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Moriarty Takes A Trip To SIN CITY!!

Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...

That quiet digital revolution I was talking about last week just got a whole hell of a lot louder and crazier. Just wait till you get steamrolled by this big nasty hypernoir on April 1st. If you’re anything like me, you’ll stagger away from the encounter with two blacked eyes and a broken bloody smile that will last for days.

I’ve always enjoyed Frank Miller’s SIN CITY comics. It may be the purest of all his work. Sure, his original groundbreaking DARK KNIGHT mini-series may have revitalized the comics industry and superhero films all in one fell swoop (because if you think Tim Burton’s film would have existed without Miller to point the way, you are very, very high), but it’s SIN CITY where Miller’s id runs free, unfettered even by the thinnest veneer of civilized behavior. What else could you call Marv or Hartigan or Dwight or Miho or Gail or Jackie Boy or Manute or any of the dozens of other miscreants crowded into this film? They are id, all running purely on sick, twisted impulse and self-preservation, and redemption often comes only after prolonged killing sprees.

This ain’t your daddy’s film noir.

The opening titles for this film must have the various Guilds in town pissing blood. “Shot and cut by Robert Rodriguez” makes me laugh because of how blunt it is. There’s no screenplay credit at all, and then there’s that “special guest director” credit for Tarantino as well as double-billing Rodriguez and Miller as producer/directors. Considering how closely Rodriguez said he followed Miller’s original visual layout, the co-directed credit makes perfect sense. This film plays like a perfect combination of sensibilities. When Rodriguez enjoys what he’s doing and gets caught up in it, there’s a relentless glee to his filmmaking, like he could hardly wait to capture these images on film. When the material you’re shooting is as lunatic as these three stories, it’s little wonder he was this excited. In this case, the source material was more than inspiration; it was inspired.

It’s been a while since I’ve been this enthusiastic about one of Robert’s movies. There’s just so much about this movie that is so right that it’s hard to know where to start. The first thing about the movie that you’ll notice, obviously, is the look of it. When we saw it Friday night at the Harmony Gold screening room on Sunset, it was digitally projected, and it popped right off the screen at us. The black-and-white is crisp with a rich greyscale, and the use of color as punctuation may have been done before in films like RUMBLE FISH or PLEASANTVILLE, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it done better. It’s not the use of color highlights that feels exciting... it’s the reasons the color is used, the way it enhances the visual experience overall. It’s the same way you selectively ink a comic book. It all starts black-and-white, and then you just add the things you need to add to sell a specific idea or emotion. You’ll know immediately which segment of the film is Quentin’s because it feels totally different than anything else in the film. He shot the equivalent of one issue of the comic book, and it’s a great fit for his particular voice. Rodriguez punctuates his violence with splashes of red and yellow and white, turns it up as ugly as he can, and the result is kinetic fun that leaves you jittery.

Many of you have seen the film’s opening scene already, starring Josh Hartnett and Marley Shelton. It’s nice, with a few striking compositions, but it barely even hints at the actual tone of the movie. There’s a short sequence following that stars Bruce Willis, Michael Madsen, and Nick Stahl that gets us a little closer, but it’s still played sort of straight. There’s a shocking moment of violence at the end of the scene that finally clues us in, and then the scene shifts to Marv. It’s with his introduction that the film really kicks into overdrive. Now, you’re either a fan of early Mickey Rourke or you’re a rotten bastard. Simple enough. And if you’re a fan of his early work, then you’ll understand what high praise it is when I say that Rourke is POPE OF GREENWICH VILLAGE-good in this film. This is tremendous work by him, and the extreme make-up he’s wearing actually seems to set Rourke free. He’s a hulking brute with a tender soul, confused most of the time, extremely surprised by the temporary kindness of “an angel” named Goldie (Jaime King). Someone kills her in his bed and tips off the cops, and Marv has no choice but to shake the very foundation of the city to figure out who killed her and why.

