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sin city
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Frank Miller's Sin City

Starring Mickey Rourke and Bruce Willis, Benicio Del Toro, Clive Owen and Elijah Wood; Jessica Alba, Brittany Murphy
Based on the graphic novels by Frank Miller
Written and Directed by Roberto Rodriguez and Frank Miller; special guest director Quentin Tarantino

IN SHORT: The most beautiful b&w film we've ever seen. Some common story elements among its three stories would have been nice, though. [Rated R for sustained strong stylized violence, nudity and sexual content including dialogue. 126 minutes]

Anyone who has spent more than the average amount of time working their way through ten years of reviews already knows that Cranky is a comics geek. We were a big fan of Frank Miller's work at Marvel (revamping Daredevil and introducing Elektra and all that has come after it) and DC (The Dark Knight Returns alone will sit in the critical Top Five of All Time for, well, all time) but his venture into the noir stories of his Sin City creation have always left us cold. It isn't as though we haven't tried; we've got a full set of the hardbound volumes sitting on our bookshelf and, yes, we've read 'em. That being said, we never compare a film to its Source Material and truly hoped that Robert Rodriguez' adaptation, aided by a fully credited Miller, would bring out something in the story that we missed. Nope. Sin City is true to its Source Material, adapting stories called "Sin City," "The Babe Wore Red," and "That Yellow Bastard." Nine years separate stories one and three, which is an important li'l bit of continuity that gets thrown away in one line in that last act. Rodriguez' visuals will make the eyes of any fan of Frank Miller's original art pop wide open. Fanboys of the original stories will be equally pleased but the film as written provides little for the average joe to hang on to.

We're actually very pleased at how deeply Miller has participated in the project because comics creators are usually given the short shrift. Film can further develop character backgrounds and embellish scenic situations in the transition from 2D to 3D, or it can choose to do nothing. That is the case here and we flat out admit it and will state it again: We just don't get Sin City. We know it. We knew it as we shuffled restlessly through what otherwise will rightfully enter our memory banks as the most beautiful black and white film we've ever seen, and little more. We waited in vain for just a little bit of character development -- something, anything -- to be mixed in and draw us into a developing story. Nope. The genre doesn't allow it. We reported same to the film company, feel free to label us "yutz" (but keep it to yourself . . . us yutzes are, you know, sensitive), and went to bed . . . Rest reassured that the Gods of Noir waited only 24 hours to punish us with a two day long run of 102 degrees fever and six more days of the same stuff everyone goes through when they get sick and just don't get better. So, we've been punished, fanboys. Keep your scathing emails to yourself

By way of background, Basin City is a town where everyone is carrying around secrets that they'd prefer to keep hidden. Like the neon sign, with two letters burned out, that sits on the town's border, "Sin City" is broken. Sin City is a place where the killers may be as well dressed as they are well paid; the first you see in this film is an "employee" played by Josh Hartnett and the second is an average mook named Marv (Mickey Rourke). Marv has, after years of neglect, been allowed a night of pleasure with a woman (Jamie King) so far above his level that he considers her to be his "angel." That being the case, Marv is righteously pissed off to wake up the next morning besides her corpse. He'll spend the rest of the movie tracking the killer.

The city's Old Town district is controlled by the prostitutes that work there and the second story, starring Benecio Del Toro, Clive Owen and a ninja killer (Devon Aoki) occurs in that setting. Needless to say, the City has a corrupt police force that keeps things in general order for a price; excepting, of course, for its sole good cop, Bruce Willis, who saves a girl in the first act who disappears until the film's finale. That story, originally called "That Yellow Bastard" featuring Nick Stahl as the Yellow, uh, you know and Bruce Willis as the sole honest cop in the City. Don't expect the film to provide any more characterization that what I've listed, because it doesn't. For fanboys ready to question our humanity, let us just say that our favorite femme star of this generation, Carla Gugino, graciously gets naked halfway through the film, and our heart was pumping very nicely, thank you very much.

By the time that most wonderful event occurred we had lost interest. Watching great actors, including Elijah Wood, Jessica Alba, Brittany Murphy, Michael Madsen and Rosario Dawson, work in this film wasn't any more involving than watching anyone work. We can't tell you much about who their characters are. The film gives them no place to develop in anyway and its format ensures that they all exit stage left as quickly as possible. It probably speaks volumes that the most interesting part of our watching Sin City, aside from the nudity, is also a portion of the film in which almost nothing happens. Two characters in the front seat of a truck have a conversation. If we had any questions left about the depth of Quentin Tarantino's talent, which we don't, they would be put to rest by this sequence alone.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Sin City, he would have paid . . .



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