Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash: Pick Two (aghrivaine) wrote,
Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash: Pick Two

Sin City (no spoilers)

Comic book movies aren't really comic book movies, they're movies that have stories lifted from the comics. Some of them do it well (Spiderman, Hellboy) and some of them do it poorly (Daredevil, The Hulk). To my mind, the recipe for a good comic book movie has always been to make the movie about the characters behind the spandex-and-panties. A character that is superhuman and invulnerable might be cool to look at, but is awfully hard to identify with. An awkward nerd who can't get the girl he's crushing on, but can suddenly swoop through New York City at night... well I've had that fantasy, and can easily put myself in Peter Parker's place. (Not that I can't swoop through NYC by night, and not that I can't get the girl... but you know what I mean..)

But again, this is a matter of story - in terms of style, no comic book movie has ever captured the "feel" of a comic book. Well, no movie until Sin City, that is.

Mind you, it's a dirty, rotten, filthy comic book. If you read Frank Miller's series, you probably felt like you needed bleach for your eyeballs afterwards. The movie is like that, only it adds in the hideous, horrendous sound design that will leave you wanting to swab your ears with a Cipro Q-Tip. It's just dirty. Dirty, dirty, dirty. In the godforsaken world of Sin City, no good deed goes unpunished,and no bad deed goes unpunished. In fact, no deed goes unpunished at all. Basically, living in the world of Sin City means living in expectation of a rotten, squalid end to a rotten squalid life. If you're lucky, everything you love won't be destroyed before you bleed out your last in some grotty hole. But don't worry, you'll have plenty of time for gritty, film noir monologue before you go.

But, shot for shot and frame for frame - Sin City IS a comic book. Watching the film, you'll see Sin City the way it played out in the mind's eye of Frank Miller when he was imagining it. I might add, Frank Miller is a sick, filthy man who has more issues than National Geographic. But oh, what splendid filth! Sin City doesn't take place in any particular time or place (other than "Basin City") and lives in a confusing fug of all that's best (and spectacularly worst, in the moral sense) of the very notion of Noir. In fact, if, in a Film Noir, the characters went to see a movie that made them feel good about their ethics, that movie would be Sin City. It is the beating heart of Film Noir, the distilled essence of moral terpitude and spectacular ick. And oh, it is glorious!

It looks like a comic book. When the bad guys or good guys bleed (and they do so copiously) their blood is as likely to be white as it is black. Rarely red. Their clothing is sometimes whited-out in ways that scream of the un-inked pages of comic books, the prosthetics that Mickey Rourke wears render him a caricature of a human, but a faithful portrait of "Marv" the comic book anti-hero apotheosis. And despite, or perhaps because of, the careful and disciplined stylization of co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller, the humanity of all the characters shines through the filth and effects like fireworks in a night sky. The movie is largely black and white, except for particular images that cry out for color; Elijah Wood's unblinking eerie-blue eyes as Kevin the hyper-quick and utterly silent monster, the red lipstick of Goldie, the only person to show Marv (Mickey Rourke) and kindness, the golden orb that replaces Michael Clark Duncan's eye, or the hideous mustard yellow of Yellow Bastard's skin. Bandages are pure white blocks, Kevin's glasses are blank discs of white void, Hartagan's (Bruce Willis) trenchcoat is a gleaming bronze, like the badge he wears next to his heart.

Sin City is as rigidly framed in a harsh morality as the confessional box inhabited by a priest played Miller himself. Bad guys indulge in the sickest whims,and suffer horribly when their bill comes due. But the good guys are only marginally better - there's nothing the bad guys will do that the good guys won't also do, it's just that they'll generally only do it for revenge, or to protect another. But they'll still do it. And a lot of time they'll enjoy it, too.

But really, I can't say anything bad about a movie that has a body count that keeps pace with the boobie count, and both of them are sky high. The plot really consists of three loosely interconnected short stories, framed by the ill-fated chronicle of Hartagan, which is also framed by a particularly short and mysterious bookend starring Josh Hartnett. The violence throughout is visceral, horrifying, and occasionally hilarious. Every main character voices over in a broad parody of noir dialogue, but the parody is so sincere and heartfelt that it doesn't feel affected or contrived - instead, it seems like a celebration. The actors play their parts with gusto, even in the moments that in any other circumstance would be risible. Goldie exhorts Marv "Kill him for me, baby. Kill him real good." It oughta be funny, but she delivers it like a subpoena, and somehow it's not funny. It's earnest and awful and from somewhere in the human psyche that bad things happen in the dark.

I loved this movie. I hate that I loved it. You should see it. But don't bring your mother.

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