I love that Rourke gets to play some big wild action beats here, breaking down doors and leaping through car windshields and running across rooftops, but he also has some oddly wrenching emotional moments as well. I’m haunted by the image of Marv in the rain, fully aware that he might be confused, that he might be killing for all the wrong reasons. Rourke’s given great support by everyone around him in the story. Elijah Wood is chilling as Kevin, an entirely silent character who is visually arresting and deadly. Rutger Hauer, Carla Gugino, and even Frank Miller himself all show up, and one of the most impressive things about the film is the way everyone seems to be in on the same joke, all of them playing the exact same tone. It’s important when you’re creating something this extreme. All it takes is one performance to throw the whole thing off, and everyone seems to have brought their A-game to the project. By the time this story is over, you figure you’ve seen everything, gone as dark as you can go.

And then it just keeps getting crazier.

The next story, with Clive Owen as Dwight, Benecio Del Toro as Jackie Boy, an ultra-menacing Michael Clarke Duncan, and a whole ton of outrageous women as the girls of Old Town, an independent army of whores who take care of themselves, is probably the wildest of the three stories, taking the most unusual narrative left-turns. Rosario Dawson has been coming on strong the last few years. She was great in THE 25TH HOUR, one of the few good things in ALEXANDER, and she prowls the screen in this film like a jungle cat. Dwight starts the story protecting Shellie, a bartender played by Brittany Murphy, calling her his girlfriend, but somewhere along the way, he seems to forget her completely. Can’t really blame him. He gets caught up in this crazy rollercoaster ride and he’s surrounded by all these preposterously strong women and it’s all so much goddamned fun. Of course he’s going to end up with Gail. Why wouldn’t he? They’re both willing to take on the world and tear it apart bare-handed if they have to. Devon Aoki makes an excellent Miho, her various blades serving almost as extensions of her. Keep your eyes open for Nicky Katt in one of the funniest moments of the whole film, involving a few well-aimed arrows and a dude with a swastika on his forehead.

By the time the last story rolls around and we finally get back to Bruce Willis as Hartigan, it’s good that things slow down a bit. This one’s a slow burn, and by the time it all starts to get apocalyptic again, you’re ready for it. Nick Stahl is creepy and effective as That Yellow Bastard, and Jessica Alba’s surprisingly good as Nancy, the little-girl-all-grown-up that Hartigan saved at the start of the movie. I’ve heard a lot of fanboy grumbling about Alba not being naked in the film, and as much as I would love to see her wearing nothing but chaps, I think it’s actually the right decision. Hartigan fights to preserve some essential part of Nancy’s innocence, and in this version, it seems like all the blood and pain is worth something. Willis does really good work playing a character significantly older than he is, an only-slightly more rational version of Marv or Dwight.

Miller has an almost indecent amount of fun turning the conventions of film noir inside out. The basic formula for each story is the same. We start with characters who have managed to make lives for themselves in Sin City, however sad or lonely or compromised, only to have them systematically dismantled by outside forces. I like how there’s one family in particular that seems to be involved in every fucked-up awful thing that happens in town, the Roarkes. They are all excellent nightmare machines, with Powers Boothe doing some seriously freaky work as the cornerstone of their power in town. I expect the almost-constant narration will drive some people crazy, but I dug it. It’s almost like part of the score, especially the way Mickey Rourke chews on it, savoring it like steak. And speaking of the score, the music by Rodriguez, John Debney, and Graeme Revell is excellent, all balls, a perfect compliment to the incredible imagery.

The short version of all of this is that Robert Rodriguez has come up with a wall-to-wall winner, pure cinema freebase. Between this, KUNG-FU HUSTLE, and THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, April is the first real month of 2005 at the theater. Strap on your gun, buckle up for safety, and kick open the theater door on April 1st. SIN CITY delivers. Now I’ve got to get cracking on that CLONE WARS review and all the rest of the great stuff I’ve got brewing this week, including my interview with Robert Rodriguez. Until then...

"Moriarty" out.

