Blood, brawn, and babes.
These are the three main factors in the world that is Frank Miller's Sin City. Based on the long-running graphic novel series, the film version sculpts together three of the more popular stories of the mature-themed serial.
The film opens as we find John Hartigan (Bruce Willis), a detective on his last legs trying to save a young girl from a vicious sexual predator. Then the film begins to tell three self-contained stories of life in Sin City. The first stars Marv (Mickey Rourke), a brutish hard-boiled man who is framed for the murder of a lusty prostitute (Jamie King). The second finds Dwight (Clive Owen) having to protect Gail (Rosario Dawson) and her band of prostitutes when an influential figure (Benicio Del Toro) is slain in their sliver of Sin City. The third and final story returns us to Hartigan, who now has one last mission, which will bring all the pieces of his story together and land Hartigan face to face with the Yellow Bastard (Nick Stahl) himself.
The film's detailed style of direction, temperature, voice, and execution is deafening to the viewer. There is so much to look at in this film you seem to suffer from sensory overload and then eventual boredom. Come on, you can only be pelted in the eyes with style for so long before you have to look away.
The film's world is sort of a hodge-podge of gritty crime noir and a blood-soaked barbarian conquest, where women and sex are the final reward. The treatment of women and their place in this world is utterly preposterous – it can only described as a juvenile delinquent's wet dream. In some ways, I guess that is what "pulp fiction" is.
If you look back at the evolution of the "pulp" story where you have testosterone-laden figures like Robert E. Howard's Conan, Edgar Rice Burroughs's Tarzan, Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer, and of course cinematic serial hero, Flash Gordon. Their worlds were all vastly different, but the hero was always portrayed the same as he slew the bad guy and won the heart of the well-endowed female love interest.
Sin City in its purest form is this basically, except the innocence – if you will – of pulp has been hijacked by the blood, gore, and overt sexuality of our hardened world today. The best way to describe this new version is that it's "pulp noir on crack cocaine".
My favorite character in the entire piece is the tour-de-force performance from hardened actor Mickey Rourke. He was born to play that character, and we can see why because he is utterly brilliant. You can say that his prosthetic nose in this film was as lucky for him as the prosthetic nose was for Nicole Kidman in The Hours. I loved every moment that he was on screen.
I also really enjoyed Bruce Willis, who seems to be a lot softer version of the typical male in this blood-soaked world. Willis seemed to be the only approachable character in the film.
Clive Owen is always brilliant and once more he proves it with his performance as Dwight. I did feel that his story in the film was the weakest of the bunch, however. I also never for a second bought Rosario Dawson as the prostitute queen.
Another main problem I had with the film and its three stories is that the script or story itself isn't that powerful or ground-breaking. I guess this does go back to the tone of the "pulp" stories, but because the film is so heavy on style, you kind of wanted something with depth or meaning beneath. Then again, maybe you didn't.
I really wanted to enjoy Sin City, but since it beat me into a "sensory-overloaded coma", I found myself wanting to return to normal life just for a breather.
It is an amazing film if you buy into the concept and get sucked into the film's world instantaneously. If you stop to think for one second, the social commentary on screen is mind blowing. If you stop for two seconds, then you will know all about my coma. Mercy, mercy, I give up!! (4 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.