Sin City (2005)
March 27, 2018 6:09 PM - Subscribe

A film that explores the dark and miserable town, Basin City, and tells the story of three different people, all caught up in violent corruption.

Empire: Of all the comic-book adaptations that have ever been mounted, from Flash Gordon in 1936 to The Fantastic Four in 2005, this is liable to score highest in the ‘fan satisfaction’ category. No niggling here along the lines of “Spider-Man shouldn’t have organic web-shooters” or “Batman’s parents shouldn’t be shot by the Joker”. This collaboration between two one-man bands, comic-book writer-artist Frank Miller and director-writer-editor-cinematographer-producer Robert Rodriguez, is as faithful to the source material as those cheapo ’60s Marvel cartoons that panned over panels from the comics while voice-over artists read out the word balloons. Like most successful comics, Sin City created a recognisable concrete-but-unreal world. Miller mixed a stew of thugs in trenchcoats out of Chandler or Spillane, a spice of the ‘bad girl art’ that made paperback covers of the 1950s stand out from newsracks and a splash of the manga-ish stylised goriness which inspired movies buffs like Quentin Tarantino (who guest-directs one scene) have only recently discovered. The film exactly matches the look of the comic: stark black-and-white images, with the occasional shocking or beautiful splash of rich colour. Most modern noirs incline to the blacker side of monochrome, but Miller’s scratchboard techniques, adapted superbly by Rodriguez, often get the most impact out of white – the blank round reflections of a killer’s sunglasses, crosses of sticking-plaster on a much-wounded face, arterial gushes of milky blood.

NYMag: Don’t be put off by the fact that it’s the new millennium’s umpteenth comic-book adaptation: Sin City, based on writer-artist Frank Miller’s black-and-white graphic-novel series, may be fizzy entertainment straining for the dark-night-of-the-soulfulness that gave Chandler’s detective novels their resonance, but it’s also one of the most witty, and, yes, moral movies of the year.

The slashing opening credits announce that Sin City was “shot and cut” by Miller and Robert Rodriguez, with Quentin Tarantino getting a nod as “guest director” for one scene. Sin City melds both parts of Rodriguez’s sensibility—his fondness for over-the-top gore (Once Upon a Time in Mexico) and a childlike playfulness in matters of technology and adventure (his Spy Kids trilogy). Frank Miller’s comic-book work has been nihilistic even when it was most emotional (as in his revisionist Batman book, The Dark Knight Returns), but Rodriguez displays a humanism that can burst past the genre boundaries of the thriller and the multistar blockbuster (the movie wedges in Elijah Wood, Powers Boothe, Jessica Alba, Carla Gugino, Michael Madsen, and Michael Clarke Duncan).

Thus there’s real conviction behind numerous characters’ variations on the sentiment Marv mutters—“It really gets my goat when guys mess up girls.” There’s the saucy fun of making the gang of dancer/hooker/S&M girls into a band of gun-and-bow-and-arrow-toting superbad chicks, led by Rosario Dawson with a triumphant grin. There is also the relatively discreet way the kidnapped-child subplot is handled. I detest using the expressions of terrified children onscreen for any purpose, but in Sin City, that fright is spare and fraught with the full, awful implications of what it means to threaten innocence. The violence is modulated according to the scene: Yes, when the scenes pit tough guy against tough guy, there’s lots of bloodlust (limbs lopped, sharp objects inserted into skulls), but when it comes to the perv played by Nick Stahl, the movie earns its name: This city will be cleansed of the sin of hurting any victim rendered helpless.

Roger Ebert: Rodriguez has found narrative discipline in the last place you might expect, by choosing to follow the Miller comic books almost literally. A graphic artist has no time or room for drifting. Every frame contributes, and the story marches from page to page in vivid action snapshots. "Sin City" could easily have looked as good as it does and still been a mess, if it were not for the energy of Miller's storytelling, which is not the standard chronological account of events, but more like a tabloid murder illuminated by flashbulbs.

NYTimes: Like "Pulp Fiction," which clearly influences its structure, "Sin City" turns on three tales lifted out of Mr. Miller's original. The first involves a detective with a bad ticker, Hartigan (Bruce Willis), who intersects with a sex fiend (Nick Stahl) and an 11-year-old (Makenzie Vega), who grows up to become an exotic dancer (Jessica Alba) with an undulating belly and a nice way with a lasso. Little girls apparently do not enjoy a whole lot of career choices in Sin City. Except for that parole officer (Carla Gugino) and a waitress (Brittany Murphy), all the other women in this burg are prostitutes, members of a snarling sisterhood bound together by greed, kink, self-interest and numerous lethal weapons.

