Quentin Tarantino (special guest director)
Jessica Alba……….Nancy Callahan
Bruce Willis……….John Hartigan
Benicio Del Toro……….Jack Rafferty
Michael Clarke Duncan……….Manute
Josh Hartnett……….The Salesman
Nick Stahl……….Junior/Yellow Bastard
Marley Shelton……….The Customer
If there’s one thing Robert Rodriguez does better than almost any director working today, its action movies. From his earliest venture in the three Mariachi movies (El Mariachi, Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico) to his biggest commercial success with the Spy Kids trilogies, Rodriguez has a certain flair for dramatic action that is hard to duplicate. The one thing that his movies often feature is a breakneck pace, fluid action sequences and a story-telling pace that sometimes can be a detriment to the base material. His movies are fun and good, but in terms of being able to make the leap from making good to great movies he’s always been right on the edge of becoming a great film-maker and not just a great action movie maker. He’s just needed something to push him over that edge.
Sin City is that something.
Sin City is really three different stories taking place at around the same point in time in Basin City. Based off of Frank Miller’s graphic novel series, Sin City follows three of the stories Miller told. Filmed in front of a blue screen with only several actual objects, the film is almost entirely created off of computer effects. And the three stories it tells come out spectacularly, with shockingly brutal violence.
The Hard Goodbye features Mickey Rourke as Marv seeking vengeance for the woman he loved. Marv spends the night with Goldie (Jaime King, also playing her twin sister Wendy) and she winds up dead in his arms and the cops swarming his residence under the impression he killed her. What follows is an epic tale of vengeance as he goes off to find her killer.
The Big Fat Kill follows, and this story features Clive Owen as Dwight and Benicio Del Toro as Jackie Boy. Jackie Boy is a police officer looking for a good time. He tries to find it with Shellie, his ex, but Dwight will have nothing of it. He follows him out of Shellie’s and into Old Town, where Jackie strikes the wrath of the prostitutes that run it (led by Dwight’s old flame Gail, played by Rosario Dawson).
The Yellow Bastard is the final piece of the movie. Bruce Willis is John Hartigan, a cop who saves the life of 11 year old Nancy Callahan from Junior (Nick Stahl), a pedophile protected on high by his family. Eight years pass and Hartigan meets up 19 year old Nancy (Jessica Alba), an exotic dancer, and Junior is back to finish what Hartigan stopped years ago.
Two things stand out about this movie: the seamless meshing of the background and the actors, and the movie’s use of colors and violence.
While the first attempt at creating a movie like this, last summer’s Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, featured a cast unsure of how to react without scenery and hampering the movie, Sin City takes this error and corrects it with spectacular results. The cast are completely at ease despite having no backgrounds to base their movements on. They are in the world of Basin City, not just in front of a screen. It is fluid, it is steady and it is natural.
The key to the movie is its’ use of color and violence. Filmed in black and white (like the graphic novels), Sin City uses its’ few instances of color to make that particular moment shine. Marv thinks highly of Goldie, and we get this by the way he shows her. Goldie is always in color, always looking like the angel he views her as. Her twin, Wendy, is in black and white, and becomes color once more when she tells Marv to think of her as Goldie. Rodriguez uses color in this way, using it as his illumination. The movie’s violence is its’ trademark, but the use of color is used to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. We know when someone’s death means more; its’ shown more vividly and the blood is various shades of red and yellow (as opposed to the grays and whites).
This movie is alternately stomach-churning and brilliant. The violence is completely over the top, and yet at the same time the movie doesn’t function as purely a violent spectacle. Basin City is a violent place and these are people doing what they have to do to get their means accomplished. Violence is a necessary part of survival for the characters and while it is shocking and revolting in some instances, it is wholly necessary and incredibly well done. Rodriguez has honed his ability to do action sequences, and this is a much more refined violence than in earlier films like From Dusk ’til Dawn and Desperado. It’s not as stylized, but the violence is more meaningful.