Benicio Del Torro
If you’re looking for the perfect family break this year, scratch Basin City off of your list of possibilities. But if you’re a fan of film, you’ll definitely want to see Robert Rodriguez’s vivid ode to film noir that’s set there, Sin City.
Based on the graphic novel series by Frank Miller, the film is an anthology of crime tales that take place in the fictional metropolis Basin City – better known to its residents as Sin City.
The Hard Goodbye is the tale of Marv (Mickey Rourke), a hulking, grotesque hard-luck case who is out to avenge the death of a prostitute named Goldie (Jamie King).
The Big Fat Kill centres on the slightly better balanced yet dangerous hood Dwight (Clive Owen). Dwight finds himself caught up in a looming turf war between Sin City’s cops and the prostitutes of Old Town when a crooked cop (Benicio Del Torro) ends up on the receiving end of an especially nasty headache.
The Yellow Bastard, half of which takes place before Hard Goodbye and concludes after Big Fat Kill, is about Hartigan (Bruce Willis), the one honest cop in Sin City who pays the price for attempting to stop the paedophile son (Nick Stahl) of a bigwig politico (Powers Boothe) from committing more heinous acts while protecting a young woman named Nancy (Jessica Alba).
Three stories, each in possession of the theme of redemption and each very, very violent – now I know what the term “graphic novel” refers to. Since each tale is given about 30 minutes to run, there’s little in the way of development in character or story. Sticking true to its origins, the dialogue at times can cause one to look for balloon captures over the characters’ heads.
But it works as a piece of gritty popcorn entertainment for adults. While the screenplay’s deficiencies hold Rodriguez and his fellow directors back from making a great film, it all moves swiftly along. Once again Rodriguez handles multiple duties, but with more accomplishment than he has previously displayed. Sin City is amongst his best work to date.
Willis, Owen and Del Toro each turn in spirited performances, while Elijah Wood is suitably creepy as a silent, cannibalistic serial killer. Jessica Alba, Carla Gugino, Jamie King, Rosario Dawson and Alexis Bledel are great to look at, but have nothing but bad dialogue and one-dimensional characters to work with. Faring worse are the normally reliable Michael Madsen, as Hartigan’s ex-partner, and Brittany Murphy as Dwight’s current squeeze. They’re downright embarrassing.
If there is a standout performance, it comes from Mickey Rourke with his great turn as Marv. Beneath the prosthetics lies a killing machine with a kind heart (at least to the prostitute he fell in love with), and Rourke creates a monster we care about – not an easy task. This is old school Rourke, harkening back to the golden days of his career in the 1980s.
For those willing to inhabit its seductive, black and white, blood and rain soaked streets for a couple of hours, Sin City has much to offer. Rodriguez has faithfully brought Miller’s world to the screen. Fans of the comics and graphic novel novices should both get something different and entertaining here. Sin City is worth a visit.