Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sin City (Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, 2005)

I have mixed feelings about Frank Miller's work. First, I studied a bit of Greek history and I think it is shameful to leave all the gayness out of the Spartans in 300. The Spartans were institutionally gay. It wasn't that they were prone to it, necessarily, but they demanded it. Also, there was a lot of talk about the Spartan's love of freedom, yet the Helots (slaves) vastly outnumbered the free Spartans. Next, I was thinking about the whole abuse of the anti-hero in Miller's work after reading a review for Kick Ass at Krell Laboratories. But, I found Sin City for $4.99 and had never seen it, so I thought it worth a shot.

Now, I don't read comic books, so I have no idea how it compares, but I do find how the film dances around to the same spot a) comic book-like and b) well done. You get an idea that "The Man" (to use a blaxploitation term) is behind everything, but you never really see him. Well, not until the end. There were several "oh, it's her" moments, and "what's his name was here earlier" things going on. It definitely builds up to the finale. Well, the first finale. Either I missed something or there was a huge MacGuffin at the beginning and end. This is no spoiler. Josh Hartnett is a hitman who kills an unrelated (story-wise) woman in the beginning, and then kills a character that has some importance to the plot at the very end. That's all. No explanation.

The good points? There was a lot of great noir-styled dialogue. I'm sure it looked a lot like the comic book. The black-and-white with hints of color was interesting, and not overdone. Bruce Willis' character was engaging. Mickey Rourke did a nice job as Marvin. Brittany Murphy had one of the most energetic performances, playing the moll to a tee. There was also a lot of hotness to go around. The storyline about Old Town was interesting. It was the red light district, and the prostitutes kept their own protection. No pimps or mob to take their earnings, and no hassles from the police. It was like a licentious Themiscyra.

The bad points? I am not one who shies from cinematic violence, but it is taken to a Tom & Jerry level in this film, but is also inconsistent. Marvin (Rourke) gets hit by a car numerous times and walks away, only to be knocked unconscious by a blow to the head later. At times the story is a bit silly, and overly unbelievable. Noir is supposed to be out of the ordinary, with arch-criminals, proficient gangsters, and Dudley Do-Rights that are a little on the dark side, but things get a touch out of hand and certain plot elements move too quickly for realism. Noir needs some realism, as it is a genre that wants you to believe that the story is possible. Worst was probably the prosthetic makeup. It's one thing to make Mickey Rourke look like an Easter Island monolith, but then they put this weird nose on Benicio Del Toro... It was too distracting.

I found it watchable, and will likely view it again. Tas33 occasionally looked at the screen and made a face. She was not impressed.

13 comments:

joe bloke said...

I liked Sin City, despite it's faults. and it's worth remembering that all of it's faults are faults that were already there in the comics the film's based on. as a piece of film noir, I reckon it falls flat on it's bloody and bruised face, but as a comic book movie it's one of the very few that gets it pretty much spot-on.

Darius Whiteplume said...

It definitely looked like a comic book, which is often the comic book film's failure. They change too much (Daredevil) about the way things look. And it was Miller's first directorship. Granted he had talent with him, but it could have been a huge cluster-fuck.

Tenebrous Kate said...

I thought I would hate--HATE--"Sin City" when I first saw the previews. To my eye, it looked too slick, too over-produced, and too expensive to possibly be at all as subversive as it wanted to be. But I've eaten more crow with regards to how much I wound up adoring this film than I care to fully admit. I thought that some of the content that the filmmakers got away with was pretty astonishing--cannibalism, child abuse, anti-religious sentiment. I mean--holy WOW! Heavy stuff. I actually find myself more repulsed by the Yellow Bastard character than by any other villain in recent memory. *shudders*

I agree that the story is completely non-believable, and as a noir it goes way off the absurdity rails. But as a herald of its own *noir-informed* aesthetic, I think it's a stunner. I dunno--I'm actually kinda retarded for "Sin City," what can I say?

As for the Spartans... well... I had a rough time accepting a slave culture as the heralds of freedom, too. Still--what well-oiled abs, dude. Yow.

Darius Whiteplume said...

I am now torn between finding it a bit cheesey, and really liking it since writing this post. For all his faults, Robert Rodriguez never fails me when he actually gets a movie out. It's all those "I'm gonna make X, and it will be the coolest thing ever" announcements that turn out to be hot air that irk me. Well, the artistic mind is not always the business mind (thank Cheese).

