SIN CITY; Over-the-Top Film Is Violent, Funny -- and It's Got Heart

By Soergel, Matt | The Florida Times Union, April 1, 2005 | Go to article overview

SIN CITY; Over-the-Top Film Is Violent, Funny -- and It's Got Heart


Soergel, Matt, The Florida Times Union


Byline: Matt Soergel, The Times-Union

Sin City jumps off the screen, grabs you by the collar, roughs you up a bit, blows cigarette smoke in your face, then charges off down a dark, wet alley in a giant red Caddy with fins.

What hit you? This film-noir nightmare is supremely nasty and violent and completely over-the-top. It's supercharged, wildly imaginative and gorgeous to look at it. And it's floridly quotable, morbidly funny and wears its big romantic heart right out on the sleeve of its overcoat or pinned on its fishnet peekaboo top.

It's set in corrupt Basin City, where a tough, ugly-as-sin palooka named Marv moons over a looker named Goldie who showed him heaven one night on a heart-shaped bed: "She smells like angels oughta smell," he rumbles.

After some cannibal creep murders her that night, Marv swears revenge, pledging to kill his way to the truth: "It really gets my goat when guys rough up dames," he says.

And the dead dame's twin sister is there urging him on, shivering with fury and bloodlust: "Kill 'im for me, Marv -- kill 'im good!"

I love that stuff.

You might not -- Sin City clearly isn't vying to be Miss Congeniality 3. But it's geek nirvana for the film-noir/comic-book crowd: It doesn't go halfway. It doesn't get cute or soft on us. It fully commits to its imaginary nightmare world.

There are killer hookers, murderous Irish assassins and cannibals, crooked cops, priests and politicians. Some of them are even the good guys. And limbs and heads are hacked off as blood splatters in shades of white and yellow.

Sin City re-creates three graphic novels -- or ambitious comic books -- of Frank Miller, who also reimagined Batman as the Dark Knight years ago.

Miller got a co-directing credit with Robert Rodriguez, who convinced him that his stories could make it to the big screen. (Quentin Tarantino, a "special guest director," also took charge in one section.)

Rodriguez (Desperado, Spy Kids) is working in full mad-genius mode, using human actors set in a digitally created world to re-create the look of Miller's comic books. It's almost all black and white and shadows, except for little touches of color -- lipstick, hair, a red dress, a car, an evil yellow villain who oozes noxious yellow blood.

And in the background, a city and its skyscrapers glow through the drizzle -- a city that exists only in the computers in Rodriguez's studio.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow used similar tricks last year to create its drop-dead beautiful look, but it just kind of sat there on the screen, dumb and gorgeous and inert.

Not Sin City: It's too surly and restless for that.

Powered by much tough-guy narration full of deadpan humor, it packs a lot in its three intertwined stories. I must note, though, that the three stories are basically the same one, retold. …

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