Friday, June 10, 2005

Sin City

Frank Miller's graphic novels haven't the same cult following this side of the Atlantic as they do Stateside, but the hype building up to this seminal movie would have been hard to ignore these past months. Aficionados of the dark tales of life in Basin City are sure to be impressed, as screen shots are taken ink-mark for ink-mark from the original strips. Newcomers to the series, (most movie-goers), will be thrilled by the dark images, violent confrontations, and true comic book characters – no holds are barred in these epic tales.

Far from the spindly legs such adaptations as Spiderman or Daredevil stood on – afraid to reveal the darker side of their characters – Sin City revels in the anti-heroic status of their leading men and women. The movie is split into three tales, interwoven somewhat, but for the most part told in straight narrative – barmaid Shellie (Brittany Murphy) being the one constant face in all three. Tale one, 'The Hard Goodbye', is the story of Marv (Mickey Rourke) – a lug out for revenge after the murder of his high-class hooker love, Goldie. A tortured Beast to her Beauty, Marv takes on the task of killing his way to the truth, finding who destroyed his perfect woman while fighting the demons within. Marv trawls the streets of Basin City, dragging up the current of evil running through its copious back-alleys.

Tale two, 'The Big Fat Kill', shows Clive Owen's righteous ex-killer (Dwight) chasing crooked cop Jackie Boy into the hands of Basin City's Old Town, where the 'girls' rule the streets. The story is a violent twist on the old damsel in distress riff, where expectations are turned on their heads. Women are the stronger force in this tale; startling swordplay reminiscent of Kill Bill, fight scenes with no mercy, and some terrifying power reversals. Dwight marches in, guns blazing, offering protection from sadistic Jackie Boy, while the girls laugh at his foolishness – "us poor helpless girls", as his valkyrie Gail (Rosario Dawson) comments, before showing just how 'helpless' they are.

Story three, 'That Yellow Bastard', is the central story, the heart, of the movie (though 'The Hard Goodbye' is by far the most involving). In this third tale, cop Hartigan (Bruce Willis) defends youngster Nancy Callahan from paedophile/killer/son-of-a-senator Roark Jnr (Nick Stahl). When Hartigan returns from enforced secondment brought on by his brutal revenge on Roark Jnr, Nancy (Jessica Alba) has grown into an angelic stripper who harbours a deep love for him. Roark Jnr, meanwhile, has metamorphosed into Yellow Bastard as a result of his father's attempts to restore his 'manhood' – a disgusting creature bent on revenge. His efforts to destroy Hartigan and Nancy's unconventional love form the climactic moments of the movie.

Director Robert Rodriguez (coupled with creator Frank Miller and guest director Quentin Tarantino) lovingly recreates the visuals of the graphic novels, using green screens for the black and white shots rather than normal camera views. This stops bleaching – the greyness associated with normal black and white movies – and allows colour to be used as a weapon. Blood is white, yellow, or red, depending on what mood or level of disgust is needed. The story itself reflects the shades – there are no grey areas of good and bad in the tales, and revenge is taken as the only justice Sin City has to offer.

As black and terrifying as its colour scheme, Sin City startles and amazes. Characters leap from six storey buildings to land safely on their feet, and take machine gunning to the chest without a whimper – this truly is the land of comic fable. Batman Begins offers us a possible darker view into Bruce Wayne's closet, but even with the promise of this bat-buster, Sin City still ranks far and above any comic adaptation seen to date. Edgy, risky and fun all the way, Sin City will be the hit of the summer, as well as creating a new following for the slicker land of graphic novels – far from the colour-soaked world of Spiderman and Superman. With more adaptations already on the cards, and cast members as excited about future instalments as rabid fans, it won't be long before more dark tales of Sin City explodes onto our screens – catch this opus in cinema while you can.

Review on Film Ireland Website - click here!

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