Readers Talkback
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  • March 21, 2005, 5:11 p.m. CST

    Don't know too much about this...but the cast alone gets my psyc

    by DoctorWho?


  • March 21, 2005, 5:12 p.m. CST

    So glad to see Rourke back...

    by MonkeyBytes

    and to see a Frank Miller film done right. I think film has burnt poor Frank to the point of frustration, maybe being a co-director is the key. Now if only we could get Alan Moore to join the outside world and get involved, maybe we could get a decent Moore flick.

  • March 21, 2005, 5:30 p.m. CST

    Ah yes.... 'Tis true indeed....

    by Quintus_Arrius

    ... 't'will be a pleasent watch. Hail!

  • March 21, 2005, 5:30 p.m. CST


    by CrapHole

    Wasn't Elijah Wood's character called Kevin?

  • March 21, 2005, 5:31 p.m. CST

    Um, Mori...Patrick?

    by John Maddening

    Elijah Wood plays "Kevin", not "Patrick".

  • March 21, 2005, 5:37 p.m. CST

    Rourke wears make-up in this film?

    by BigTuna

    I thought it was really him. He looks more and more like his "Johnny Handsome" character with each passing year.

  • March 21, 2005, 6:07 p.m. CST

    I just love how "SIN CITY" will give Hollywood one hell of a cre

    by JDanielP

    I sense a creative explosion at the movies, in addition to the new 3-D technology.

  • March 21, 2005, 6:19 p.m. CST

    Roarkes back motherf*ckers..

    by Nerdboy1423

    He's back to chew you up and spit you out like the wad of chewing gum you are. Mickey's the man.

  • March 21, 2005, 6:43 p.m. CST

    Sin City... fuck yeah!

    by Uncle_Les

    Hot chicks. Hardcore violence. Robert & Frank. Fuck yeah. Peace Out.

  • March 21, 2005, 6:45 p.m. CST

    GeeeYATDAMN!!!! I know my job for the first time in forever is g

    by IAmJacksUserID

    Oh, and I think Rodriguez is making it easier for guys like me to make it in the filmmaking world. I think I may try and send him my short.

  • March 21, 2005, 6:52 p.m. CST

    This movie....

    by underscore_only

    will make my "dick want to drive a chicken truck into a burning retard school."

  • March 21, 2005, 6:58 p.m. CST

    My Dad has old B/W photographs where they were painted. It looks

    by Orionsangels

    I colored this Natalie Portman photo, came out real interesting. I think anyway -

  • March 21, 2005, 7:29 p.m. CST

    They have a school for burning retards now? Wow, they're trying

    by IAmJacksUserID

  • March 21, 2005, 7:44 p.m. CST

    Yeah and...

    by Orionsangels

    Serpico he's still around, screwed up police ya might get found. city crime's for city cops. you've got to know the streets you rock. the subway tells the story here. this is the place to disappear. Well I'm about to go crazy, cause I'm still living here. I just get my shit together and we dance, dance, dance, cause this is the state of the world. this is the state of the world. this city tells me what it's like to live

  • March 21, 2005, 7:46 p.m. CST

    I really hope this movies good and gets the summer movies rollin

    by Orionsangels

    We need a good kick in the ass with all these terrible movies coming out recently.

  • March 21, 2005, 9:05 p.m. CST

    I've never seen many Rourke movies. Any recommendations?

    by IAmJacksUserID

    Thanks dudes.

  • March 21, 2005, 9:45 p.m. CST

    Rourke movies

    by Batutta

    People will probably mention POPE OF GREENICH VILLAGE and THE YEAR OF THE DRAGON, but I always thought JOHHNY HANDSOME was underrated.

  • March 21, 2005, 10:22 p.m. CST

    rourke movies

    by paulrichard

    Angel Heart is really cool too.

  • March 21, 2005, 10:28 p.m. CST

    Johnny Handsome

    by underscore_only

    My second fav. Rourke flick, next to Pope of Greenwich Village. Oh, and Jack'sUserID . . . they do have schools for burning retards. It's convenient, it's right next to the Centre For Random Knifings of Helpless Puppies. Cool, huh.

