Retrospective: Sin City (2005)


This is one of the strangest movies I have reviewed. Like many movies it’s based off a comic book and in this case, it is one of the darkest comics created. Sin City comics can be so ridiculously dark that they can enter the world of self-parody, which the film avoids. The film creates a place where it’s always dark, always midnight and there’s always something nasty going on. The street is too close for comfort, where the amount of pleasant, trustworthy people is in single figures, where violence is such an epidemic that the police are armored like SWAT officers. It’s like a 1970s futurology brought to life. It is one of the most wonderfully realised world created in film, oozing with atmosphere and mood ,with an insane mash-up of styles from 50s Americana too film noir. I believe Basin City where the action takes place is based off Chicago, but it’s very difficult to tell, as everything is vague and shot in black and white. It’s a movie which hasn’t got a particularly neat structure, featuring three overlapping stories, staying loyal to the style and story of the comic.

The three stories plus the intro and the outro scenes are filled with atmosphere. Only some things are coloured such as the girl’s red dress, whilst containing typical film noir narration. It lack the sort of framing narrative that you would expect from a movie with several stories and it is maybe closer to its comic book counterpart through the way it integrates many stories by the virtue of them all existing in the same world. I have to mention what a wonderful world it is, with a colossal level of sex, depravity and criminality everywhere you look.

Mickey Rourke is Marv: a man mountain with a sense of honour. A strangely sympathetic character who happens to be a monster in every sense on of the word. A man who, as one of the other characters says, was born in the wrong period and would have made a perfect Roman gladiator. He is on a vendetta to avenge the murder of a prostitute.

Bruce Willis is Detective John Hartigan: an old cop with heart trouble and a Dirty Harry magnum who tries his best and is very well politically connected. He stops a child molester and becomes close to the child he saves.

Jessica Alba is Nancy Cartwright: a confident stripper at the bar who connects all the stories.

Clive Owen is Dwight McCarthy: an escaped murderer who has returned with a new face. One of the major figures in the of rule of prostitutes. He’s dating a bar girl at the same bar where Nancy works and has issues with a violent detective who used to date his girlfriend.

Josh Hartnett is The Salesman: A mysterious assassin seen in the film’s intro and outro. Nothing is known about him other than that he seems to exclusively choose jobs on women and acts not unlike a serial killer.

The films contains all these little stories which makes it quite tricky to hold together but it does it in quite a neat way by finding places for the various characters to interact. Since the stories aren’t chronological, you see an arc of one character and see him again on camera during another arc. This movie has one of my favourite uses of CGI as it is shown in black and white but certain thing are shown in colour such as eyes, clothes, cars or blood. There are so many other great characters in the movie, from the astonishing corrupt Senator played by Powers Booth (who is very similar to his character in Deadwood which was on at the same time). Every word he says is sheer menace. Likewise, Rutger Hauer gives a good performance as a nasty cardinal. This movie has the logical extreme of all the super dark comics such as Judge Dread, Punisher or the darker Batmans (in particular Christopher Nolan and Frank Miller’s). It shows anarchy in cities taken to an absolute extreme where there are no limits of decency, everything is corrupt and law is at the very edge whilst people try to get by. It shows a world gone to hell in terms of a sociological apocalypse rather, as opposed by one caused by nukes or the environment.

This movie is groundbreaking in its use of CGI but also has heart behind it. It creates such a fantastically unpleasant place, which is based around the various stories, showing different aspects and perspectives of the place which makes Sin City the central character in the movie.

The Salesman walks through the crowd looking for the one, he ignores everything except the slight flicker of an emerald green cocktail dress which catches his eye like a shot of absinthe to the mind. He looks up to see who it belongs to, but he is too slow and she is gone. He starts to get higher. The salesman is always prepared. He enters a hotel where a party is going on. It’s filled with mock sincerity and naked corruption. A flash of anger occurs inside of him and he sees her on a staircase going to the lift. She doesn’t notice a waiter and topples a tray of drinks. For the first time he can see the women he was meant to kill. Beautiful, 5,8 with long raven black hair and an expression of abandon on her beautiful deep red lips. He rushes to the elevator in his distinct way of moving quickly but not looking like he is. He offers her a cigarette in the lift and lights it for her. He takes her in his arms, kisses her and whispers what he has whispered to hundreds before. Dreams of safety, love, but she tenses up and they both know that it’s a lie. She collapses, toxic saliva coming out of her lips as he gently lays her on the floor with the attention of an undertaker or lover. He closes her eyes. Another job done.  

Retrospective by Harry Riedl


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