from the book.


Did I like it? No, not really. While I enjoy most comic books made-into-movies, I think that Sin City is over-the-top for its goriness, violence, and crime-horror. However, a fervent filmgoer, which I am, has to respect the art and originality of the film. Also, among much sin, there is also self-sacrifice and goodness for others, even though everything is exaggerated. It’s not believable, but then what comic books are? There are also parts that … make you laugh because its so extreme. It also raises a question: what's the difference between sin and evil?


When I was buying the book (just yesterday) I chatted with the sales assistant at Barnes and Noble – an art/film major who has just finished school. He was a goldmine of information and insight.


I said: I bet females don’t like the movie much.


He said: I went with my girlfriend and she really liked it; you’d be surprised.  


I said: It made me uncomfortable.


He said: It’s because there was so much, too much really, repetition of the violent scenes.


I said: Why did he (Miller) have to put a Catholic priest (he’s mixed up in the mystery, too) and a Cardinal in the story? Was he picking on the Church?


He said: In graphic novels the super-hero is always going up against institutional or some kind of power, like the government or the Church. Here, there’s a dirty cop and a dirty senator, too.


I said: In an ocean of movies that all fit some kind of existing genre, Sin City stands out as smart, slick and completely different - even if it was hard to follow, hard to watch and I didn't get a lot of it.


He said: that’s for sure.


Who should see this film? Well, probably not your grandmother.


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