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frank miller

There are times when you sit down to a movie expecting so much and getting so little. I’ve sat through my share of disappointments over the years, with The Ring Two as the latest addition to that category. Then there are times, and they are few and far between, that you sit down to a film and have your expectations blown away as everything you though about movies in general is shattered like a bullet ripping through bone.

Sin City is one those movies.

Truth be told, up until last year, when the original teaser trailer premiered, I couldn’t have told you what Sin City was, let alone name a single character. Based on the graphic novels of the same name, Sin City is the story of a colorful, yet color-less, cast of characters who will do just about everything to survive and fulfill their cause. The film houses a startling cast with big name movie stars all the way down to relatively unknowns but each one brings his or her A-game to the table and the audience is treated to, what very well may be, one of the best films of the year and the decade.

Sin City is broken up into three separate narratives overlapping, ingeniously written parts to tell and overall story (think Pulp Fiction). Co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller, the graphic novel’s creator, have constructed one of the most fun films to watch, but also one of the most well written in some time. We get things started with Bruce Willis’ Hartigan hot on the trail of a senator’s son who is also a child molester. After discovering him with his latest victim, Nancy, Hartigan blows perverts ear and genitals off but ends up being shot half-a-dozen times by his partner.

The story shifts to, perhaps, the best of the bunch and focuses on Marv (Mickey Rourke) and his quest for revenge on a silent killer (Elijah Wood) who murdered Goldie (Jamie King), whom he had slept with the night before. Marv is a walking tank, and nearly unstoppable as he’s shot, punched, thrown, run over, and electrocuted in his mission. Next, we’re introduced to Dwight (Clive Owen) who gets entangled in the battle for Old Town between the cops and the working girls after a detective (Benicio Del Toro) is killed (in a rather unpleasant way). Finally the story shifts back to Hartigan and his pursuit to rescue a fully grown Nancy (Jessica Alba) from a yellow menace.

The cast itself, although large, boasts incredible performances from the likes of Rourke and Owen, as well as Willis and Rosario Dawson. Standing amount among them all is Rourke with his up-front manner, massive size, and great dialog delivery for the huge Marv. Clive Owen finally gets a chance to shine outside chick-flicks and the outstanding BMW Films. Bruce Willis appears to be back on track after a few missteps like Tears of the Sun and Hostage, and his character of Hartigan is as hard-boiled as Max Payne with the sense of humor of John McClain. Finally, Rosario Dawson shines again as the leader of the working girls in Old Town with her wardrobe and sadistic glee of killing standing out in a pivotal scene of the film. The cast is just too massive to get into individually, but there weren’t any performances that didn’t hit a note with me, as everything gelled and flowed perfectly.

Sin City is not for the faint of heart, much like his friend Quentin Tarantino (who also guest directs a portion of the film) Rodriguez doesn’t shy away from the brutality of violence. The film is as raw as it gets with gun shot wounds spraying bright white blood all over the screen and a penance for dismember or shooting men in the scrotum seems to be the act of the day. Still, it is almost cartoon in nature because of the black & white print with only shades of color thrown in to highlight certain objects, like a red dress or a character’s eye color.

Filmed similar to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Sin City was shot against a green screen with the backgrounds and other effects added in post-production. Rodriguez is know for his economical filmmaking that produces $100 million dollar work for less than half that. His masterful direction and ideas also come thrown perfectly in the film, something far fewer directors are able to do these days with the hack, cookie-cutter-fare we’re subjected to almost weekly.

Fans of movies and movies that are made for true movie fans don’t need to think twice before seeing Sin City, in fact, anyone who has ever thought a frame from a comic book or graphic novel “looked cool” should see this film for the art form that it is. The way every shot is framed, presented, cut, and highlighted brings the novels to the big screen in picturesque storyboard fashion.

Sin City not only raises the bar for adaptations, it successfully raises the bar on the art of movie making as well. Its been a really long time since I’ve been able to say I was truly impressed with a film, but with Sin City, I’m not only impressed, I’m simply bewildered that no one has had the talent or the finesse to make a movie such as this one before. After sitting in the theater and letting the credits role to the end, no words came to me to describe what I had just seen. I was unprepared for the beauty that was Sin City, and I’m only now beginning to realize that it is definitely one of the finest works of art I’ve ever seen. While I should reserve this statement until after some of my other anticipated films of the year debut, Sin City is, by large, a contender for the best movie of the year, and its only April.