I expected Sin City to be ultraviolent (and maybe even ultraviol-et), and I expected that it would look like a moving comic book. I expected the cast to wow me. All of this I was ready for. But I wasn’t ready to enjoy it quite as much as I did, nor to find myself thinking about it again and again over the next week. There was simply much more to Sin City than I ever dreamed.
First, the film is captured by a narrative thread — or rather, threads. We hear the entire film, which consists of many smaller stories, in voiceover with only moments in actual onscreen dialogue. This is not a problem, but it did surprise me. An easy adjustment to make.
Second, the “stars” of the film are really just ensemble players. While Bruce Willis was featured prominently in the film’s advertising, he is really just a bookend character. We begin with Hartigan, we end with him. The stories in between tell different tales entirely, yet the central thread between them is the city and its social dynamic. I loved this aspect. I admired Robert Rodriguez for sticking to what he does best, making an ensemble a true ensemble and telling many stories at once without sacrificing a single character. He completely pulled it off and with grand style. No one character dominated the film, yet all of the city’s inhabitants are memorable.
Mickey Rourke is spectacular. He owns this film more than any other character, I believe. His is the heart of the piece. Everyone who comes into play as a result of his character is more alive than without him. And I easily forgot I was watching Mickey Rourke. He was Marv, and that’s all I saw.
Same with Clive Owen. Though I love this actor for everything I see onscreen and offscreen, I could easily let Owen’s character of Dwight shadow the man behind him. And he’s my favorite in the film because of the character alone. He’s tormented, burdened, aggressive, and even a little mirthful. Dwight kept the movie accessible for me, and his scenes are the ones I replay in my mind. [Rosario Dawson, though I had great hopes for her, was simply a catalyst for Dwight. I was a bit disappointed in that.]
There were not many surprises for me in Sin City. Even Elijah Wood’s sadistic Kevin didn’t shock me; rather, I took each new character and situation in stride. The beauty of the film is that you can’t help but watch, you can’t help but root for one or the other characters. The violence is so stylized that it doesn’t overwhelm, and the visual is so stunning that you can’t believe every film isn’t created in the same manner. It’s an experience. An event. And I can’t wait to see what Rodriguez and Frank Miller will do for the sequels.
seen at Cinemark Town Center, Sherman – April 1, 2005