Brutal and breathtaking, Sin City
is Robert Rodriguez's stunningly realized vision of Frank Miller's pulpy comic books. In the first of three separate but loosely related stories, Marv (Mickey Rourke in heavy makeup) tries to track down the killers of a woman who ended up dead in his bed. In the second story, Dwight's (Clive Owen) attempt to defend a woman from a brutal abuser goes horribly wrong, and threatens to destroy the uneasy truce among the police, the mob, and the women of Old Town. Finally, an aging cop on his last day on the job (Bruce Willis) rescues a young girl from a kidnapper, but is himself thrown in jail. Years later, he has a chance to save her again.
Based on three of Miller's immensely popular and immensely gritty books (The Hard Goodbye, The Big Fat Kill, and That Yellow Bastard), Sin City is unquestionably the most faithful comic-book-based movie ever made. Each shot looks like a panel from its source material, and director Rodriguez (who refers to it as a "translation" rather than an adaptation) resigned from the Directors Guild so that Miller could share a directing credit. Like the books, it's almost entirely in stark black and white with some occasional bursts of color (a woman's red lips, a villain's yellow face). The backgrounds are entirely digitally generated, yet not self-consciously so, and perfectly capture Miller's gritty cityscape. And though most of Miller's copious nudity is absent, the violence is unrelentingly present. That may be the biggest obstacle to viewers who aren't already fans of the books and who may have been turned off by Kill Bill (whose director, Quentin Tarantino, helmed one scene of Sin City). In addition, it's a bleak, desperate world in which the heroes are killers, corruption rules, and the women are almost all prostitutes or strippers. But Miller's stories are riveting, and the huge cast--which also includes Jessica Alba, Jaime King, Brittany Murphy, Rosario Dawson, Benicio Del Toro, Elijah Wood, Nick Stahl, Michael Clarke Duncan, Devin Aoki, Carla Gugino, and Josh Hartnett--is just about perfect. (Only Bruce Willis and Michael Madsen, while very well-suited to their roles, seem hard to separate from their established screen personas.) In what Rodriguez hopes is the first of a series, Sin City is a spectacular achievement. --David Horiuchi, Amazon.com