Robert Rodriguez & Frank Miller
with special guest director: Quentin Tarantino
Bruce Willis……….John Hartigan
Jessica Alba…………Nancy Callahan
Benicio Del Toro……….Jack Rafferty
Michael Clarke Duncan…………Manute
Nick Stahl……….Junior/Yellow Bastard
Josh Hartnett……….The Salesman
There are certain comic book properties that were presumably impossible to bring to the screen. In most cases, the books are so vast in scope or detail, that a two hour movie would be a vain attempt in bringing the artist and writer’s vision to the screen. One can see the folly in these attempts as From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen were both amazing in graphic novel form, but in each case when they got to the screen all that was left were the bare bones of a Hollywood production. Perhaps film makers were confused as to how to deal with the properties as they featured heroes from the page and panel, but there was nary a cape in sight.
Hope for trying to bring a faithful adaptation came with the news of director Robert Rodriguez taking on Frank Miller’s Sin City. One could hardly keep excitement in check as rumors flew around of test footage that blew Miller out of water as he finally relented in letting a director take on one of his most prized works. Expectations got even higher as Rodriguez was so determined to not only do the project, but to include Miller in ever facet of the production so as to bring the author’s exact vision to the screen that he quit the director’s guild when they refused to allow a co-director credit for the author.
Upon seeing the film, those expectations were met in full. The three Sin City stories in this movie are nearly exactly what they were on the page. Hardly any details were left out of The Hard Goodbye; the story of Marv, a three time loser that finds the woman of his dreams and then loses her in the same night as he is framed for her murder. Mickey Rourke looks as if he jumped out of the panels of Dark Horse Presents #51 as his Marv tears through the Sin City underworld looking for the killer of his angel of mercy. Elijah Wood is a perfect representation of Kevin, with his creepy look of contentment and his deadly use of fingernails.
This is the best of the three sections as Roarke’s Marv is a one man wrecking crew of violence and humor. Roarke’s makeup is also every bit as good as Ron Perlman’s was when he brought Hellboy to life. But without a great performance, the makeup would mean nothing. Roarke gives a real soul to Marv and makes you root for him him right up until the end.
The next section, The Big Fat Kill features a smoldering performance by Clive Owen, as Dwight McCarthy, a murderer on the run with a new face. Things gets bad for Dwight when he saves his new girlfriend from Jack Rafferty, played brilliantly by Benicio Del Toro. Jack goes berserk after the altercation and goes looking for trouble. Jack finds it with the girls of Old Town, an army of prostitutes that give out exactly what you want as long as you can pay. The girls can also dish out the pain if you get out of line. Things go from worse to Hell after the girls dispatch Jack only to find out that he’s a Sin City police officer. Its up to Dwight to save the girls from a war with the cops, but not before the mob tries to cut in and take over.
Owen is on quite a roll after his amazing turn in Closer and now this. Owen imbues Dwight with pure charisma and charm. One can only hope that prducers of the Bond series see his two gun onslaught in this film and sign him to play 007 immediately. Del Toro absolutely disappears into Rafferty giving his audience his best role since The Usual Suspects. The scene with Jack and Dwight in the car as our antihero hallucinates his dead adversary talking to him could have come off completely over the top and cringe worthy, but instead is a masterstroke of humor and tension. It helps that the scene was directed by Quentin Tarantino.
The last portion of the film, That Yellow Bastard is the most epic in scope of any of the Sin City stories. Bastard is the story of Hartigan, played by Bruce Willis. On the last day before his retirement, he saves a young girl named Nancy from the clutches of a perverted Junior, played by Nick Stahl. Hartigan is framed for the girls rape by Junior’s vengeful father Senator Roark, played with vile intensity by Powers Boothe. After an eight year stint in solitary, Hartigan confesses to everything when he is made to think that Roark has found Nancy. Upon his release, Hartigan is both relieved and terrified to learn that Nancy is fine, but that he has lead a now resurrected Junior right to her. Junior, now completely covered in yellow, chases Nancy and Hartigan with a fierce determination., all the way to a showdown at the Roark family farm. A place now as infamous in cinematic history as it is in comics.
Sin City is not only the best film of Rodriguez’s career, but is the best film based on a comic book since the adaptations started rolling in with X-Men, including Spiderman 2, Road to Perdition and Hellboy. It is the most faithful adaptation brought to screen of any comic book ever. The movie is a masterful achievement in direction, art direction, and makeup. The picture might just be that next evolutionary step to bringing an altogether different world to the screen.
Created entirely on soundstages and bluescreens, Sin City is everything that Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow wanted to be. The picture is like a clinic on how to show lighting and shadows to its fullest effect. Basin City comes to life in a way that that has never been fully attempted before.
The film also has its baser pleasures. Carla Gugino is a work of art as Lucielle. Her nude scenes are some of the best that have been in multiplexes in ages. Gugino brings her A-game and the last thing you will think of while she is on screen is Spy Kids. Jaime King is also worth the obsession Marv bestows on in the film. Her Goldie is indeed the kind of woman men dream of and would die for. As the leader of the Old Town Girls, Rosario Dawson is a sultry temptress as Gail. She is of the highest caliber in both terms of beauty and danger. While Jessica Alba is not as nude as Nancy is in the comics (as in not nude at all), her Nancy is every bit as innocent as she should be. Alba could have really hampered the film in, but she steps up here to show she can be a real actress when the time comes.
The beasts are every bit as good as the beauties are in this picture. I’m sad that Marv did not get an entire film himself or that film makers chose not to adapt A Dame to Kill For, Miller’s second book which featured both Dwight and Marv on a team-up rampage. Early reports have said that Rodriguez plans to adapt every piece of Sin City, and that would eventually have an awesome matchup Roarke’s Marv against Micheal Clarke Duncan’s Manute, who shows up in all his evil glory to threaten the Old Town girls in The Big Fat Kill.Bruce Willis is also in top form in the picture, playing Hartigan as if John McClane had turned 60 with a vengeance.