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2005, dir. Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino
126 min., Rated R.
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Clive Owen, Rutger Hauer, Nick Stahl, Powers Boothe, Elijah Wood, Benicio del Toro, Michael Clarke Duncan, Michael Madsen, Josh Hartnett
In the other corner: Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Jaime King, Devon Aoki, Brittany Murphy, Carla Gugino, Alexis Bledel

Review by Justin Patterson

Real life has been happening again, but with increased frequency. Again, I found the need to stop on the way home and escape for a bit. Last night was a doozy. I knew that someone had made Frank Miller's Sin City into a film. I'd seen the cardboard standups. One benefit to not (ever) watching television, though, is that I'd not seen any of the trailers. I only had a vague idea of who is in the film. I'd seen just enough to know that it really looked like the comic book. I thought that I would enjoy it, but I had no idea of what was to come.

But first: PREVIEWS! Yeah, I know you love this part.

First off, there were commercials. Yes, plural. There were three stinking commercials before we even got to the previews. Personally, I find myself wishing that the distribution companies would get their asses in gear and hire adequate representation. When they are subsidizing their bad business decisions by selling ad space before my movies, I get a little miffed. First, there was the "really, incredibly, totally cool" Adidas commercial that wore out its welcome after the first twelve times that I saw it. Next was the amusing but really stupid Verizon spot that features celebrities who opt to miniaturize themselves. The only thing that made it amusing this time is that I kept having pictures of Rosie O'Donut starring in the commercial run through my head. Last was a Sprite commercial featuring some NBA player racing against some blaxploitation-era action figure to get the last bottle.

The Amityville Horror - I had heard that a remake was being done of this, now that Hollywood is remaking every adequate horror film that has ever been done. It actually looks pretty sweet. Ryan Reynolds (of deserved Van Wilder fame) stars as America's most irresponsible father. It's a good story that looks to be made even better by the advances in film technology. I'll have to check this one out.

Domino - Winona Ryder as a bounty hunter. Um. I would offer up something glib like "Okay, catch me please!" except that she looks like a complete skank as a blonde. The movie does also have Delroy Lindo, Mickey Rourke, Lucy Liu and a few others, so I might check it out at the dollar movie.

War of the Worlds - Still angry that John Travolta beat him to making the Scientology recruitment film Battlefield Earth, Tom Cruise stars in this. . . thing. Dollar movie.

Revenge of the Sith - I'm still geek enough - despite the sophomoric farce that was Attack of the Clones - that I'll see this one right when it comes out. It's either going to be good, or the guy who cut the trailer really deserves a raise.

"Walk down the right back alley in Sin City, and you can find anything..."

I don't know what I was expecting when I came in to see this movie. I had read some of the Sin City stuff back in the nineties, but it didn't really stay with me all that well. I've slept since then. I remembered enough that it had made an impression. Coming out of this film, my brain kept paraphrasing something that Chad Shonk had said of Kill Bill: this movie will rock your motherfucking socks off.

Chances are, you've at least seen a snippet of the film. As the fifth movie shot with a completely virtual background - only the actors are real, most of the time - this movie managed to effectively blur the lines between comic and film. Take any frame of the film and lay it out flat, and it would look like a panel from the comic. The whole film noir idea is shown at its finest, accented by the brief flecks of color thrown into what is an otherwise monochrome world.


I'll start with Marv. Mickey Rourke plays Marv, the first truly good role that Rourke has pulled off in more than a decade. Marv is the biggest, baddest, most unstable SOB in Basin City. For the first time in his life, a beautiful woman chose to depend on him. He wakes up next to her dead corpse in the morning, police sirens blaring outside, as he realizes that he's been framed for her murder. Marv is truly a force of nature as he decides to kill as many people as he needs to in order to find the person who killed Goldie and make him pay. Slowly.

"There is no settling down! This is blood for blood and by the gallons. This is the old days, the bad days, the all or nothing days!"

Mickey Rourke really impressed me, here. I don't know if he had read the books or not, but he fit into this part like it was made for him. He does a great job conveying the hurt, the power, the single-minded intensity of a very bad man looking to do some harm to someone who hurt his woman.

"I love hitmen. No matter what you do to them, you don't feel bad."


Bruce Willis is Hartigan, an involutarily-retired cop with a bad ticker. Trying to close out his last case, he's pursuing a man who rapes and kills girls. That man is the son of a senator, and Hartigan knows that the world is against him. This is the kind of character that Willis plays so well, the underdog who has to dig in and find that last reserve in order to just . . . keep . . . going. Though it wasn't his greatest performance on record, his portrayal of Hartigan was definitely on. If dogged determination to do the right thing had a spokesman, Hartigan would be it.

"An old man dies. A young woman lives. Fair trade."


