I remember in the early 90’s when I first saw Frank Miller’s breakthrough Sin City graphic novel. It was a dark, violent, seedy look at life in a particularly bleak city where all of the characters, good or bad, were a brilliant shade of gray. I was blown away by the brilliant use of black and white. I had never seen that before…it looked as if he started with a black page then painted it with white. The use of positive and negative space was amazing.
And then the read itself, with the gritty, quick talking pulpish – film noir dialogue and narrating…it was just awesome. I remember thinking at some point down the road that maybe Sin City could be made into a movie, but it would have to be animated to really do it justice.
Well, all these years later, director Robert Rodriguez convinced Frank Miller that his wonderful books could indeed be brought to the screen; A literal page for page translation using live actors and a lot of green screen, co-directors Rodriguez and Miller and have indeed succeeded in doing just that.
A stellar cast was assembled for this endeavor. There are basically three leads, Mickey Rourke as Marv, Bruce Willis as Hartigan, and Clive Owen as Dwight. Their three stories are entwined, but just barely, the gritty city itself the common ground. (And a seedy little club called “Kadies” and some it’s employees show up in all three stories as well). Also in the film are the likes of Rosario Dawson, Jamie King, Jessica Alba, Powers Boothe, Elijah Wood, Benicio Del Toro, Rutger Hauer, Devon Aoki, Nick Stahl, and Carla Gugino.
God Bless Carla Gugino. Damn.
Everybody is good, but Mickey Rourke’s gritty, raspy voice over steals the show. As the maniacal brute with a surprisingly good heart Marv, he does a great job of conveying the character’s raw emotions. Elijah Wood and Devon Aoki do a great job with out saying a word. Rosario Dawson’s intensity is hard to beat, and Del Toro’s sliminess is absolutely palpable. But really, everybody does a great job. Sure, Carla Gugino really stands out to me, but that’s just my pervitude speaking.
I think the real star of Sin City is Robert Rodriguez. He found a way to make this as faithful as possible. He merely used the actual pages of the book for both dialogue and visuals. He also famously quit the Director’s Guild of America in order to bring on Miller as a co-director, as stunning a show of faith as one could ever find in Hollywood. Plus he also brought in pal Quentin Tarantino as “special guest director”. Damn, this movie has it all.
I worry about how non-Sin City (the comic book) fans will receive this movie, but hopefully the great cast and the intriguing black and white (with occasional flashes of color) will be enough to pique mainstream America’s interest.
It is a flawed movie, but the good definitely out weighs that bad!