WARNING: This film contains graphic stylized violence including torture, as well as sexuality/nudity, coarse language, and disturbing themes.
Only a sick and twisted mind could conceive of the warped stories that are found in the graphic novel series Sin City. Frank Miller is just such a mind. His morbid fascinations with corrupt authority figures, hypocritical religions, sleazy yet strong-willed women, and violent anti-heroes are thrust into the spotlight in his work. With his comic books and graphic novels, we are given a disturbing glimpse into his worldview. His characters are tainted with cynicism, darkened by madness, haunted by guilt, plagued by lust, and drenched in blood. Naturally his stories have been a commercial success despite their controversial subject matter, so it's no surprise that Hollywood producers, directors, and writers have sought to adapt them into films. This is something Frank Miller has always been reluctant to allow... up until now that is. Filmmakers and friends, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino unite their perverse adolescent minds and together they bring Frank Miller's Sin City to vivid life in a stark and oppressing film, which will leave its viewers desiring a thorough shower in order to wash away the residue of the film's immoral characters (not to mention the combined residue of lustful sweat and vengeful blood).
Basin City, better known to its inhabitants as Sin City, is a shady underworld of crime and corruption. It's a place where crooked cops patrol the streets, where serial killers and sex offenders go free, where the church buries its own sins, and the noblest men are psychotic vigilantes. In this dog-eat-dog environment, only the strong survive and the pressures and strain of survival fracture the human psyche. No one is innocent, no one is pure and even Sin City's most charismatic denizens are scum. In this world diversion takes the form of strip bars and brothels, evil hides behind the mask of propriety, and revenge and redemption are the same.
The film is divided into three stories. They are:
1. Detective Hartigan has been tracking down a powerful senator's son, who kidnaps, rapes, and murders young girls. Hartigan is betrayed by another cop, his partner in fact, who is under the pay of the senator. Hartigan takes the fall for the senator's son only to protect one of the intended victims. Years later he is let out of jail and tries to save that same girl from the senator's wrath, but she has become a stripper and fallen in love with Hartigan, the man who once saved her. Soon Hartigan realizes that he was part of a plan to bring her out into the open where the senator's son can carry out his wicked desires.
2. Dwight is an enigmatic criminal with a soft spot for damsels in distress. When his new girlfriend is beaten up by her abusive ex, Dwight plans to teach him a lesson. Dwight chases him into the red light district where a band of vigilante prostitutes kills him, only to discover that he was a cop with a destructive ego. Now Dwight and the prostitutes must fend off corrupt officials and the mob in order to keep their territory to themselves.
3. Meanwhile Marv, a deformed schizophrenic brute, seeks bloody retribution after the woman he slept with is killed and he's framed for the murder. In his attempt to solve the mystery of her death and avenge her, he discovers a plot that leads to one of the city's most powerful families, corruption within the government, police force, and the church. He pulls off his brutal revenge but he ultimately pays the price in the end.
These three tales interlock like pieces to a sinister puzzle, each piece bringing the audience closer to the story's completion, showing us the seedy underbelly of Basin City from multiple perspectives.
Much like Pulp Fiction in its fragmented narrative, Sin City unfolds out of chronological order, which is perhaps the film's greatest flaw. However the film is boosted by the dramatic visual style of Miller, Rodriguez, and Tarantino who imbue it with the atmosphere of a 1940s noir film and the savage violence of 1970s action cinema. Most of the movie was shot against a green screen and then CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) artists created the surrounding environments. This made it possible for the filmmakers to replicate Frank Miller's graphic style; the high contrast black and white metropolis, the inverted shadows cast upon brick walls, the saturated red of blood splatters, and the golden yellow of a vixen's hair.
The morally ambivalent characters are brought to life by a talented ensemble cast including Jessica Alba, Devon Aoki, Alexis Bledel, Rosario Dawson, Benicio del Toro, Michael Clarke Duncan, Carla Gugino, Josh Hartnett, Rutger Hauer, Jaime King, Michael Madsen, Brittany Murphy, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Marley Shelton, Nick Stahl, Bruce Willis, and Elijah Wood.
The film won't appeal to everyone. It's gratuitous depictions of violence and sex are proof of that. However, if taken with a grain of salt, Sin City is an entertainingly over-the-top exploitation masterpiece that faithfully recreates Frank Miller's imaginative graphic novels.
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