Saturday, April 09, 2005

Sin City

Revels in its R-Rating

Becky Blue Eyes

It's not so often that a movie comes along that is so gory, so graphic that the censor board gives it an R-rating without as much as blinking an eye or cutting a single scene! Sin City which has become the paradigm of "stylized depiction of extreme violence in a movie" has achieved that distinction. And when I say "extreme", boy, do I mean "extreme"?! Popular character 'disposal' methods include castration, mutilation, crushing and my personal favorite, being eaten alive by pet wolf. Add to that the fact that all but one woman in the movie is either a stripper or a hooker (a waitress being the offending profession) with a birthday suit as first choice of clothing for most, it is safe to say that this is one time the R-rating is spot on!

Sin City is the film adaptation of a series of 'noir'-ish comic books of the same name created by Frank Miller, who is also given a co-director credit in this movie. The main director, Robert Rodriguez, hit upon the idea of being totally and completely faithful to the comic book and in this one step, has revolutionized the thought process on comic book adaptation. Some of the scenes in this movie are lifted straight from the comic book frames (check out the movie website for an interesting comparison) with the net result that the movie pretty much serves to act as a filler between these frames.

Rodriguez also shoots the film entirely in black and white with splashes of colour thrown in to enhance certain details like Jaime King's juicy red lips or the jaundiced yellow skin of a sadistic serial killer and my personal favorite (another one), the sparkling blue eyes of a hooker named Becky (Alexis Bledel).

The movie covers three of the books in the series and is not as much a single movie as much as it is three disparate stories with only threadbare connections between them. The first of these is the story of Marv (Mickey Rourke) an ugly brute of a hulk (see him and you'll understand) who streamrolls everyone in his path to avenge the death of the only woman who was kind to him, a hooker named Goldie (Jaime King). Next, we have the story of Dwight (Clive Owen), a murderer with a new face who is trying to preserve the truce between the hookers and the cops of Sin City after a cop is accidently killed. And finally, Bruce Willis plays Hartigan, the last honest cop in Sin CIty, with the responsibility of protecting the life of Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba).

Now, its not as if these guys are superheroes, more like exaggerated versions of larger-than-life heroes. Consider Marv for example: this guy is pretty much impossible to kill. So, we have him leap from tall buildings, get shot a million times before being hit by a speeding car but he always wakes up and shrugs it off with machismo. The action throughout the movie is accompanied by an undercurrent of comedy, as if the director was laughing along as he was filming.

The paths of these chracters also don't criss-cross as much as, say, in Pulp Fiction, nor is the narrative structure even slightly non-linear. Instead we have three stories told one after the other: when Marv's story gets over, Dwight's begins and so on. The complaint here is that this structure makes Sin CIty seem less like a movie than a set of three episodes in a TV miniseries. By the time we get to Hartigan we have all but forgotten about Marv, which feels like an injustice to him.

But ignore that minor quibble. SIn City is one of the most enjoyable movies to be released this year and according to the laws governing comic book adaptations, a sequel can't be far away. This movie does to comic book movies what The Matrix did to movies in general. The revolution has begun!


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