Monday, November 12, 2012

Sin City


Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 1/4/06 w/ Additional Edits



Based on Frank Miller's graphic novel series, Sin City is a collection of stories set in a dark seedy world featuring many of its players as they defy the law and do all sorts of dastardly deeds. Written for the screen, produced, and directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller with special guest director Quentin Tarantino, Sin City is a dark, violent, gritty film that pushes the limits of the film noir genre. Using the same, digital style of his Spy Kids films, Rodriguez goes a look that is similar to Miller's graphic novels. Starring Rodriguez/Tarantino regulars like Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Josh Hartnett, Michael Madsen, Elijah Wood, and Carla Gugino plus Jessica Alba, Devon Aoki, Alexis Bledel, Rosario Dawson, Nick Stahl, Brittany Murphy, Jamie King, Marley Shelton, Rutger Hauer, Powers Boothe, Benicio del Toro, Clive Owen, and Michael Clarke Duncan. Sin City is a fast, powerful, in-your-face film that brings Frank Miller's vision to life.

It's a rainy night in Sin City as a mysterious man (Josh Hartnett) looks upon a woman (Marley Shelton) as she looks out on the rain. The mood sets for the night when a big, battered ex-convict named Marv (Mickey Rourke) is accused of killing a hooker he loved named Goldie (Jaime King). He escapes the cops as he flees into the home of his lesbian parole officer Lucille (Carla Gugino) for some pills. After stepping into the bar where dancing is a young stripper named Nancy (Jessica Alba) while a waitress named Shellie (Brittany Murphy) gives him a drink. Marv looks for answers on who killed Goldie as her twin Wendy is going after him. Marv goes to a farm where he finds a young, cannibalistic killer named Kevin (Elijah Wood) who works for the town's cardinal Roark (Rutger Hauer) whose brother (Powers Boothe) is a senator. After another escape from the cops, he turns to Wendy and her gang in the seedy section of Old Town as he gets help to seek vengeance on Goldie.

Meanwhile in that same bar, Shellie is trying to evade a violent madman named Jackie Boy (Benicio del Toro) who is trying to figure who is Shellie's new boyfriend who is a big man named Dwight (Clive Owen). Jackie Boy comes to her apartment where he meets Dwight and after a confrontation, Jackie Boy leaves as Dwight decides to go after him. Jackie Boy enters the world of Old Town which is run by venomous hookers led by the sexy Gail which includes the innocent Becky (Alexis Bledel) and the silent samurai Miho (Devon Aoki). After Jackie Boy and his gang try to sweet-talk Becky into coming with them, Miho kills the gang as Dwight and Gail watch. Then they learn a horrible secret about Jackie Boy that threatens a peace treaty between cops and the ladies of Old Town as Dwight tries to return Jackie Boy's body downtown which starts troubling since Jackie Boy is still alive. After encountering a group of Irish mercenaries, Dwight is delayed as Gail is suddenly being tortured by Manute (Michael Clarke Duncan) who is the leader of corrupt cops. With the help of Miho, Dwight evades the Irish mercenaries led by Brian (Tommy Flanagan) as he joins Gail for their war.

The last story involves a burnt-out cop named Hartigan (Bruce Willis) with a bad heart condition who is one-day away from retirement as he tries to rescue a young girl (Mackenzie Vega) from a troubled young man (Nick Stahl) who turned out to be the son of Senator Roark. Despite saving the young girl and wounding Roark's son, Hartigan is in the hospital but is forced to go to jail by the Senator unless he confesses to molesting the young girl. Though the girl who would become Nancy would write to him, trouble emerges eight years later when a creature in yellow appeared as Hartigan decides to bust out. With help from his former partner Bob (Michael Madsen), Hartigan goes to Sin City where he finds Nancy and the Yellow Bastard as Hartigan's promise to protect Nancy is underway.

Shot with digital cameras in Rodriguez's own studio in Austin with top visual effects equipment, this film is truly one of the most visually-inspiring movies to come out in many years. With its ode to the film-noir genre, the film is shot mostly in black-white with dabbles of color to appear. The directing by Rodriguez and Miller is definitely amazing in its ode to the film-noir genre while the violence and sex is very graphic which is true to Miller's vision. This film isn't for those with a bad ticker, it's a film where anything goes and the violence is very uncompromising. From its fast-paced camera angles to the visual effects that plays to the emotions of the films in its color. Many of those visual effects is credited to Rodriguez who not only serves as the cinematographer but editor as well. Rodriguez brings a unique black-and-white style of lighting that is a wonderful ode to film-noir while his editing is fast-paced and to the point while not being a distraction to the story.

