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visually stunning, but lacks any real depth
on 7 January 2008
It's rare that a comic book is successfully adapted into a movie. Although Road to Perdition and From Hell looked wonderful, both were interminably slow, whilst V for Vendetta managed to completely fail to get its message across in any kind of meaningful way. Unfortunately, Sin City fares little better.
Directed by Robert Rodriguez and adapted by Frank Miller from his own hard boiled and extremely graphic comic books, Sin City does have the honour of being the only comic book movie I can think of that is a total success when it comes to transferring the images of the comic book onto the big screen. Shot in extreme black and white, with only the occasionally flash of colour (a woman's red lipstick, a splash of blood, someone's blue eyes), this is without a doubt a visually arresting film. All of the backgrounds are total digital creations (never really that obvious except in a couple of scenes near the beginning of the film), and each shot genuinely looks like it has been lifted directly from the page, which in most cases it has, particularly in the very first of the three story arcs that make up the film.
To briefly sum up, the film provides us with three hard boiled tales based around Miller's individual stories (in this case the Hard Goodbye, the Big Fat Kill and that Yellow Bastard). In the first story psychotic thug Marv (a virtually unrecognisable Mickey Rourke, clearly having the time of his life), must track down the killer (or killers), of his beloved Goldie, a woman who he only spent one night with but who made him feel wanted again. In the second story, Dwight (Clive Owen) must put things right after his attempts to protect Shellie (Brittany Murphy) from the attentions of Jackie Boy (Benicio Del Toro) lead to murder and a potential war between the cops, the mob and the hookers of Old Town. And finally, on his last day on the job an ageing cop Hartigan (Bruce Willis) must save a little girl from the clutches of a bestial child killer whilst also dealing with corruption from his own side. Thrown in jail for his efforts, years later he has the chance to put things right. And the cast members mentioned so far is just scratching the surface, featuring as it does a virtual who's who of coolness, including Elijah Wood in a shockingly twisted role, Michael Clarke Duncan, Rosario Dawson, Nick Stahl, Michael Madsen, Nicky Katt, Rutger Hauer and Jessica Alba as Nancy. Seems that anyone who was anyone wanted to be connected with this movie.
As can be surmised from the plot points above, this is a film were every cliché is up there on the screen. The heroes are killers and thugs, the cops are heroic failures or dirty scumbags, and the women are hookers or strippers. Although it's not meant to be taken to seriously, and whilst this cliché ridden world works well within the confines of the source material, it works less well when transposed onto the big screen, and after a while this constant stream of movie character clichés does wear a bit thin. Coupled with the fact that almost everyone in the movie talks in big fat clichés (again, not a problem in the comic books, but heavy on the ears after a while in the film), it does grate after a while. Still, the film works as a visual feast, and the initial tale alone featuring Marv is worth watching the film for, but this is not the unqualified success that many other reviewers seem to think it is.