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Published June 2nd, 2005 | by Johan De Silva

Sin City Review

Classification: 18 Director: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller, Quentin Tarantino Rating: 4.5/5

A sprawling savage beast of a portmanteau film, Sin City is three loosely connected stories based on Frank Miller’s comic book series – the eponymous Sin City, That Yellow Bastard, and The Big Fat Kill. Bookending the film is That Yellow Bastard, the story of Hartigan (Willis), the last good cop in Sin City. On the verge of retiring with a dodgy ticker, Hartigan wants to make one last arrest – Rorke (Stahl), the pampered paedophile son of a corrupt senator, before he can torture and kill his latest victim, Nancy (Alba).

The second, Sin City, is that of Marv (Rourke), a deformed drunk. When Marv meets the goddess-like Goldie (King), who gets him hammered and takes him to bed, it’s the first time a woman has shown him affection. So he’s pretty annoyed when he wakes up to find her dead and the police at the door. Someone has set him up and Marv is determined to find out who – and why.

Then there’s the story of Dwight (Owen), an investigator who is just trying to stay out of trouble. Helping out an ex, Shellie (Murphy), who is being beaten up by her boyfriend Jackie Boy (del Toro), Dwight finds himself defending the women of Old Town when Jackie Boy and his friends go on the rampage. But Jackie Boy is more than he seems, and Dwight’s actions have seriously unpleasant consequences for his old flame Gail (Dawson) and her gang of scantily-clad whores.

Sin City is, simply, awesome. Directors Rodriguez, Miller and Tarantino have taken the comic book and bought it to life on screen. It’s all there – hard-boiled, terse dialogue, gorgeous women (these women are seriously, seriously hot, and they hardly wear any clothes), cool men, ridiculous levels of violence, black humour – and it’s all done incredibly well and oh so stylishly. Slashing rain, wounds bleeding white, cuts to outline characters – and the clothes, the cars, the city, itself a nightmare.

The violence is extreme and the film is quite disturbing at points with references to paedophilia and cannibalism. The most purely violent segment is probably The Big Fat Kill, with the whores of Old Town mercilessly gunning down any men that get it their way – apart from little Miho (Aoki), a sweet-faced assassin who prefers ninja stars, long bows and katana (take your pick, she’s an expert with all of them) – but the most horrific is Sin City and the character of Kevin (Elijah Wood). In a role that couldn’t be more different than that of Frodo Baggins, Wood plays a weird-eyed killer with a taste for human flesh. His death at Marv’s hands is brutal – and yet, curiously, just.

The morality of Sin City is oddly old-fashioned – Dwight is desperate to protect the girls of Old Town, ‘us poor little girls’ Gail laughs, pulling him in for a savage kiss; Hartigan to save Nancy; Marv to avenge Goldie – and its heroes all long for some kind of redemption and to do the right thing in a world gone mad. Its oddly sweet, a modern twist on the chivalric code.

It’s not all perfection – the voice-over device, though a staple of the genre, feels over-used, and some of the acting is a bit poor – Brittany Murphy is irritating and Clive Owen’s American accent is a bit slippery, though he suits this sort of role much better than the upstanding hero of King Arthur. The revelation, performance-wise, is Mickey Rourke, who is incredible as Marv, acting his little socks off through prosthetics and doing a brilliant job. A comeback for the Motorcycle Boy is surely in order. The rest of the cast are uniformly good and though Jessica Alba is still not convincing as an actress she certainly wiggles very nicely and looks great in chaps, not something you can say about all women.

Sin City will leave you reeling and unsure whether to laugh or recoil in horror, and it’ll stay with you for weeks.

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