Comic Icon Frank Miller, who nearly single-handedly reinvented Batman in the 1980's (metamorphosing the comic from camp kitsch to darkened psychoanalytical Freudian nightmare kind of stuff), once created a place called Basin City, or Sin City to all those that are unlucky enough to dwell there. A film noirish kind of place full of crooked politicians, gun-toting hookers, child-raping monsters, flesh-eating freaks and every other kind of scum of the Earth and lost wayward soul that Miller's quite twisted brain could manufacture. To paraphraze old Samuel Spade - it's the stuff nightmares are made of.
With the assistance of an extremely dedicated Robert Rodriguez (he ripped up his DGA card in order to allow Miller co-directing credit) - as well as a helping hand from Rodriguez' buddy Quentin Tarantino (who guest directs one scene) - Miller has finally seen his cult comic book make it to the big screen. Saturated with a splashy haze of black & white-esque "colour" (along with even splashier blazes of reds and yellows and blues), Rodriguez and Miller have created a film that looks more like a comic book than any other past comic-adaptation live-action attempt (Ang Lee's Hulk would be the distant runner-up, at least visually). The film, which is actually three inter-connected films in one, although not as interlocking to the nth power as Tarantino or Wong Kar-wai have managed, looks like an artistic orgasm that nobody has cleaned off the bedsheets yet.
Full of flamboyantly over-the-top performances from the likes of Bruce Willis, Clive Owen, Rosario Dawson, Alexis Bledel, Jessica Alba, Elijah Wood, Nick Stahl, Michael Clark Duncan, Rutger Hauer, Brittany Murphy, Jamie King, Benicio Del Toro and a surprisingly enjoyable Mickey Rourke (when was the last time you could say that!?). Everything is packed together in a thinly-layered surface-dwelling visionfest - something the overtly visual Rodriguez can always manage, even if his stories go no deeper than their flashy tatooed skeins. Just look at the ultra-stylized emptiness of Once Upon a Time in Mexico. At least Miller is here this time, to deepen the load, literarily speaking - at least as deep as a comic book sensibility can travel.
Overflowing with a visceral carniverousness, Sin City, although dragging on too long and not incorporating enough of the potential crossover storytelling between the three tales, is a stunning attempt at melding comic and cinema into one orgiastic being. [04/03/05]
Notes on seeing Frank Miller's Sin City a second time:
All the pulp sensibilities are still there, as are all the twelve-year-old-boy flesh fantasies of Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson and Brittany Murphy, and all the dime-store detective novel dialogue is still as cheesy - and as refreshingly maudlin - as I remember them, but what is also blaringly evident from this second viewing (on dvd, on big screen home theatre), is the sui generis quality associated with a once-and-done viewing. Pretty as a pulp chicken with its head chopped off, spewing forth multi-coloureral blood all about the farm yard, Sin City, is still nothing more than the sum of its parts - a sum that equals style over substance with a fucking vengence. A style that is all Rodriguez - if ya ain't got a story, than dazzle 'em with all the bells & whistles you can jam into two (overlong) hours of moviemaking. As for an over-view of my re-view, I'm sticking with my original rating of 64, for the sheer eye-candy of the original go-around, but having learned the valuable lesson of being more careful in my re-watching of something as trepeditiously on-the-fence as Frank Miller's Sin City, in the future, I may choose to stay away from repeat viewings of anything that packs wallop over wit whenever possible. [08/19/05]