If Rodriguez's ability as director, producer, editor, and cinematographer helps, so does his writing in his collaboration with Frank Miller. While the script starts off with an early segment featuring Josh Hartnett and Marley Shelton, the film really starts off with an early part of Hartigan's story with Roark. Then there is the dialogue where its approach is very stylized, it works to the genre. From the narration to the words that are spoken is a true ode to film noir. A lot of that credit goes to Frank Miller who uses the world of 1940s film noir to create an atmosphere that is true to the film while its tone adds excitement to the story. Each segment is filled with excitement where each of them on their own merits have fascinating moments but as a whole, it's brilliant. It's a testament to not just Frank Miller's talents but also Robert Rodriguez. Then there's Quentin Tarantino who does a great job in the Jackie Boy/Dwight car scene which shows a lot of Tarantino's humor as he returns a favor for Rodriguez as he directed that part for $1 which Rodriguez did in his score for Kill Bill Vol. 2 for $1.

Adding flair to the gritty look of Sin City is art director Jeanne Scott and set decorator David Hack along with visual effects supervisors Thierry Delattre and Richard Martin. The film's look shows a town in chaos where it's all authentic from its bar to the motels and everything in between. The visual effects are amazing in its mix of color and black-and-white backgrounds. Then we have the costumes by designer Nina Proctor who does a great job in not just the long trench coat jackets for the men as well as Dwight's Converse shoes but the clothing for the ladies which is filled with the punk-leather of the Old Town girls to the cowboy chaps that Nancy wears. Finally, there's the film score composed by Rodriguez, John Debney, and Graeme Revell that not only adds flair to the genre with its saxophone arrangements but the orchestral arrangements play to the film's wonderful action and dramatic scenes.

Finally, there's the film amazing cast that includes several fine small performances from Mackenzie Vega and Frank Miller as a priest in the Mickey Rourke segment. Josh Hartnett and Marley Shelton also do great work to the film' opening segment while veterans like Rutger Hauer and Powers Boothe do great job in their villainous roles. One of the strangest and memorable performances that deserves the term, "against type" is Elijah Wood as the silent, cannibal killer Kevin who delivers a performance that is clearly the anti-Frodo. Devon Aoki is also memorable as the silent but deadly Miho who brings an amazing presence to the film. Jaime King is excellent in her double duty as the slain hooker and her angry twin sister while Alexis Bledel is good as the innocent, charming young hooker Becky. Nick Stahl brings a creepy, venomous performance as Roark with his love for young girls and slithery demeanor. Michael Clarke Duncan is also good as the big man villain Manute. Michael Madsen is funny in his small role as Bruce Willis' partner while Tommy Flanagan is funny as an Irish mercenary.

Clive Owen delivers a great performance as the cool Dwight who shoots his guns and wears some cool Converse while Benicio del Toro is funny as the demented Jackie Boy. Rosario Dawson is hot, hot, hot as Gail with her fishnet, leather clothing and in-your-face attitude that gives the meaning of "girl power" to a new level. Brittany Murphy is also good as Shellie that is an ode to noir female characters while Jessica Alba is great as the stripper Nancy who knows how to move. Carla Gugino is great as the lesbian parole office who helps out Mickey Rourke while appearing in the film nude most of the time. Mickey Rourke delivers the film's best performance as Marv who is filled with confusion and doubts as he is battered and burnt out while delivering some of the coolest lines and moments throughout the entire film. Bruce Willis is also brilliant as the cop with a bad heart, Hartigan in a heroic performance that proves that Willis still have what it takes to be a hero.

The 2005 one-disc DVD that presents the film in its widescreen format ratio and 5.1 Dolby Digital and DTS sound is great but for fans of Rodriguez's films, it's disappointing. Only because it has a 10-minute TV feature on the making-of the film which includes interviews with cast members, Rodriguez, Miller, and Tarantino.

***Added on 6/21/06, the 2-Disc Version of Sin City***

While the one-disc DVD for Sin City may be for those who just want to see the movie. In December of 2005, a brand-new two-disc set for the film has something that not just fans of the film wanted but has all the elements that co-director Robert Rodriguez has done with his DVDs. For this special edition, two-disc deluxe edition of the film, Rodriguez presents the film in two different versions. One is the theatrical version in all of its glory and a second disc featuring the film separated in its four different segments all extended with over 20 minutes of additional footage. Both version shown on the widescreen theatrical format of 1:85:1 anamorphic format with a 16x9 ratio along with DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound with Spanish subtitles.

