Take a Drink: for each stylish moment
Take a Drink: whenever Miho is on screen, something badass is bound to happen
Do a Shot: during each gruesome death scene
By: Matt Conway (Two Beers) –
Within a little more than a decade, superheroes have exploded into popularity, with many of the these superhero brands spawning into mega hits for both Marvel and DC. Yet, non-superhero graphic novels have seemingly stayed the underdog, with very little of these properties really breaking out on the big screen. There have been many film adaptations of graphic novels like Watchmen, V for Vendetta, History of Violence, and Kick-Ass that recived quite a bit of praise from critics and audiences alike. However, the box office numbers do not correspond with these films’ audience reaction, with most of these flicks being considered box office disappointments.
One of the very few to break out was Sin City. Based off a great Frank Miller graphic novel, this neo-noir film was not only a success with critics (hovering around 80% on Rotten Tomatoes), but audiences also supported it, with the film earning over 150 million dollars worldwide. With the sequel Sin City: A Dame to Kill For finally being released this week (which I happen to be reviewing as well), it felt like a just time to revisit what is widely regarded as one of the best graphic novel adaptations of recent memory. Thankfully, Sin City hold quite well, still being a stylish exercise in fun.
Sin City follows three main arcs. A street thug named Marv goes on a desperate mission to get revenge for the girl he loves, a honest cop Hartigan sets out on a mission to protect a girl from his past, and Dwight is a man caught up in the rivalry between the mafia and a district named Sin City.
Perhaps the most obviously impressive aspect of Sin City is the look of the film. Even compared to the massive budget of other flicks, Sin City still is one of the best-looking films even today, which is even more impressive with its smaller budget. The largely black and white colors contrast beautifully, along with cinematographer and director Robert Rodiguez capturing some gruesome, yet beautiful moments. The visual aesthetics here perfectly capture the neo-noir vibe the film is going for throughout, and still has me awe-struck today.
Boosting these visuals even more is the directing skill behind the camera. Rodriguez and Frank Miller himself teamed together here, and do a fabulous job with this partnership. Both have an obvious love for the graphic novel this is based on, and do a great job paying attention to the details. The two also create an alive and amplified flick, with the film moving at a fast clip and having a provocative energy throughout. While Rodriguez is hit or miss as far as directing goes, Sin City will always be his shinning achievement as a director.
Style is nothing without substance, however, and the latter comes together due to an engaging story. Adapted by Rodriguez and Miller (surprise), the duo due a nice job of turning a series of coming books into a two hour film. The stories are not the most complex set-ups in the world, but make for the perfect canvas for the fast and furious energy of the film. While some of the arcs are better than the others, all three are engaging and interesting in their own respective way, and even have their fair share of surprising twists and turns.
The cast here is game. Sin City features one of the biggest casts for a graphic novel adaptation, with there being many actors who lend their talents, almost too many to list. The standouts have to be Mickey Rourke and Bruce Willis. Both actors get a chance to really chew the scenery here, especially Rourke who shows extreme dedication to his badass role in the film. Other actors such as Clive Owen, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, and Elijah Wood shine in their roles in the film as well, and make the most of their limited screen time.
One aspect of the story that does not come together very well still are the two vignettes that start and end the film. Staring Josh Hartnett as a contract killer, both of these scenes have very little purpose other than depicting the cruel nature of the city itself, which is already shown throughout the rest of the film. To me, both of these scenes feel just kind of pointless, and their presence hurts the film, as ending the film on scenes that actually involved the three main arcs in the story would have been overall more effective.
Sin City also has some aspects from the graphic novel that do not translate as well in the film. Some of these, such as long monologues featuring noir-inspired writing and cheeky dialogue come off as corny in the film itself. Both Miller and Rodriguez give an honest effort at translating some of the dialogue so that it translates better to film, yet some of the writing in the film still comes off as unintentionally silly at times.
Nearly a decade after its release, Sin City still holds up as a great visual achievement that features some great performances and high energy. Even with some of its flaws, it’s one of the best graphic novel to film adaptations made, which leaves me very much excited for Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.