Slate: Sin City is just distanced enough to be an art object. One car-ride sequence, directed by Rodriguez's pal Quentin Tarantino, is a little jewel of camera movement, lighting, and design. The raindrops are white—it's a painterly deluge. Sin City isn't quite as fascinating to look at as last year's Deco museum Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, but it's so much more kinetic and pulse-quickening. Rodriguez doesn't just transplant Miller's frames. He celebrates, even fetishizes them. The images seem dredged up from the collective unconscious of graphic-novel freaks. It seems pointless to tut-tut over the depravity. Sin City is like a must-have coffee-table book for your interior torture chamber.

Trailer

Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller talk new and old Sin City

Sin City: The Hard, Complete Timeline
posted by MoonOrb (18 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
The overriding thought I had after watching this movie was "that was an amazing parody." I was then informed that the people involved in its creation were serious, and have paid it no mind since.
posted by Paragon at 6:21 PM on March 27, 2018 [9 favorites]


My husband and I got married at City Hall and then went to see this. We walked out halfway through. We are still married, fortunately.
posted by holborne at 6:30 PM on March 27, 2018 [4 favorites]


I have a lot of ambivalent and conflicted feelings about Frank Miller. There is still a lot of his work I like and I, personally, find his dive into the deep end of the right wing to be more tragic than offensive (although it's still offensive -- it's more I just feel kind of sorry for him). I actually still like a lot of Sin City as a comic! It's gorgeous (in a Frank Miller way, sure, but still)! I get what he was doing with it and I enjoy it, even with a few reservations (certainly, his women all fall into a few types, but they also feel like complete characters).

But my feelings while watching Sin City (which I did not finish) were mostly "why am I watching this when I can just read the comic?" It's almost a case where the movie is almost too accurate of an adaptation --they made it look exactly like the comic, but ... the comic already exists! Why do I need it to move and make sound?

(And I think what Sin City does as a comic is far more interesting than what it does as a movie. These are two different media, after all!)

I know I'd feel differently about Sin City (the comic) now if someone told me to read it. But it is, at this point, just kind of a part of my life. Reflecting on it, it's amazing the movie (and the sequel!) even ever happened. What a weird world we live in.

(But I am glad that everyone is basically agreeing that the movie of The Spirit didn't actually happen.)
posted by darksong at 6:59 PM on March 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


The only thing I really clearly remember about this movie is Michael Madsen giving absolutely the worst read on every one of his lines, to the point that I was incredulous that those lines made it into the final product. Just astonishingly bad.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:46 PM on March 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


The thing I remember is how hard it was to suspend disbelief that Bruce Willis' Hartigan was "pushing 60 [years old]" back in 2005, when Willis was only around 50 and fairly well-preserved if a bit weathered. But now that Willis is actually over 60, suddenly he looks so much older than that. (I refer you to the recent Death Wish remake.)
posted by Strange Interlude at 5:58 AM on March 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


This is one of those films that tried to levy visual aesthetics to make up for other deficiencies in the film. I remember appreciating how the film looked, but at times it felt like it dragged or some things going on were just not that interesting.
posted by Atreides at 7:16 AM on March 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


I hated this movie. I do remember thinking that the heavy-handed narration reminded me of the Film Noir game on Whose Line Is It Anyway, where Ryan or Colin would say something like:
“He walked in the door. I said hello.”
“Hello”
posted by Huffy Puffy at 8:45 AM on March 28, 2018 [6 favorites]


Oh, gods, I had forgotten about Michael Madsen's terrible TERRIBLE line reading.

Sin City totally cemented my love for Carla Gugino, though. It was a huge departure for her, but she nailed that character perfectly.
posted by hanov3r at 11:19 AM on March 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


I watched this thinking teenage me would have absolutely loved it and discovering that, despite what I felt like most of the time, I'd grown up some.
posted by kokaku at 1:29 PM on March 28, 2018 [6 favorites]


I've heard a lot of people talk smack about Michael Madsen in this movie, but I defy any human being to take a line like "You got a bum ticker, Hartigan" (or whatever it was) and make it sound like anything a person would ever say in real life. Too perfect an adaptation indeed -- to paraphrase Harrison Ford, you can write this shit down, Frank, but you sure as hell can't say it.