The two-disc DVD also includes several special features and extras plus two different commentaries featuring Rodriguez with Frank Miller and Quentin Tarantino and an audio track of the film's premiere in Austin, Texas.

The first disc of the DVD which is the film in its theatrical version features the three different audio commentaries. First is Rodriguez's commentary with co-director and novelist Frank Miller where Rodriguez and Miller comment on the adaptation from book to film where it was very easy since they didn't change a lot of the dialogue. The two discussed the casting in how Bruce Willis and Mickey Rourke were perfect for their roles while Clive Owen auditioned to play Dwight. Of the commentaries, the one with Rodriguez and Miller is the most fun and insightful as they talk about a lot of the performances and the faithfulness to Miller's graphic novels.

The second commentary is mostly a technical commentary track from Rodriguez as he talks about the challenges of making the film, convincing Miller to do it and the casting. Popping up during the commentary, notably the Big Fat Kill segment is Quentin Tarantino who discusses the scene he shot with Clive Owen and Benicio del Toro as many people assumed it was a scene involving Miller's favorite character Miho killing guys with swords, Hatori Hanzo swords that they borrowed. Bruce Willis joins the commentary for the That Yellow Bastard segment as he talks about the acting challenges and his enjoyment of making the film. The third and final audio track is recorded from the film's premiere screening in Austin, Texas. For this particular track, Rodriguez wanted to give the viewer a chance to watch the film with an audience to bring the sense that the film is being seen with a big audience. The noise full of cheers, claps, and yells definitely brings the right tone since it makes the film more fun to watch.

In the special features of the first disc, there are several documentaries and featurettes about the making of the film. First is the six-minute How It Went Down: Convincing Frank Miller to Make the Film revealed Miller's reason for making Sin City as an anti-film after his horrible experience in Hollywood, notably the Robocop films. Featuring interviews with Miller, Rodriguez, Tarantino, props master Steve Joyner, and cast members Bruce Willis, Benicio del Toro, Carla Gugino, and Josh Hartnett. The small featurette revealed how Rodriguez wanted to make a completely faithful adaptation of the novels with the blessing of Miller. It started with the test shoot that Rodriguez did with Hartnett and Marley Shelton for The Customer is Always Right where Miller was immediately impressed. Rodriguez is considered the more technical director as Miller was the artistic director as Rodriguez felt that Miller should co-direct since its his baby.

Special Guest Director: Quentin Tarantino is a seven-minute featurette that opened with Tarantino and Rodriguez's longtime friendship/collaboration since they both released their debut features at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival. When Rodriguez was to score Kill Bill Vol. 2, he mentioned Sin City as Tarantino decided to return a favor by directing a scene for Sin City. Rodriguez's wife and producer Elizabeth Avellan thought it would be a great idea although Tarantino had some reluctance on shooting digital. In the end, Tarantino was amazed at the digital work that Rodriguez had done with the test short as he directed the car scene of del Toro and Clive Owen that owed to his French New Wave style. The scene showed some of Tarantino's exuberance and how Rodriguez played cinematographer/editor and Miller as the writer for Quentin's scene. It's really one of the enjoyable featurettes in the DVD.

A Hard Top with a Decent Engine: The Cars of Sin City is a seven-minute-and-a-half featurette which revealed the importance of cars in the movie. Cecil D. Evans who serves as the transportation coordinator reveals on finding the cars for the film which gives the movie a sense of style. The ones he found were in Austin like Wendy's '55 Porsche Spyder Convertible, Dwight's red '59 Cadillac Convertible, Hartigan's '55 Buick Convertible, '55 Chevy Police Car, Jackie Boy's '57 Chevy Imperial, Dallas' '41 Chevrolet, Roark Jr.'s '61 Jaguar XKE, the 57' Ford Thunderbird for the Body Transfer, the Priest's 1990 Mercedes 420 SEL, Marv's '68 Chevrolet Corvair, a '49 Chevrolet Taxi, and Mr. Shlubb's '89 Ferrari. Nancy's '57 Chevy Nomad was the only car found outside of Austin while the Yellow Bastard's 1937 Cadillac was the most expensive since it costs $100,000 to rent for a week. Many of the cars were chosen in ode to film noir and they were the kind of cars Frank Miller loved.

