"Sin City" Is A Movie 'Unlike Anything You've Seen Before'
With wicked glee, Texas director Robert Rodriguez piles on and piles on his frenetic hodgepodge of imagery often dazzling yet hurled so fast and thick, the result is the cinematic equivalent of being hit by a bus.
This two-hour bullet-train of a picture is packed with images startling in their originality and action that frequently flirts with utter odiousness. The movie is a masterful technical achievement with the emotional underpinning of a stunted male adolescent.
Adapted from Frank Miller's noirish comics, "Sin City" is a movie where men are men and women are target practice, there for the slapping and stabbing and shooting, and any other indignities their male masters dream up.
In a traditional full-color film, the gore of "Sin City" would make the movie unwatchable. Presenting it in stark black-and-white, with occasional splashes of color, makes the movie's blood and guts palatable, though only barely so in its most extreme moments.
The Jekyll-and-Hyde filmmaker (Rodriguez also is the man behind the "Spy Kids" family flicks) takes the carnage even beyond that of his blood-soaked vampire tale "From Dusk Till Dawn."
With a huge, well-chosen cast and the blessing of Miller, who was on set as Rodriguez's co-director, "Sin City" is a gloriously stylized world unlike anything you've seen before on screen.
As he did with much of "Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over," Rodriguez shot the actors against green-screen backgrounds, using computer-generated visual effects to add the jutting buildings, seedy alleys and other bleak backdrops of Miller's Sin City.
The filmmakers spin three tales of corruption and violence, the stories and some of the characters loose-ly interconnected so the trilogy flows seamlessly, without the abrupt transitions of most anthology movies.
The most engaging story is that of the hulking, not-so-gentle giant Marv, played by Mickey Rourke, unrecognizable behind makeup that makes his face resemble a carved cinderblock.
After an unaccustomed night of sexual bliss with the beautiful prostitute Goldie (Jaime King), Marv wakes to find her dead and goes on a vengeful rampage to identify her killer.
The one honest cop in Sin City, John Hartigan (Bruce Willis), is at the center of another hunt as he scrambles to save an 11-year-old girl from a sexual predator (Nick Stahl). Hartigan's story picks up eight years later as he again encounters Nancy (Jessica Alba), now an exotic dancer, and is reacquainted with her tormentor, who has mutated through medical treat-ment into a glowing fiend known as Yellow Bastard.
The hero of the third story is ex-photographer Dwight (Clive Owen), a pal to the prostitutes of Sin City who tries to help them cover up the death of a vicious, crooked cop (Benicio Del Toro).
Among the roster of other key Sin City denizens: Gail (Rosario Dawson), the iron-fisted leader of the town's prostitutes; Miho (Devon Aoki), her deadly samurai ally; the cannibalistic killer Kevin (Elijah Wood in a role as far from his heroic Frodo Baggins as imaginable); Bob (Michael Madsen), Hartigan's turncoat partner; Shellie the waitress (Brittany Murphy); Marv's nursemaid Lucille (Carla Gugino, the "Spy Kids" mom who tosses aside family-film values with an amazing nude scene); Sen. Roarke (Powers Boothe), Yellow Bastard's plotting father; street-wise young hooker Becky (Alexis Bledel); Manute (Michael Clarke Duncan), a mountainous mob enforcer; and Josh Hartnett as a seductive hit man.
Rodriguez pal Quentin Tarantino spent a day as "guest director," overseeing a perversely funny scene in which Owen and Del Toro drive through the rain.
"Sin City" is meant as good, gory fun, an homage to the manly men and brazen broads of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.
Yet the sexism of "Sin City" often slips into miso-gyny. What may work as pulp entertainment on a comic-book page read in privacy becomes unsettling when played out graphically on a movie screen as an orgy of violence against women.
"Sin City," is rated R for sustained strong stylized violence, nudity and sexual content, including dialogue. Running time: 124 minutes.