I remember liking this in the theater, but I think the novelty of a highly faithful comics adaptation counted for much of that...and it's hardly a novelty now. I also remember thinking the white blood looked like birdshit. I got the multi-disc DVD for Christmas that year. I rewatched the Marv story and then just did something else.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:33 PM on March 28, 2018


This film is basically a cross-media version of Gus van Sant’s shot-for-shot remake of Psycho. An interesting experiment proven ultimately pointless and far inferior to the original product in spite of ostensibly having the exact same component parts.

My biggest issue with this film (but not nearly my only issue) is the pacing. In my reading of the comic, it has a drawn-out, slow, overly dramatic pace that feeds into its melodrama. This is emphasised by having one panel make up an entire one or two-page spread. The way to replicate that dramatic “pause” in a film would be to give it more time but it’s not done here.

The sequel is so much worse though.
posted by slimepuppy at 2:51 AM on March 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


The sequel might as well have been called I Am At A Loss For What To Do With Eva Green So We'll Just Have Naked The Whole Movie.
posted by maxsparber at 7:09 AM on March 29, 2018 [3 favorites]


I've heard a lot of people talk smack about Michael Madsen in this movie, but I defy any human being to take a line like "You got a bum ticker, Hartigan" (or whatever it was) and make it sound like anything a person would ever say in real life.

But it's not real life, it's a crazy splatterpunk noir cartoon. Most of the other actors in the film were cognizant of the tone and were able to craft a performance around that. For whatever reason, Madsen decided to read his lines as though he was someone's dad who had been randomly pulled out of the audience.

My guess is that RR gave Madsen the role purely as a favor because MM had burned some bridges with his drug/alcohol problems and needed the money.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:36 AM on March 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


Madsen decided to read his lines as though he was someone's dad who had been randomly pulled out of the audience.

Madsen is a great actor in a specific context, and that context is "can he squint, grin slightly, and mumble?"
posted by maxsparber at 9:27 AM on March 29, 2018 [5 favorites]


Madsen didn't have much of a part, though. Put him in some wacky makeup and who knows? I don't think he delivered a knockout performance by any stretch, but I feel like it was really the writing falling down, not him. It could be, too, that he had a harder time finding the tone of the film than everybody else: is it a comedy? Is it an opera? Or does it just suck?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:21 PM on March 29, 2018


> "The overriding thought I had after watching this movie was 'that was an amazing parody.' I was then informed that the people involved in its creation were serious, and have paid it no mind since."

I had the exact same reaction! I thought it was a hilarious black comedy making fun of film noir! People kept looking at me funny when I said so.
posted by kyrademon at 2:03 AM on March 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


> "The overriding thought I had after watching this movie was 'that was an amazing parody.' I was then informed that the people involved in its creation were serious, and have paid it no mind since."

I had the exact same reaction! I thought it was a hilarious black comedy making fun of film noir! People kept looking at me funny when I said so.

FWIW, I don't think either of you are wrong.

When Miller originally wrote and drew the first few Sin City serials that were adapted into the film, it seems like he really did intend them as serio-comic noir pastiche. In particular, that first story with Marv has a self-awareness of the unreliability of its own narrator that cuts through the depicted violence and misogyny, and it even shows in the film version.

But somewhere along the line he began to internalize that sense of heightened inverse morality and started to see everything through that lens, even his own past work. And so the stories started to become much more nihilistic, turning truly and deeply unpleasant in a way that reading them 20 years after their initial publication absolutely stands out as a warning sign of his post-9/11 descent into right-wing crankdom.
posted by Strange Interlude at 9:50 AM on March 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


My partner is in this film. It is probably her most hated but most profitable part of her acting career. Thank you to anyone who downloaded and streamed it, as this earned her a few pennies.

She has a great story about Mickey Rourke being an asshole on set that she tells, but in general she said filming for her very brief part was fine.

The fun part was telling her very Christian parents that she was in the film, who of course then wanted to see it. Her father reported he made it about ten minutes into the film. Oh well.
posted by obtuser at 10:38 AM on March 30, 2018 [7 favorites]


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