Booze, Broads, & Guns: The Props of Sin City is an eleven-minute segment that focuses on the contributions of props master Steve Joyner. Joyner plus property master Caylah Eddleblute reveal the weaponry they find and how they created them through a 3-D clay-like style. Using the books for storyboard and detail with help from graphic designer Troy Engel, they created the weaponry design and detail through computer before creating it into a 3-D machine. Eddleblute had to find the look of the weapons just to get a full idea on the designs for them since Miller draws them with great detail. Transportation captain Joe Llanes was responsible for teaching Jessica Alba how to lasso while props sculptor Brandon Campbell and head props fabricator Marcus Laporte reveal the making of the weapons through a 3-D clay-like machine. Devon Aoki reveals the martial arts props that were used and the swords she got are indeed, Hatori Hanzo swords from the Kill Bill movies that they got from Tarantino's garage as Miller, is so in love with Miho.

Making the Monsters: Special Effects Make-Up is a nine-minute featurette that focuses on the work of Greg Nicotero who is the special effects makeup supervisor. Nicotero reveals that with Miller's help and the books, the look of Marv, Hartigan, Jackie Boy, and Yellow Bastard come to life. While Hartigan's scar was only minor, the look for Marv took them three weeks to do but it worked. For Jackie Boy, Benicio del Toro wanted the look to be more like the book and they had more fun with the look, even when he's covered in paint for a scene. The toughest was the Yellow Bastard where on set, Nick Stahl is in full-make up and look where he's blue but on post-production, he's yellow. The last featurette for Trench Coats & Fishnets: The Costumes of Sin City focuses on the work of costume designer/supervisor Nina Proctor. Proctor reveals the work into the costumes with help from Miller's book as it became a very fun experience. Rosario Dawson and Brittany Murphy praise Proctor's work as they all had fun wearing the costumes while Murphy was totally into character once she wore some six-inch heels.

The last two special features on the first disc are a trailers sections that reveals both the teaser and theatrical trailer that brought anticipation for the films. The second is an interactive feature called the Sin-Chroni-City Interactive Game where you take a character, put him in a place, and connect him with another character and through Frank Miller's voice. You hear background stories, details, and everything about places and the characters in one of the best interactive features available.

The second disc of the DVD includes more special features and the Recut, Extended version of Sin City which are separated into four different segments. In his introduction, Rodriguez cut over 20-minutes of footage for the theatrical release for length reasons. For the Recut version, he chose to separate the four segments into their own individual stories with the option of viewers to watch a segment at any time. Whether its in chronological order for: That Yellow Bastard, The Customer is Right, The Hard Goodbye, and The Big Fat Kill or in the order that the film had. Still, each segment is given new treatment and new ideas that is faithful to Miller's novels.

The first one for The Customer is Right with Josh Hartnett and Marley Shelton isn't done with a lot of work since it's a prologue and the only touch Rodriguez adds is the film's epilogue that also involved Hartnett and a major character from one of the stories. In The Hard Goodbye, a few moments of dialogue, notably Marv's rant in the rain is extended while a scene of him going to his mother's house to retrieve his gun, Gladys has been added. The scene overall is great as it works for the entire segment which shows a more sentimental side of Marv as he goes into his childhood room and later, meeting his blind mother (Lucina Paquet) which shows more of the range that Mickey Rourke has as an actor.

The Big Fat Kill features some extended dialogue and narration from Dwight McCarthy along with an extended scene between Clive Owen's McCarthy and Brittany Murphy's Shellie. The best added scene comes right in the end in the big final battle between the mob and Dwight with the girls of Old Town. Most notably, the battle involves the sweet, little Miho who gets to show everyone what she can do with an ax, a big fucking ax!!!!!! I love Miho, I'll fight Frank Miller to the death for her heart.

That Yellow Bastard is the segment that adds more scenes to the film. First that are added is a bridging sequence that comes between Hartigan's shooting and his meeting with Senator Roark. It's when Michael Madsen's Bob is surrounded by police cars and an ambulance that leads a sequence where everyone including a nurse (Katherine Willis), a DA, Hartigan's superiors, and Hartigan's wife Eileen (Babs George) is asking Hartigan about what happened as he refuses to talk. The second added sequence involves Carla Gugino's Lucille who serves as Hartigan's attorney where she's called for the parole hearing who is disgusted in Hartigan's false intentions to leave the jail. There's also an extended sequence with Nick Offerman's Mr. Shlubb and Rick Gomez's Klump on their way to the motel Hartigan and Nancy were staying. Overall, the extended and added scenes that are filled with more violence reveals the true nature and style of Frank Miller.

