Sunday, 10 July 2011

100 days, 100 films; Day 24 - Sin City

#77 - Sin City:

Walk down the right back alley in Sin City and you can find anything....
Don’t ask me why I opened with that because I couldn’t think of anything to open with so I went with a quote. I guess I should say that I never read the graphic novels (or comic books in general) so I can’t comment on how faithful this is, but it’s certainly pretty striking to look at it. And I’m not really a big fan of Robert Rodriguez, since his films are very hit or miss for me (didn’t like Desperado that much) but this is most definitely a hit.

Here we have three separate stories happening in the corrupt Basin City (nicknamed Sin City for obvious reasons). The first follows the only honest cop in town Hartigan (Bruce Willis) as he saves a young girl from a child molester who happens to be the son of a senator so he gets thrown in jail and framed for his crimes. When he hears his darling Nancy (Jessica Alba) is in danger, he sets out to rescue her. Up next we have bar thug Marv (Mickey Rourke) who spends a night with a hooker and wakes up to find her dead while he is framed for her murder. He goes on a rampage to find the true killer. And we have Dwight (Clive Owen) a chivalrous pervert of some sorts whose girlfriend gets roughed up by a bad guy Jackie-Boy (Benicio Del Toro) so he follows him into Old Town – a den of hookers armed with guns. Believe me, it doesn’t go the way you’d think.

First of all, this has probably got to be one of the most striking films to look at you’ll ever see. Being adapted from a comic book with its own unique style, the filmmakers created a literal film version of a comic book. The way this film is designed is just incredible to watch, with the splashes of colour randomly appearing in amongst the black and white. I especially like the way they use the colour red – usually it appears as a woman’s dress, lipstick or buckets of blood. Even stranger they use white blood a lot of the time. Then there’s the really cool way a black and white character’s eyes will be in colour. Almost like Avatar, this is an entire world created from scratch with its own design and style. And as a filmmaker, I would not like to be the one in charge of a big project like this. Well, maybe someday but when I have a lot more experience. 

This film has an all-star cast, and in addition to those mentioned above we also have Rosario Dawson, Josh Hartnett, Elijah Wood, Michael Clarke Duncan, Alexis Bledel, Michael Madsen and the late great Brittany Murphy. Our three leads Rourke, Willis and Owen are all great at leading us through their stories with their voice-overs narrating their way through the stuff in a throwback to the old film noir genre that’s deader than a really dead thing right now. Mickey Rourke as Marv is definitely the most interesting character, what with how badass he is (seriously, after one round in the electric chair he calls the executioner a pansy and asks for more) although the sight of him getting roughed up all the time could be a little disconcerting for frail viewers and their gag reflexes. Willis is also pretty compelling as the sole proper good guy in the film while all the rest are just varying shades of grey/bad whichever way you look at it. Clive Owen on the other hand does fall short in a few places, specifically with how his accent tends to slip up a lot. His character is still fun to watch and he makes a good badass which you don’t see a lot of (I wouldn’t really consider his King Arthur to be that badass). As for our other heroes, Elijah Wood is especially creepy as the silent cannibal Kevin who likes to eat people, Benicio Del Toro is unreal as Jackie Boy what with his drawling voice and creepy eyes. Now let’s talk about our leading ladies – you won’t be short of fanservice in this film because every female character is either a prostitute or an exotic dancer. One is a parole officer but she spends two of her scenes completely topless. Jessica Alba is indeed a goddess with her table dancing rivalling Salma Hayek’s in From Dusk Till Dawn though she manages to be cute as well as the sweet little Nancy. Rosario Dawson is once again playing a rather nasty femme fatale (doesn’t she ever play any nice characters?) sporting a rather sexy Mohawk hairdo. Devon Aoki proves to be the most badass action girl in the film as the silent but violent assassin Miho. The late great Brittany Murphy is at her finest in this film, having the distinction of appearing in all three segments and donning an adorable Southern accent.

And finally we have the true goddess in this film – Alexis Bledel who is just...words cannot describe her. And don’t get me wrong, all these women give great performances in the film as well. And don’t feel disappointed girls as all three leading males in the film get shirtless scenes so there’s something for everyone.

I guess I enjoyed Dwight’s and Marv’s stories a lot more than Hartigan’s, maybe because there were a lot more characters involved in them while in Hartigan’s it was just him, Nancy and Junior with a couple of extras as well. It is interesting to see other characters make cameos in another of the segments, Shellie in particular who gets a cameo in Marv’s and Hartigan’s stories while having a prominent role in Dwight’s. Incidentally Brittany Murphy filmed all her scenes in one day if you’ll believe that. Marv’s story has a classic revenge plot line that’s interesting to see unfold like a crime mystery only with a ton more gore. While Dwight’s is definitely the most action-oriented of all of them. The action scenes are pretty cool to watch, especially the bit where Miho arrives to save Dwight from a brigade of Irish mercenaries. And then there’s the intense scene where Hartigan discovers Nancy’s whereabouts and then realises he has to get away. Those are some pretty tense moments.
And I do enjoy the two little scenes with Josh Hartnett’s character that serve as a way to bookend the film.

For a bit more random trivia, Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller weren’t the only directors involved; none other than Quentin Tarantino himself joined in as a special guest director, to direct the scene from Dwight’s story where he’s driving the bodies to the tar pits and has that creepy conversation with Jackie Boy in the car. There’s almost a little reference to Rope with the way the lights keep flashing to symbolise the danger in the scene.

So all in all we have a nice little modern throwback to the old Hollywood film noirs that were good while they lasted. This film also helped redefine what a comic book movie could be although thankfully it hasn’t been cheapened by a stream of imitators like Halloween was. I do hope that the sequel does get made because I’d definitely like to see what more they could do now that technology has advanced even more. Until tomorrow my friends and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter.

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