Thursday, June 2, 2011

REVIEW: Sin City (2005)

Director: Frank Miller
Starring: Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke, Clive Owens

"Turn the right corner in Sin City and you can find anything...anything."

In the early 2000s, Frank Miller created an epic masterpiece where he takes the rules of reality and just…makes them better. This is a world where everyone is immune to gunshots and where bombs only blow you away like a gust of wind would, but being slapped can send you flying across the room. This is a world where Mickey Rourke’s chin is so large that even Bruce Campbell would balk. This is a world where every woman is a hooker, no matter what, unless she’s under 18, and where there’s actually a whole city just ruled by hookers. This is a world where monologues eclipse the sun and make everything black and white, except for blood and the saucy blonde hair of beautiful women. This is the world of…Sin City.

Yes, everyone knows this one. It’s stupid as hell, but doesn’t really try and pretend to be anything else. This is just pure over the top delight. There’s nothing subtle or artful about the way this is executed. It’s just pure entertainment. The whole thing is an amalgam of old noir-style clichés and crazy comic book violence. Frank Miller’s dialogue is scientifically proven to be 70% or higher narrations, and those are just corny as hell. Sentence fragments. He uses them. Explicitly. Without pause. All the time. Getting shorter. Losing point. But still sounding awesome. Too much? Maybe.

The story is actually an intertwining, connected set of tales all revolving in the charming land where color lenses don’t work on the cameras, Sin City. One of them involves Bruce Willis trying to save a young girl from a rich guy who is actually a rapist and whose father runs the city. Another involves Mickey Rourke trying to avenge a prostitute’s death and getting caught in a web of conspiracy that involves a cannibal played by Elijah Wood – most apt casting in the movie? Debatable. The third involves Clive Owen defending another prostitute but getting caught up in more corruption.

So…yeah, they’re all pretty much about the same stuff. But somehow the movie makes this work to its advantage, whether it be by virtue of the great characters, the strong acting or the compelling, fast-moving plots. As silly as this can get, it keeps you hooked like a fish on a line. You won’t be able to quit watching this. Perhaps it’s the style that Miller uses, which is overwrought and gimmicky with the black and white and tons of really fast, comic-book-style action scenes, but is actually a lot of fun and makes the movie stand out in the end.

The characters are overblown and exaggerated – seriously; Mickey Rourke plays a guy willing to risk his life because a hooker was nice to him. I don’t know why, but this one in particular just bugs me. He’s really goofy, I guess you could say – like a caricature of a caricature of a film noir. Even in this movie’s comic-book mentality world, I still think he’s the most overblown. It’s not bad or anything, it’s just…really funny to me for some reason. Everything he says, every expression on his face and everything he does is just ridiculous. Bruce Willis, on the other hand, is pretty damn awesome, and gives a really passionate, engaging performance. Clive Owens is probably the least remarkable of the three, but he holds his own remarkably well anyway.

The stories are told with some real zeal and energy, and they all pack a lot of epic, gripping punch that will keep you on the edge of your seat, even excusing the retarded moments. Of which there are several – like how about the scene where the Yellow Bastard has Bruce Willis naked and in a hangman’s noose, about to die. The first dumb moment comes when he’s left hanging and somehow survives and is able to cut himself loose somehow, all without damaging any of his breathing tubes or cutting off his circulation in the least. He’s trying to save Jessica Simpson from that yellow weirdo, and so he has to get in the car and chase after them. Before doing so, he puts on all of his clothes, which probably takes up a lot of time he could have used to be saving her…I know it’s wintertime outside, but seriously, all he talks about is saving her, and he’s not really the type of character who would be affected by the cold. So it doesn’t make a lot of sense. But I’m just nitpicking now.

Other silly moments include the fact that there is indeed a city of hookers in this movie. A city of hookers; you read that correctly. Might as well just make a hooker amusement park; why not go all the way? I think it would draw in plenty of good profits from the residents of this crazy world. But seriously, Frank Miller’s obsession with making every woman a prostitute just baffles me. I don’t even know what to say about it. Why does he keep doing it? There’s maybe one female lead character in this entire movie who isn’t one, and yet she wears even less clothes than the prostitutes themselves do.

I know I’m making fun of this movie a lot, but…honestly, that’s part of the enjoyment in this. It’s a very corny, exaggerated film that just keeps on delivering, never flinching for a second even when delivering some seriously implausible stunt – like Bruce Willis getting shot 10 or 11 times and surviving while other guys get shot once or twice and die instantly without a chance of living at all. Sin City is just that kind of movie. If you liked The Crow, this is like that, except ten times wilder. If you liked Kick-Ass, well, this is the pre-cursor to that one.

It’s like the yin-yang of action movies. For everything stupid or silly about this, there’s always something endearing and awesome combating it from the other side, and it ends up a very even, enjoyable ride, with the silly parts balanced out by how well everything is done to come out as quite an engaging, ass-kicking ride. Sin City rules.