The nights are cloudy, the alleys are dark, the men are dangerous, bars are smoky and femmes are fatale. "Sin City" is a thing of dark, bloody beauty.
It certainly says something if a graphic novel author helps out with a movie... especially if that creator swore he'd never let it be adapted. That is only one of the things that makes "Sin City," the adaptation of Frank Miller's comic, such a fascinating film.
"Sin City" is actually made up of three stories: In the depths of Basin (Sin) City, scarred hulk Marv (Mickey Rourke) sleeps with a beautiful prostitute, Goldie (Jaime King), only to find her dead beside him the next morning. Enraged, he goes on a killing spree to find her murderer, and learns that sinister cannibal Kevin (Elijah Wood) is responsible. But there's a powerful figure behind Kevin, who calls the shots.
Elsewhere in Sin City, Dwight (Clive Owen) does his best to defend Gail (Rosario Dawson) and the other Old Town prostitutes. But when Dwight kills a crooked cop, he has to somehow cover up the crime. And Hartigan (Bruce Willis), a cop with a failing heart, goes out of his job with a bang: He rescues little Nancy Callahan from a child molester who happens to be a senator's son. Hartigan is jailed, and when he gets out, he finds that Nancy (Jessica Alba) has grown into a lasso-twirling stripper. But the senator's son -- nicknamed Yellow Bastard -- is still after her.
"Sin City" is one of those few comic book adaptations that doesn't seem... well, cartoonish. Sure, it's the very image of noir, but the grim tone and grey characters are very real. It's not a movie for the fainthearted, but whoever enjoys the films of Quentin Tarantino (who directed one scene here) will surely be blown away.
Like "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow," this film is done almost entirely digitally. But unlike "Sky Captain," it has substance as well as style. All the sets and props are done with computers, and nearly everything is in black and white. Here and there we get a splash of colour -- red lipstick and matching dress, Yellow Bastard's face, green eyes.
The contents of three "Sin City" comic books are interwoven here, and Rodriguez is constantly faithful: A lot of these shots could have been lifted straight from the comic's pages. He also preserves the stark, black-and-white style that the graphic novels are known for. You can't get much more faithful than that.
"Sin City" is not quite a "Kill Bill" bloodfest, though -- surprisingly, this brutal movie has a dark sense of chivalry. Each story is about an outcast man defending a woman's honor, safety, or memory, even if he sacrifices himself in the process. "Sin City" wears its heart on its sleeve, even if that sleeve is bloodstained and torn.
Most of the actors do wonderful jobs -- Owen's dark photographer, Rourke's scarred strongman, Stahl's revolting Yellow Bastard, and Alba's surprisingly sweet stripper. Only a few, like Brittany Murphy, have lackluster performances. But perhaps the most memorable performances come from Bruce Willis and Elijah Wood. Willis plays his aging cop role with unusual grace, even when shooting the genitals off Yellow Bastard. And Wood plays Kevin with both creepy evil and spiritual ecstacy. All without saying a word.
"Sin City" is a remarkable, bleak, intense movie -- a halfway point between Tarantino and Raymond Chandler. An outstanding piece of work.