It’s good to know that, while watching dross like Revenge of the Sith can make you wish the Lumière brothers just hadn’t bothered, there are still films like Sin City that remind you how good the medium can be.
Based on three comic-book stories by Frank Miller (The Hard Goodbye, The Big Fat Kill and That Yellow Bastard, plus The Customer is Always Right for the pre-credits opener), they’re shown here as interwoven vignettes, the cast turning up as major or minor characters depending on whose turn it is. The stories won’t win many awards for originality, but there’s a self-awareness of this, with nice sops to cliché such as Bruce Willis’ Detective Hartigan only one hour away from retirement before diving in to save a girl.
That there is one damn fine coat you’re wearin’.
As with the recent Sky Captain (which was also shot entirely in green-screen) Sin City is a film that can be watched for the sheer, visceral thrill of watching, not just for the beautifully-stylised way it’s been filmed but for the meaty performances given by most of the cast. Mickey Rourke is excellent as the giant Marv, out to avenge the death of a woman who was kind to him, Benicio Del Toro is his usual superb self as crooked cop Jackie Boy and Elijah Wood has never been more sinister as cannibal teen-killer Kevin. Nick Stahl competes with Elijah for the ‘Most Sinister’ trophy as deformed paeodphile Roark, Jr, but I think that Elijah takes it.
Honourable mentions ought to go to Bruce Willis who puts in his best Bruce Willis-style performance for a long time, Josh Hartnett is perfect as The Man, opening and closing the film, and it’s always good to see Rutger Hauer, even if he only gets a few moments of screen time here. On the downside, Michael Madsen seems uncomfortable with the whole thing and Clive Owen is never better than when he isn’t speaking. The Irish mercenaries are awful as well, with their ‘you’ve stolen me lucky charms!’ accents.
But it isn’t just about the looks and performances; the Spillanesque dialogue (which I assume is lifted straight from the original comics) is wonderful to listen to:
“The wind rises electric. She’s soft and warm and almost weightless. Her perfume is sweet promise that brings tears to my eyes. I tell her that everything will be all right; that I’ll save her from whatever she’s scared and take her far, far away. I tell her that I love her.”
I just can’t get enough of that.