“A film so dense and two-dimensional that it feels like a two-hour trailer” – Daulton Dickey
Bruce Willis, Benecio del Toro, Rosario Dawson, Elijah Wood, Josh Hartnett, Jessica Alba
A successful adaptation of a literary, or in the case of “Frank Miller’s Sin City,” a comic book, property, requires a jeweler’s precision and a master craftsman’s experience. Balancing an adaptation is always a precarious situation; one must strike the right note between maintaining the essence and integrity of the piece while transforming it into a viable, and true, cinematic experience. Straying too far from the source material usually ends in disaster. There are times when certain properties are changed so drastically that the die-hard fans of the source material are lost and alienated. Yet when the creators are too faithful to the material, it feels less like a movie and more like a book on tape—the first two “Harry Potter” movies are a good example, while the third film strikes a good balance between cinematic and literary.
With “Frank Miller’s Sin City” co-directors Robert Rodriquez and Frank Miller stay so true to the source material that no considerations are made for the movie going audience. True, Miller, who any comic fan will know wrote and illustrated the various comics on which this film is based, would want to stay as true to his material as possible, but the question one should ask is: at what cost?
What we get here are three anthologies cut in the mold of old Warner Brothers film noir movies that, like the comics, owe a heavy influence to Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Mickey Spillane. We’re treated to gritty, hardcore characters; flawed men and women thrown into spectacular circumstances, complete with gritty voice-over narration and stark contracts between light and shadow.
But unlike film noir of yesteryear, “Frank Miller’s Sin City” treats us to a film so obsessed with its source material that it becomes increasingly harder to sit through as the film progresses. What we have here isn’t a movie in the traditional sense, but an illustrated comic book; a cold and empty film that relies solely on its aesthetic principles. While it may be visually stunning for the first thirty minutes or so, its style becomes too burdensome and the awe factor wears thin fairly quickly.
In “Sin City,” we are treated to three stories linked by the notorious city. Marv (played by Mickey Rourke) is an ugly brute of a man on a mission to avenge the death of Goldie, the only woman who’s ever cared for him. On a highly stylized rampage, he tracks her killer to a farm and discovers that this man (played by Elijah Wood) is a fast-footed mute who kills his pray and eats them.
The second story has a Clive Owen as a man protecting his girlfriend against her maniacal ex-boyfriend (Benecio del Toro). All hell breaks loose when he tracks the vicious killer to a town run by violent prostitutes.
Lastly, we have a story starring Bruce Willis as a cop wrongfully imprisoned for murdering and molesting children. In reality the savior of a molested child, and the mutilator of the molested, he is released from prison to discover that the child he saved, now 19 (played by Jessica Alba) and a stripper, is once again the target of a vicious yellow man bent on revenge.
These are tales so hard boiled that the word hard becomes key here. As a whole the film is monotonous, the characters woefully two dimensional and reacting solely to the events occurring, and the narration, which is plentifully, is so gritty and monotonous that it begins to grate on one’s nerves after a while.
And what “Sin City” lacks in substance it makes up for in style. Shot almost entirely in green screen, the movie is little more than an animated film that just happens to star living breathing actors. Presented in black and white with occasional splashes of color, the film looks and feels like a visual comic book, so much so that it becomes a distraction.
Ultimately, we’re treated to a film so dense and two-dimensional that it feels like a two-hour trailer. It is flat, cold, and empty. Pretty, sure, but excessive style doesn’t make up for substance. And “Sin City,” though visually dazzling, is a sad example of style over substance and the current trend in which our culture applauds such movies. How one can give a movie such as “Sin City” five stars based solely on its style is beyond this reviewer. But that’s the world we’re living in. Good movies fall to the wayside while mediocrity rules the day. But then again, we have become a society that increasingly adores mediocrity; a society that has given Michael Bay, Paul W.S. Anderson, and Uwe Boll careers while dismissing films by Spike Jonze, P.T. Anderson, and Wes Anderson, to name a few. Sure critics and cinephiles love them, but when it comes to the masses they’ll take style over substance any day of the week. So it’s little surprise that we’ll be seeing two sequels to “Frank Miller’s Sin City” in the coming years. After all, a movie this devoid of substance was destined to become a blockbuster in our current brainless climate.
The only thing on the DVD is a brief behind-the-scenes promo that isn’t – though obviously we have – even worth mentioning. The juicy multi-disc set will probably come out later in the year.
Reviewer : Daulton Dickey