Three related stories from Sin City: when Marv (Mickey Rourke), a tougher-than-nails street-fighter, takes home the beautiful Goldie (Jaime King), to have her wind up dead in his bed, he scours the city to avenge the loss of the only drop of love his heart has ever known. Dwight (Clive Owen), is a private investigator perpetually trying to leave trouble behind, even though it won't quit chasing after him. After a cop is killed in Old Town, Dwight will stop at nothing to protect his friends among the ladies of the night. Meanwhile, John Hartigan (Bruce Willis), the last honest cop in Sin City, has just one hour left before retiring (or dying of a bad heart), and he plans to go out with a bang as he makes a final bid to save an 11 year-old girl from the sadistic son (Elijah Wood) of a Senator (Powers Boothe) . . . with unexpected results.
Batman Begins and Fantastic Four aren't the only comic book movies on the block this week. Frank Miller's Chandler-inspired Sin City graphic novels have finally been delivered to the big screen via Robert Rodriguez, director of the three hugely successful Spy Kids movies (2001, 2002, 2003), The Faculty (1998) and El Mariachi (1992).
Sin City is pure pulp fiction and as such is divided into three distinct stories which do eventually merge. In the first-titled 'That Yellow Bastard' in Miller's books - Bruce Willis plays scarred cop Hartigan, an ailing anti-hero sworn to save an 11 year-old girl from the crazy clutches of paedophile Roark Jr. (Nick Stahl), the son of corrupt Senator Roark (Powers Booth).
The second, 'The Hard Goodbye', sees Mickey Rourke as the misshapen Marv, a hardboiled, Bukowskian never-do-well determined to avenge the death of Goldie (Jaime King), the hooker he loved.
Fresh from Closer English actor Clive Owen plays Dwight in the third, 'The Big Fat Kill'. Dwight's plan to teach his girlfriend's violent ex 'Jackie Boy' a lesson accidentally backfires when the hookers he enlists to 'help' take things a little too far. Everyone's lives wind up on the line as a result of extreme actions.
Torn straight from the pages of Miller's graphic novels - and born out of Rodriguez's artistic single-mindedness - Sin City is a perfect fusion of comic book art and film. It's stunning: surreal, uncompromising, inspired, ugly yet beautiful, and be very warned - not for the faint-hearted.
Like Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, this is a film where you feel every punch and blow to the body, such is the level of violent imagery and, the ramped up volume level of the sound effects.
But this is the tough, hyper-noir world Sin City creates, where morality blurs and everyone's on the take. When you walk in it you know it's not going to be pretty or easy.
Sin City also goes back the films of Fritz Lang, like Metropolis, where he would create fantastic worlds built on studio sets and almost 'release' his actors into them. Only here Rodriguez uses digital 'green screen' computer technology, using greats like Mickey Rourke in a role he was born to play. But Sin City goes way beyond merely a technical achievement for Rodriguez who made this film at his own studio in Austin Texas for the relatively low budget of US$40 million. If it were, we might be talking about a failure like Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow (2004), which was the first film where actors performed entirely in front of a green screen and there were no real or physical sets/locations used at all. (They were entirley generated inside computers).
Sky Captain was an amazing technical and visual achievement but not much else. It had one of the worse scripts in recent times and the actors - Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow - clearly struggled acting in this all-virtual environment, such was the quality of their performances (ie - BAD). Rodriguez and his co-director Miller, plus guest director Quentin Tarantino clearly came prepared.
Everything is in synch in this amazing film, especially the performances which are as visceral as the sets are ethereal. Simply put, Sin City marks an amazing film achievement.