Here is the world of “Sin City”: The law is entirely ineffective. The government is entirely corrupt. The clergy is entirely evil. Prostitutes are warrior-queens, angels and goddesses-incarnate. Thugs, killers and fallen cops are knights in shining armor. The closer a character is to the image a monster, the more likely he is to be a hero. The closer a character is tied to the spectre of organized religion, the more likely he is to be irredeemably villianous.
I love documentaries, don’t you?
Based on Frank Miller’s epic series of noir-style graphic novels and directed by Robert Rodriguez (with an assist from Quentin Tarantino,) is not only like nothing you’ve ever seen before, it’s like nothing thats ever been attempted before. Not satisfied to simply translate the plot and prose from Miller’s work, Rodriguez literally throws a nearly panel-for-panel translation of the material onto the screen. Part digital-trickery, part CGI-animation and part tough-guy ultra-cast, “Sin City” exists as a visual experiment that appears born full-grown; alert, aware and sure of itself. The known world, the familiar personas of famous actors and reality itself are here all molded like primordial clay to be exactly as the omnipotent director imagines them to be, and while Rodriguez has famously abandonned film for high-end digital video, what he does here is filmmaking at it’s purest form.
The film, set in the titular fictional city tracks three storylines, each occuring out of sync with real time but all joined by setting and by a unifying story-arc: Three men, all damaged and cast from society in their own way, all embarked quests of horrifying violence, all in the name of the women they love. In one, A hulking, superhumanly-strong semi-psychotic thug (Mickey Rourke) tears the city limb from limb on a quest to solve and avenge the murder of the hooker (Jamie King) who has made him feel like a man for the first time. In another, A razor-wielding, gunslinging vigilante killer (Clive Owen) joins with the city’s army of saintly, sexy Amazonian prostitutes in their war against the pimps and mobsters who would enslave them and the cops who’d let it happen. And last, a framed cop (Bruce Willis) must protect a stripper who owes him her life (Jessica Alba) from a pedophile psychopath bent on vengeance (Nick Stahl.) At the center of the whirlpool is a ruthless family dyansty woven through the Church and the Government that rules Sin City with an iron fist.
Ladies and gentlemen, what we have here is THE movie to beat in 2005. With the coming of “Sin City,” the “bar” for hard action, sizzling romance, jaw-dropping violence and raw visual poetry has been raised another notch, and there’s no turning back. The envelope is not just pushed, the envelope is hacked, shredded and burned into oblivion, it’s ashes scattered to the four winds. Just as the science fiction and fantasy genres find themselves existing in the Post-“Lord of The Rings” era, so now will action/crime movies find themselves feeling the shockwaves of “Sin City” for years to come.
To say that the film is “unrealistic” is to miss the mark entirely… reality is not even an issue here. This is a world born of the movies, now returned to the movies. The real name of the town is “Basin City”, and the name is appropriate: All of the crime, noir and action stories of film eras past have seemingly flowed into a single basin, and from this evolutionary soup a new animal has emerged. Born of a billion myriad influences, from pulp comics to radio dramas to film noir to Dick Tracy to Batman, from Cagney to Mitchum to Eastwood to Bogart, from Lang to Huston to Coppola to Miike, from Spillane to Hammet to, well, to Frank Miller… the only influence “Sin City” requires absolutely NOTHING from is our “reality.”
Instead, the film has it’s own vision of “reality,” it’s own rules of nature, of science and even of morality: The world of Sin City is like the Dark Ages breaking out in the Depression… freed from the need to be “real,” it’s characters become through exaggerated costumes and makeup and even more exaggerated acting and dialogue god-sized archetypes of heroism and villiany in a world where the terms “good” and “evil” are entirely alien. The “law of the street” becomes a machine-age Code of Chivalry, leg-breakers and cops hard enough to scare Dirty Harry himself become Knights Errant and traditional symbols of “good” like Senators, Cardinals and innocent, bible-reading choirboy farmers become demons, ogres and (literal) man-eaters.
This is, immediately, the best new film now playing in this country.
This is the big one.
This is the one that’ll still be worth talking about a year from now.
This is the one we still will be talking about a year from now.
This is the one you can’t afford to miss.
This is the one that you need to see, regardless of how you eventually find it. You may love it. You may despise it. But you must experience it.
FINAL RATING: 10/10