Sin City


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Sin City
"Let the visuals seduce you."

The graphic novel is an art form on a par with pulp fiction. Some would raise it to the level of sc-fi, in the sense that its world is one of the imagination.

Robert Rodriguez (Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn, Spy Kids) has always worked in this field, even if the names have been changed to action/horror/adventure. He understands the iconic power of the impossible hero. Peter Parker, Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent are polite, wimpish citizens of Blandosphere, but press their buttons, make the change, and they become special. Who wants to be nice when you can be super?

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Frank Miller's alter universe is closer to the dark side of an Ed McBain thriller than anything magical. His heroes are old-fashioned G-Men types, or sexy molls with a no-nonsense attitude to dating. It's nighttime in Basin City. You can hear the sirens and feel the heat. The language of pulp is used as a narrative v.o. You cannot escape the poetry of violence.

If ever style slapped content around the chops, it is here. The stories - there appear to be three, with sidebars - have the depth and wisdom of graffiti, while the look, masked in monochrome, is pure comic book.

Hartigan (Bruce Willis), a hard-nosed cop with a heart of nougat, saves a girl called Nancy Callahan from the clutches of a serial paedofilth. She grows up to become Jessica Alba, as babelicious as it's possible to be with the right lighting and hair the softer shade of summer. Hartigan is "pushing 60 with a bum ticker" and about to retire, but Nancy still loves him and he's still prepared to go down in a hail of bullets for her. The romance is fictive, barely legal and the stuff of rough.

Marv (Mickey Rourke as Desperate Dan) is a facially deformed hard man who spends his time in Basin City, seeking revenge for the murder of the only woman (Jaime King) he ever loved, complicated by the appearance of her twin sister, an altogether tougher cookie. Needless to say, he is the archetype of cool, fashion made brutal, a grotesque muscle machine that finds retribution in the taking of lives.

Dwight (Clive Owen), a professional assassin, enters the Old Town, a derelict district ruled by a posse of women, to defend their leader (Rosario Dawson) against a gang of hoodlum cops, which feels like an excuse to indulge in a favourite theme of graphic novelists, Women Without Men, an offshoot of S&M's male fantasy of girls on top.

Miller's script is cluttered with clunky lines and the stories blur into incomprehension. Was that Benicio del Toro's severed head having a heated argument in a getaway car?

It's better not to ask too many questions. Think graphic. Let the visuals seduce you. Leave critical and other facilities at the door.

Reviewed on: 04 Jun 2005
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Sin City packshot
Stylised graphic novel adaptation shows three men on a mission.
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Read more Sin City reviews:

John Gallagher *****
The Remote Viewer *****
Scott Macdonald ***

Director: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller, Quentin Tarantino

Writer: Frank Miller, based on the graphic novels of Frank Miller

Starring: Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Clive Owen, Rosario Dawson, Benicio del Toro, Jaime King, Nick Stahl, Powers Boothe, Rutger Hauer, Elijah Wood, Brittany Murphy, Michael Clarke Duncan, Devon Aoki, Carla Gugino, Alexis Bledel, Josh Hartnett

Year: 2005

Runtime: 124 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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