As for the noir angle, I can accept stepping out of the normal boundaries, but I think certain things were just too outlandish. I'll defer to Joe above that these are likely problems with the comic book.

I am going to check out The Spirit now, if only for ScarJo in a Nazi uniform (phwoar!).

If I remember correctly, Helots outnumbered free Spartans about 10:1. That, Leonidas, is why all Spartans are warriors, and not farmers or blacksmiths like the Thebians (whomever) you ran into on the way to Thermopylae. :-) Of course, they were not trying to be historical, it was just an opportunity to show a bunch of bad asses fighting in Speedos.

J.D. said...

The problem with Frank Miller's take on THE SPIRIT is that he applied his SIN CITY aesthetic to Will Eisner's comic book and that couldn't have been a more boneheaded move! The Spirit is nothing like SIN CITY and it's no wonder Miller's take was crucified by critics and generally ignored by audiences.

As for SIN CITY... wow! What a very faithful adapatation of Miller's comic. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Rodriguez wisely brought him on board to help direct thereby insuring his vision would be faithful realized.

I think that all the cheesiness, silliness and just plain weirdness was intentional and I always felt that SIN CITY simultaneously championed and parodied film noir. I mean, everything is cranked up to 11 but in a fun, entertaining way.

As repulsive as That Yellow Bastard is, I thought that Elijah Wood's mute killer was even spookier and creepier. Who knew Frodo could be such an unsettling badass?

Darius Whiteplume said...

I forgot to look at the credits. I thought that was Tobey Maguire. I guess it would a bold move for either actor, going from beloved hero to psychopathic cannibal.

Shon Richards said...

I really enjoyed the Sin City comic because it created it's own version of reality that was just as ridiculous as you described. I think the comic is better by a smidge because some of that dialogue is really ludicrous to hear out loud.

Having said that, I am insanely in love with this movie and consider it in my top ten easily. Marv was perfect, Bruce Willis was perfect and holy crap, I loved Rosario Dawson.

The Spirit is a slightly different creature. It is a little too ludicrous. The only thing that saves it is that it is eye candy heaven with all the female characters.

Darius Whiteplume said...

I gotta admit. With The Spirit, the ladies are the big draw.

Rex Venom said...

Hey
It had Mickey doing his thing; being cooler than the rest.
So I dug it
Happy Geek Pride Day, all!
Rock on!

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

Frank Miller is the kind of writer/artist that you either love or hate. When he is on his game he hits it out of the park (Dark Knight Returns, Sin City, Daredevil) but when he is bad (The Spirit) he is very bad.

I loved the style of 'Sin City' because it really is like a comic come to life. I was very impressed with Mickey Rourke as Marv - the human tank. It's like he came alive right off the comic page. As a live action comic book it truer to it's source material in terms of look and dialogue than most any comic movie out there.

300 is another movie based on his work that I loved also. It was so different than anything done before and you know I praise originality more than anyone else. I think they really nailed it in terms of giving us the Spartan 'mindset'. This was the way these guys were, and I am sure that if they weren't all consumed by stoping Xerses they would have been all over each other.

Rodriquez may be the most distracted creator but he is technically brilliant. He knows how to tell a story visually. Watch 'Mariachi' (his first film) 'Desperado' and 'Once Upon A Time In Mexico'. Those stories are very simple but totally thrilling to watch. How can anyone deny the awesomness that is 'From Dusk To Dawn'? And how can I forget to mention 'Machete' which comes out in September and promises to be epic.

Darius Whiteplume said...

@Rex - I do like Rourke in most everything. I can't remember not liking him. Maybe "White sands" if he was in that, but I don't remember the film much.

@Kal - I think I have liked everything Rodriguez has done. His bit in "Four Rooms" was hilarious and frightening. If you have not seen it you should rent. Four stories, four directors. QT's bit is good as well, and Bruce Willis is in it.

I want to like Miller. I think he has vision that may surpass his movie making skills, but you have to start somewhere. Team with Rodriguez was either very smart, or very lucky.

joe bloke said...

don't watch The Spirit! in God's own name, man, DON'T WATCH THE SPIRIT!!!!

too late. . .

Darius Whiteplume said...

Hah! Now I feel compelled :-D

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