Five special features are on the second disc which includes two regular segments of all of Rodriguez DVDs. The first special feature is the actual movie shown in high-speed on green screen. There, you see the entire film in 10 minutes through a fast speed time where you see how all of the performances are done and who's acting with who along with isn't in the frame. It's one of the best featurettes with a wonderful introduction from Rodriguez. The second featurette is The Long Take: 14 Uninterrupted Minutes of Tarantino's Segment which shows an uncensored, uncut outtake of Tarantino directing Clive Owen and Benicio del Toro in their scene with the car. It reveals the exuberant energy of Tarantino as well as the relaxed chemistry between Owen and del Toro.

The two regular Rodriguez DVD special features arrive with the 15-Minute Film School with Robert Rodriguez. The lesson Rodriguez gives is about the advantage of working with digital cameras and shooting a film like this with a cheap budget as opposed to shooting the film with a full studio backing. Since Rodriguez is one of few directors to have his own studio, effects team, and collaborators, he can do a film on green screen and not having to create scenes outside or create production scenes most of the time. Since he uses green screen for lighting purposes and production, Rodriguez was able to save more money and with own effects team, he didn't need to have a visual effects team from other studios where he saved more money.

For performance, actors had to move a little bit faster than usual where after a few days, they get really comfortable acting in a green-screen set. While the production part was easy, the entire film was made on post-production which took a long time but it allowed Rodriguez and his team to think of ideas, using computer dummies, and things to get the ideas of shots and visual photography. Rodriguez closes the featurette saying that if you have some film, visual effects computer software and a digital camera, you can make a film like Sin City while you can take your time in making effects and learning about the technology.

The 10-Minute Cooking School with Robert Rodriguez is easily one of the most enjoyable featurettes. The recipe Rodriguez makes are Sin City Breakfast Tacos. For these tacos, Rodriguez makes his own flour tortillas with flour, baking powder, a bit of salt, some lard, and butter to give the sense of Mexican authenticity. He makes the tacos in two variations both with scrambled eggs. One of them has peeled, diced, chopped potatoes which he fries as he refers to them as Mexican fries and he likes them crisp. The second variation includes diced, fried corn tortilla chips, tomatoes, onions, and jalapeno peppers. Mix them with the eggs and fry the flour tortillas and you got yourselves some damn good tacos. In the words of Marv from an outtake of the film, enjoy those tacos.

The final special feature is Sin City Live Night at Antones-Filmmakers, Cast & Crew Party which features a full performance from Bruce Willis and his own band the Accelerators doing Devil Woman along with clips of performances from Robert Rodriguez's band. Showing up in the clip are not just cast members Nick Stahl and Jessica Alba but director Richard Linklater and his cast including Woody Harrelson from Linklater's film A Scanner Darkly. While Willis may not have been a good recording artist like most Hollywood stars, he does bring in a good live show.

Added to the two-disc edition of Sin City which is a good starting point for people new to the novel is a complete graphic novel of the first Sin City novel for The Hard Goodbye, which reveals in complete detail, Frank Miller's drawing style, some added scenes, and how close the dialogue that Miller wrote is to the actual film. Overall, it's a great book and anyone who is new to the novels will definitely be interested in the entire series of Sin City. In the end, the 2-Disc DVD special edition of Sin City is a must-have for not just fans of the film or of the work of Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez. It's also one of the best film collections ever assembled on DVD.

***End of 2-Disc DVD section***

In Conclusion, Sin City is a hands down, visual, noirish, violent, sexual, and stylized film from Robert Rodriguez & Frank Miller with a great cast, a great crew, and the contribution of Quentin Tarantino. For anyone interested in the novels will definitely get a new introduction as the vision of Frank Miller definitely comes to life. Anyone interested in film noir will see how closely Rodriguez pays tribute to the genre. So for anyone who wants a great film with lots of violence, sex, and cool dialogue, go see Sin City.

Robert Rodriguez Films: (El Mariachi) - (Roadracers) - (Desperado) - Four Rooms: The Misbehaviors - From Dusk Till Dawn - (The Faculty) - (Spy Kids) - (Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams) - (Spy Kids 3D: Game Over) - (Once Upon a Time in Mexico) - (The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3D) - Grindhouse: Planet Terror - (Shorts) - (Machete) - (Spy Kids: All the Time in the World) - (Machete Kills) - (Sin City: A Dame to Kill For)

(C) thevoid99 2012

1 comment:

dtmmr.com said...

Good review Steve. It's stupid and very implausible, but still very fun to watch in a noir-ish way that makes me look forward to the sequel. Hopefully, though, Rodriguez doesn't bail-out and try to get too over-stylized on our asses.