Dir. Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller, Quentin Tarantino (Guest Director), 2005, USA , 124 mins
Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Benicio Del Toro , Brittany Murphy, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Nick Stahl, Bruce Willis, Elijah Wood
Fans of Frank Miller rejoice! Followers of Robert Rodriguez exhalt! For Sin City is everything you hoped it would be and oh-so-much more. But if you don't know your Frank from your Arthur, your Rodriguez from your Mitchum, there are treats in store for you too.
Painstakingly and lovingly crafted, Sin City is not only a reinvention of the noir genre, but also a shining example of how comic books can be translated to the screen without pandering to the whims of cinematic form.
Nearly every frame from three of Miller's Sin City graphic novels - The Hard Goodbye , The Big Fat Kill and That Yellow Bastard - is brought to cinematic life in a style never before seen on screen. Where The Hulk tried to imitate the look and style of the comics, Sin City absorbs the look and style of Miller's beautifully drawn tales and breathes a kinetic, emotive life into the drawings in a truly unimaginable and inspired way.
Having shot a brief opening to the movie with actor friends Josh Hartnett and Marley Shelton to convince Miller of the possibilities, Rodriguez then used the resulting "short film" (which bookends the finished movie) to recruit a top-notch cast to bring Miller's fantastic array of characters to life.
In a move reminiscent of John Travolta's career-relaunching turn against type in Pulp Fiction, Mickey Rourke puts heart and soul into Marv, the down-on-his-luck loser framed for the murder of an Old Town prostitute, but vowing to take revenge on her behalf. In a similar vein, as Hartigan, possibly the only honest cop left in the city, Bruce Willis excels throughout his story, pitting his formidable acting chops against the deranged and delightful Nick Stahl as the titular Yellow Bastard. Clive Owen also turns in a performance that will undoubtedly see his stock rise Stateside off the back of his Oscar Nomination and BAFTA triumph.
But the creative credit for this endeavour has to lie with Rodriguez and his Troublemaker Studios. Ever since his debut feature, low-budget legend El Mariachi , Rodriguez has refused to do things the Hollywood way. Working almost exclusively from his home town of Austin , Texas , he has defied industry expectation at every turn whilst simultaneously turning out some of the best bang-for-your-buck movies of recent years, including his Mariachi and Spy Kids trilogies.
With Sin City , he has dragged mainstream movie-making into the digital age, using the tools and techniques he developed whilst working on Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over to create an entire movie on a green-screen stage. A pioneer in the spirit of George Lucas, Rodriguez uses the perceived "limitations" of the digital medium to the advantage of the movie. Rodriguez acknowledges that the movie would have been "physically impossible" to shoot traditionally and the freedom that the green screen gave the two directors enabled them to capture the look and feel - the very essence - of the source material.
The movie also sees a return to a more stylised approach to filmmaking than in recent years, with dialogue and visuals that stray away from the more modern "realist" approach and instead hark back to the matinee idols of yester-year. For those of you who struggle with one-liners and heavily-weighted voice-over narration, this movie may not be for you, but it's certainly worth a try, so completely different is it to anything that has gone before.
Sin City is a triumph in so many senses, from performances to effects, from aesthetics to storytelling, but above all else, it's a great ride. And when all the arguments over film vs. digital and realism vs. stylisation are said and done, that's what sitting in your cinema seat is all about.