Clive Owen is Dwight, a man with a shady past who is simply dating the wrong girl. His girlfriend Shellie has a bad old boyfriend who won't leave her alone. Dwight decides to make sure that the bad man leaves everybody alone. After making sure that the bad man won't hurt anyone again, Dwight finds out the worst news possible: this ex-boyfriend is a cop. The cops left the working girls in Old Town alone, so long as the cops who occasionally ventured in weren't seriously harmed. Now, Dwight has to keep anyone from finding out what happened to the cop. If he doesn't, the truce in Old Town will be over and a lot of girls will get hurt.

"It's time to prove to your friends that you're worth a damn. Sometimes that means dying, sometimes it means killing a whole lot of people."


Elijah Wood is Kevin. We don't know a lot about Kevin, even when his story is all said and done. He looks like Harry Potter crossed with Peter Parker and Charlie Brown. He moves like greased lightning. He kills and eats people. He doesn't speak. Ever.

You know, this is really kind of a bit part. There's not a whole lot to it. Why, then, does this stick in the memory like the Smurfs theme? Is it because it's Frodo playing a bad guy? No. It's because Elijah Wood can be a scary little bastard. Seeing the blissful and contented look on his face as he moves, as he slashes, as he's being eaten by his own wolf . . . it's just creepy as hell. Not bad for a guy whose last horror role saw him getting racked on the flagpole in front of his high school.


Nick Stahl plays almost two roles in this movie. We see him as Roark Jr., son of a powerful senator and sexual predator. We see him playing with Hartigan and taunting him, right up until Hartigan takes away his weapons. Both of 'em. We see him again as the same guy in a new form, as the treatments used to regenerate his body have had mild side effects. He has the head of a Ferenghi and is schoolbus yellow. Still up to his old tricks, he is the man who manages to drive Hartigan to look for that last reservoir of strength and will.

This isn't the greatest role that Stahl has ever had - that would be Carnivale - but he does an adequate job of getting the point across. He turns himself into every parent's worst nightmare, and then into a comic-book caricature of that same man.

"You recognize my voice you piece of shit cop? I look different but I bet you can recognize my voice."


Rosario Dawson is Gail, a working girl who takes care of her friends. She's the pig in Old Town's Animal Farm of equals, a woman full of so much fire that it can consume those around her. She has a past with Dwight, and the fire between the two of them is as obvious and destructive as can be. When the problems between Dwight and the cop spill into Old Town, its to Gail that everyone must answer. Dawson does a remarkable job as Gail, finally playing a character that doesn't closely resemble all of the other characters that she has played. She is also dressed for work and play, and looks so good that it actually hurts. What is it about scantily-clad women with guns?


Jessica Alba is Nancy, a woman on the run from her past. Yippee. While she does okay, the main thing that people take away from Alba's performance is that, in a movie filled with scantily-clad women and partial nudity, you damned sure won't get a peek. For a stripper, she sure doesn't show much. Truth to tell, she looked more alluring in that angel outfit in Idle Hands.

"Skinny little Nancy Callahan. She grew up. She filled out."


Devon Aoki is Miho, the last-ditch enforcer of the rules of Old Town. Wisely, she was given relatively few (maybe no) lines. This almost atones for her 2 Fast 2 Furious crap. I enjoy the irony in the fact that the daughter of the founder of Benihana appears to be so deadly with the blades.

"She doesn't quite chop his head off. She makes him a PEZ dispenser."


This movie is filled with all of this and more. Rutger Hauer shows up as a bishop and friend of Kevin's. Powers Boothe plays the powerful senator. Brittany Murphy is Dwight's bad girlfriend du jour. Michael Clarke Duncan is Manute, the man arranging for the police takeover of Old Town. Jaime King is both Goldie and Wendy, doing an adequate job of being the wronged symbol of what is right and good for the twisted Marv. Benicio del Toro a pretty good, though not really noteworthy, job as the bad cop who winds up on Dwight's bad side. As a surprise, one of my favorite performances in the film belongs to . . . Josh Hartnett?! It was his performance in Robert Rodriguez's short film that got Frank Miller to sign on with the film, and it's quirky and well-timed and appropriately dated.

Frank Miller. Robert Rodriguez. Quentin Tarantino. It's going to take a lot to top the cinema genius that went into this baby. Even if you hate the actors or the comic aspect or the shots, go see this movie. The incredible craftsmanship that went into it is palpable and consistent. It is well made and I loved it and I'm going to see it again.


"The wind rises electric. She's soft and warm and almost weightless. Her perfume is sweet promise that brings tears to my eyes. I tell her that everything will be all right; that I'll save her from whatever she's scared and take her far far away. I tell her that I love her. The silencer makes a whisper of the gunshot. I hold her close until she's gone. I'll never know what she was running from. I'll cash her check in the morning."


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