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Movie Review: Sin City

In Frank Miller's award-winning, graphic novel series Sin City everything is black and white with a rare splash of color. That's the way the books are drawn. That's the way the film is shot. That's the way life is in Sin City. Black and white. Good guys and bad guys. The eternal struggle. Sure, the divide gets blurry occasionally when good guys do bad things, at times very bad things, but these Old Testament avenging angels mete out justice with "a bit of the old ultraviolence" only for the right reasons.

It might be hard to see through the uniquely stylized look and the gruesome, violent subject matter, both pervasive throughout the film, but the motivating force behind each main character of the film's three storylines is love. Marv from Sin City, the one that started it all, is seeking revenge on the people who caused the death of Goldie, a young woman he met, made love to, and awoke in the morning to find dead beside him. She showed the grizzled Marv something he didn't know existed; Dwight from The Big Fat Kill is trying to protect Gail, an old flame, and her friends from the mob who have plans to take over Old Town and the women in it; and Detective Hartigan from That Yellow Bastard, he once saved the life of a young girl named Nancy from a child molester/serial killer. Years later, he must save her again when the killer reemerges and finds her. Love triumphs over evil even though the participants don't always.

I know we still have two thirds of the year left, but I am about ready to proclaim this film the best of the year. Rodriguez takes the great stories and artwork by Frank Miller, which is set in the world of hard-boiled pulp detective novels and has the look of '40 film noir, and transports them to the big screen without losing any of the magic. Yet, it's not just the look of Sin City that is captured; Rodriguez used Miller's drawings to frame the shots, basically using Miller's work as his own storyboard, a sheer stroke of genius. It's no wonder that Miller is co-director. It is his vision on the screen and Rodriguez just moved it from the page to the screen.

The film has an amazing cast, one famous face after another, bringing these characters to life. Most films don't get half this many talented actors together; however, the best performance of the film is under a bunch of make-up. Mickey Rourke brings Marv to life in what would be an acclaimed performance if the film weren't so dark. Expect to see Rourke a lot more in the near future. If there's a sequel, Marv must return. Luckily, there's other stories in which he appears. Look for a cameo by Miller as the Padre during confession.

The only minor gripe I have with the film is the prologue and epilogue. The opening is taken from a yarn called "The Customer Is Always Right," which is collected in Babes, Booze and Bullets. It gives a sense of the world to come, but wasn't anything special. Better choices could have been made.

I hope ill-informed reviewers don't start touting the influence of Pulp Fiction which came out in '94 because they would be incorrect since the first Sin City comic came out in '91. Tarantino did film a scene in The Big Fat Kill segment featuring Clive Owen and Benicio Del Toro driving in a car. Luckily for all of us, he didn't screw it up.

Sin City is without a doubt the best comic book adaptation ever and will raise the bar for all future films. It could be a major influence in the way films look and are made, similar to the effect Blade Runner had on both the industry and film fans. Expect it to be the next big midnight movie that packs them in for years to come.

Lastly, please remember that the film is very rough and may be too much for many viewers. Even though the world and the violence are created in a stylized way that removes some of the realism, it is still very graphic. If you are unsure whether you can handle Sin City, I recommend checking it out first in your local bookstore and save yourself some time and money. Jackie-Boy was unprepared for what Sin City had in store and the results were not good. Don't make the same mistake. Trust me.

About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS

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