First a disclaimer: I have not read the original graphic novels, so I will not be making any comparisons to it. I’m reviewing this as a stand-alone feature. Nothing more, nothing less.
Based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel series, Sin City features three stories that intertwine. The first is about Marv (Mickey Rourke), a streetwise thug who investigates the murder of a prostitute he’d just slept with. The second involves Dwight (Clive Owen) a killer with a new face who has to deal with a violent drunk name Jackie (Benicio Del Toro) and a conspiracy involving a gang of prostitutes. Finally, there’s Detective John Hartigan (Bruce Willis) who has to protect Nancy (Jessica Alba) from a Senator Roark’s (Powers Boothe) pedophile son, Roark Jr. (Nick Stahl).
Although those stories may seem dark and horrible, Sin City is highly stylized which makes it somewhat lighter (although this movie is certainly not for those who dislike violence and gore). Characters often defy realism. Marv especially would have probably died about a hundred times in real life considering all the damage he takes. If you’re familiar with Robert Rodriguez’s filmography (Planet Terror, Machete, the El Mariachi series) you’ll know a lot of his movies are very over the top.
I feel this is generally fine as, despite the silly nature of the movie, there’s still plenty of stakes. Marv might be seemingly invincible, but he’s not the smartest guy around, especially without his medication. Dwight ends up against an army of thugs and IRA mercenaries, and Hartigan’s age is catching up with him.
Visually this film looks great. The special effects driven world looks brilliant and gives Sin City a unique aesthetic. Although mostly black and white, at times certain objects are highlighted in colour, adding visual flair. The backgrounds are green screen, giving a sense of surrealism that perfectly compliments the over the top action. I’m not normally one for a ton of CGI, but the ‘fake’ look to this movie actually compliments the style quite well.
The performances are all excellent. Each lead brings a different feeling, from Mickey’s tough Marv to Clive Owen’s calm and calculating Dwight to Bruce Willis as the burnt out, cynical Hartigan. The villains are also great, and so are the side characters. I could probably double the word count of this review if I was to talk about every performance. Granted, if I am fair I can’t compare how they are to the source material.
Every story is great, but I will concede there is a fair share of conveniences for the protagonists. I don’t wish to delve into them as I’d have to get into spoilers. All I’ll say is the there’s still a good amount of tension despite the way some situations are resolved. I’d say Dwight’s story is the biggest culprit with how he gets out of trouble.
If you’re looking for a dark yet at times entertaining and even humorous movie, Sin City is certainly worth a watch. It’s a stylish movie that still provides plenty of substance story wise.
As for the sequel Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, I’d say it’s okay. Sadly the three stories just aren’t on the same level as the original. The third story’s resolution is a real cop-out. That said I like the Gambler’s story a fair bit.