Sin City

The worst thing I can say about this savage, sexy and ferociously funny screen translation of three stories from Frank Miller's Sin City series of graphic novels is that it's too much of a good thing. Your eyes go boing so early that the effect wears off. But stick with it. As opposed to the arty and enervated Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, which also filmed actors against computer-generated backgrounds, Sin City has a restless bug-fuck vitality. It'll be way too much for Bush America, which is the best thing I can say about it.

Credit goes first to Robert Rodriguez, a tirelessly innovative director who thrives on doing things that the rules say he can't. When the Directors' Guild said he couldn't co-direct Sin City with Miller, he quit the guild, then rubbed salt in the wound by bringing in his pal Quentin Tarantino to direct one scene in a car featuring a talking corpse with a gun wedged in his forehead. Better yet, the creator of the child-friendly Spy Kids trilogy has now made an R-rated movie that no sane person should let a child near.

Sin City, shot by Rodriguez in black-and-white with the occasional splash of color from, say, a whore's lip gloss or a yellow-skinned rapist, mixes hard-boiled pulp fiction, 1940s film noir and the dazzling monochrome of Miller's graphic design to explore the dark night of the soul.

The film begins, weakly, with a teaser involving Josh Hartnett as a salesman assassin. But it moves quickly to the first and most exciting story, "The Hard Goodbye." Mickey Rourke gives a sensational comeback performance as Marv, an ex-con with a Frankenstein jaw line who wakes up next to a dead hooker (Jaime King) and vows revenge. He even gets help from his frequently naked lesbian parole officer (Carla Guigino). All three of the overlapping stories involve voice-overs, but Rourke puts real heat into his as Marv searches for "a soul to send screaming into hell." That would be Kevin — Elijah Wood, playing against Frodo type as a cannibal who munches on the dames he kills before mounting their heads on a wall in his trophy room.

Next up is "That Yellow Ba d," in which a rock-solid Bruce Willis nails the role of Hartigan, a cop with a bad ticker who saves an eleven-year-old girl from a pedophile rapist (Nick Stahl) by doing jail time for the creep (the son of a powerful senator). When Hartigan gets out, the girl has grown into a hottie (Jessica Alba) who's hot for him. One catch: The rapist has turned into a foul-smelling, canary-yellow demon, which makes Hartigan ball-ripping mad — literally. "I take his weapons from him — both of them," says Hartigan as testicles are flung at the screen and we wonder if the film escaped an NC-17 rating because the ba d's blood looks like cartoon cu d.

Still with me? Then you're ready for "The Big Fat Kill," set in a part of town ruled by Gail (Rosario Dawson), an S&M leather queen, and her band of hookers, including the silent but deadly Miho (Devon Aoki). Gail's savior is Dwight (Clive Owen in full sexy smolder), who wrangles with corrupt cop Jackie Boy (Benicio Del Toro) over a sassy waitress (Brittany Murphy) and kicks off a war that nearly brings down Sin City.epetition is the villain that nearly brings down the movie. At 124 minutes, Sin City is a hard, cold, relentless assault. It's also something Hollywood seems to have given up on: a bold, uncompromised vision.

From The Archives Issue 408: November 10, 1983