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Break out the popcorn,  we've
got a classic on our hands

Sin City (2005)
Director: Robert Rodriguez

STATIC and FEEDBACK staff writer

Warning: I’ve read the comics (“graphic novels”,
dammit!!) that this film is based on and that will impact
my absolutely POSITIVE review.

I’ve been sitting on the fence for quite some time
regarding Robert Rodriguez. While his films have always
been technically exciting, they’ve also (with the exception
of the brilliant
El Mariachi) felt strangely unsatisfying.
Once Upon a Time in Mexico was a huge letdown for me.
It wasted a good cast (except for Johnny Depp, of course)
and its title allowed for comparisons with Sergio Leone’s
Once Upon a Time in the West that Rodriguez simply
couldn’t live up to.

Well, my doubts have been erased, because
Sin City is
the most exhilarating “popcorn” movie I’ve seen in years.
YEARS!! Is this Oscar material? No. Is it a movie any self-
respecting film lover should see? You better believe it!
I’ve been literally bursting with enthusiasm about this
movie for weeks and I can’t understand why it isn’t still number one after only four weeks in theaters, but that’s
another story.

First, some brief background information. The film actually has three directors. First, Rodriguez resigned from
the Directors Guild of America so that he could give Frank Miller (the mastermind behind the
Sin City comics) a
co-directing credit on the film (obviously, the DGA doesn’t allow co-directing credits on movies). For this,
Rodriguez will NEVER be eligible for a Best Director Academy Award…ever! THEN (almost out of protest to the
DGA), Rodriguez’s buddy Quentin Tarantino decided to direct a scene in the film, thus adding a third director’s
name to the credits as “special guest director”. Never mind the cheesy credit, QT’s scene is one of the best in
the film – and spotting it is part of the fun.

Tarantino’s involvement is hardly surprising. Neither is the fact that Rodriguez and Miller had their pick of the
most acclaimed and popular actors in Hollywood. If you remember nothing else from this review remember this:
Sin City is a visual landmark. There are images in this film you have never seen before, and they will stick with
you. I’ve been skeptical of computer-generated special effects for years. Even the impressive Matrix sequels left
me somewhat cold. But THIS film is amazing. You will forget you’re watching CGI, until you see something so
incredible that you’ll suddenly remember that NOTHING in this movie is real except for the actors!

And what terrific casting; you’ve never seen Elijah Wood like this before. Hell, you’ve never seen Nick Stahl (John
Connor from the tired T3) like this before! Both performances are nothing short of remarkable. And I haven’t even
gotten to the leads yet!  Mickey Rourke turns in a career-reviving performance; he’s the best thing in the movie.
Bruce Willis has been better, but he
looks so perfect in the role that we can forgive a few half-hearted line
readings – he’s still the king of macho righteousness. Clive Owen is probably the biggest surprise – he nails a
role that many fans of the comic protested his being cast in. All three performances are entirely deadpan, and
not very realistic, but that’s the point. It’s as if the film was a 1940’s film noir directed by Alfred Hitchcock (using
the modern technology of 2004) while exhibiting attitudes on sex, violence and religion that were most popular
during cinema’s Golden Age: the 1970’s.

At the top of the review I mentioned that my reading Miller’s stories before seeing the movie colored my
appreciation of it. Boy, did it ever. So,
Spiderman 2 is the best, most faithful comic-adaptation ever made? Not
anymore. Not by a long shot. And I’m a BIG Sam Raimi fan (though I’ll take the
Evil Dead films over Spidey any
day). Do yourself a favor and pick up Frank Miller’s
Sin City: The Hard Goodbye. It’s the first of the film’s three
stories (the Mickey Rourke one). Read it. Then, see the movie. After seeing it you’ll be rushing out to read the rest
of his series, I promise. I’ve
never seen a film follow a comic so faithfully and yet still work so extraordinarily well
as its own entity. Almost every memorable panel of the comic book has been faithfully re-created here; this film
is a companion-piece to the books. Rodriguez and Miller have literally done the impossible.

Finally, the film’s portrayal of women, the film’s only
arguable Achilles heel. Sure, the film’s stylized violence is
pretty graphic (
and deliberately unrealistic), but with the election over and Bush safely installed in Washington,
only Christian cuckolds like Michael Medved are unhip enough to care (even the puritanical Bill O’Reilly took a
pass at criticizing this movie). No, this time it’s chiefly feminists who have attacked the film for its “misogynist”
tendencies. I presume they’re objecting the fact that beautiful women are portrayed as (surprise!) BEAUTIFUL
WOMEN in this film (or that a lesbian is referred to as a “dyke” by a character that later kills at least
five people to
avenge her death). I should also mention that the love of a “special woman” provides the impetus for all three of
the film’s heroes; and in the eyes of Willis, Rourke, and Owen’s characters, love is the ONLY thing truly worth
living (and dying) for. Heck, this film depicts prostitutes protecting
themselves from sleazy rapists using swords,
machine guns, and rooftop (female) assassins! In my mind, forward-thinking films don’t get much more
progressive than that.

And for the record, anyone who takes this film seriously as a piece of anti-feminist criticism needs to lighten up
and realize they’ve been punk’d by Miller and Rodriguez anyway. Only the film’s attitudes about religion, politics,
and the dangers of a police state are intended to “stick” (and even THESE ideas are conveyed in a deliberately
absurd, tongue-in-cheek style). The rest is simply old-fashioned escapism (
Indiana Jones meets Pulp Fiction
with a touch of
Dick Tracy) intended to make you smile, jump, gasp and…see it again.

And you will. On DVD. Oh, how you will SEE this movie!!

But just remember – I was there first.

While Jim loved Sin City, Rachel Hodges hated it. What did you think?