Sin City. I still remember the hype surrounding this film when it was first announced. The uniqueness of how it was shot was as striking as the large, diverse cast of Hollywood and Indie heavyweights. I was hooked on this film from the first trailer.
Sin City is kind of a hard film for me to review. It is really three short films put together as one “volume” so to speak. The three stories are The Hard Goodbye, The Big Fat Kill, and That Yellow Bastard. Each story has its own unique feel and characters. If case you were wondering, just like Pulp Fiction before it, this is how one gets that many A-class actors into one film.
Goldie…she says her name is Goldie.
Marv (Mickey Rourke) stars in The Hard Goodbye which is a story of vengeance. Marv has the night of his life with a hooker named Goldie (Jaime King) but then awakens the next morning to find her cold, dead corpse next to him. After being framed for the murder, he sets off on a journey to avenge her death. The Big Fat Kill stars Clive Owen as Dwight and Rosario Dawson as Gail. This second short was my favorite of the three. It was something unlike I had ever seen before. A story of a prostitute controlled town where the women are the law and are armed to teeth. This was also the story which has the better pacing and action as far as this reviewer is concerned. That Yellow Bastard should have been my favorite though as it stars one of my all-time favorites Bruce Willis. This was before Live Free or Die Hard so it was nice to see a return to a hard boiled type detective for him. He is wrongfully imprisoned after saving the life of a little girl named Nancy (Jessica Alba). Upon his release from prison, he unwittingly leads a yellow bastard killer (Nick Stahl) straight to her.
Each of these stories could stand on their own. Not one is dependent on the other. The only time they intersect is at the night club where Nancy dances. This was a nice way of showing that this is all happening at the same time and drives home the theme that Basin City is one f’ed up place. Basin City is a dark place filled with corruption, nihilism, and desperation.
A hardtop with a decent engine…and make sure it has a big trunk
However, they each drive home cohesive themes of corruption from those who have power to those who do not. It plays with the ideas of what drives good men to become monsters and how monsters can still have their humanity. Everyone with power is crooked and corrupt whether they are cops, mobsters, men of the cloth, or government officials. In the midst of all of this corruption are our characters whose actions are immoral because they live in an immoral world that has no hope of being redeemed. The story of Marv really drives this theme home. For all intents and purposes Marv is a psychopathic killer who shows no remorse for his violent actions. “I love hitmen. You can do whatever you want to them and not feel bad.” Yet, a hooker who shows him a good time can bring out the humanity within him and, in his own mind, gives him a noble cause for his violent destruction.
The cinematography in this film still to this day amazes and astounds. It is shot in black and white which serves the dark, film noir themes that they are pounding home. While the majority is black and white, colors are thrown in to display emphasis. For example, Goldie’s hair remains blonde while the rest of her is black and white. Dwight’s shoes are crimson red. Blood is always colored as well. The effect is really nice. Watching the film on Bluray on my 65″ TV in the pitch black and the film still retained its big screen feel. For the eye candy alone, this is worth it.
She doesn’t quite cut his head off. She makes a Pez dispenser out of him.
This isn’t a perfect film, however, not by any stretch. There are problematic pacing issues, especially with The Hard Goodbye which opens the film (after a couple of short prologues). The limited 45 minute run time for each story tends to get in the way at times. Marv’s story is one that is so convoluted that it just felt off and really felt rushed. Like the filmmakers just wanted to throw as much as they could into it and crammed it all together. Marv is by far the most interesting character in the whole piece, though, so that makes up for it. Still, it felt thrown together.
Some viewers will also no doubt be turned off by the over the top, gratuitous, cartoonish violence. Women are also objectified throughout. However, there are more than enough strong women characters to offset. I’ve also heard complaints that it was too hard to follow and get interested because of all the stories, characters, and whatnot going on. While that may be a justified criticism, I think they are missing the point a little bit.
While I would have a different grade for each story, taken as a whole, taking everything into account, this film gets an A- from me. This is a unique take on film noir and comic book movies as well. There is enough gunplay, infinitely quotable one liners, and eye candy to please just about anyone.