  • March 21, 2005, 11:33 p.m. CST

    Fair warning: Sin City is insanely over the top. Before people

    by Tall_Boy

    So, yah, basically this all boils down to "if you don't like it, STFU"

  • March 22, 2005, 8:43 a.m. CST

    Angel Heart and Rumble Fish

    by Mr Brownstone

    are the ultimate Mickey Rourke movies.

  • March 22, 2005, 8:55 a.m. CST

    NewYorkKid is right.

    by Bob Parr

    As much as I am looking forward to this for the art direction alone, I think it is too highly stylized to find a mass audience. We shall see . . . .

  • March 22, 2005, 3:22 p.m. CST

    The Rourke Movies

    by Boxcutter

    Glad to see him back in quality projects. IamJack'sUserID, see Diner - he is outstanding. Very cool in Rumblefish, excellent in Angel Heart despite the predictable plot, OK in bits of Year of the Dragon. Slimy as hell in Spun. Ignore 9 1/2 Shags, sorry Weeks and the stunning train wreck that is Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man. Shit, don't tell me it's time for the Don Johnson revival too?

  • March 22, 2005, 4:20 p.m. CST


    by cganimation

    OK ok, we got it. Everyone who has ever had anything to do with AICN has to post a review of this. Is Miramax paying you by the review or what?

  • March 22, 2005, 4:33 p.m. CST

    Hey cganimation....

    by Fuzzyjefe

    They'll cram as many as you will VOLUNTARILY swallow, since you are free to NOT READ THEM.

  • March 22, 2005, 4:49 p.m. CST

    Sin City looks great! I can also vouch for Kung Fu Hustle...

    by Kampbell-Kid

    Sin City looks very true to it's material so I guess it'll come down to liking the story or not if it's good. As for Kung Fu Hustle it was hilarious and as for it's fight scenes it has the equivillent to 4-5 "Burly Brawl" fight sequences that put Matrix to shame. But to most of you here I'm the action sequences form the Olsen twins movie would beat that.

  • March 22, 2005, 11:02 p.m. CST

    Yellow Fat Bastard.

    by Osmosis Jones

    That new Harry animation is brilliant.

  • March 26, 2005, 4:03 a.m. CST

    100% on Rotten Tomatoes

    by Rupee88

    I hope this movie owns the box office.

  • March 28, 2005, 1:35 a.m. CST

    From the clips Ive seen online..the score seems to kinda suck

    by Jon E Cin

    The trailer music is amazing..but then i saw the three clips online and the music with the scenes seem weak... I am very very excited about this movie doubt!

  • March 31, 2005, 4:25 a.m. CST

    "Alba not being naked in the film, and as much as I would love t

    by CuervoJones

    Wrong. Try again.

  • April 2, 2005, 10:25 a.m. CST

    Empty, empty, empty

    by abcdefz1

    I posted this elsewhere, so I'm just doing a cut and paste: Anyway... Sin City is an okay movie, but bothersome. It's empty, vigilante nihilism, basically, except for Bruce Willis' character. It's kind of a set-'em-up, knock-'em-down kind of movie -- three stories which are pretty similar, so it gets repetitive and feels too long. There are lots of acts of violence, but for the most part they're very cartoonish, so we can squirm happily and know that nothing's really at stake -- certainly not our notions of the world or anything. This is the part that bugs me: stuff like this and Kill Bill are these constructs, these exercises, just as much as something like Wimbledon or Summer Catch are. It doesn't bother me so much that we as an audience we will go see a fluffy romantic comedy as it does that the better directors in the machine are now cranking out vengeance scenarios with witless but kind of inventive brutality, and that's our popcorn. I'm not thrilled with what that says. There's nothing there; it's not like the constructions of, say, the Coens or Kubrick, which you can argue are cold, but at least are recognizably informed by life and thought; this stuff is informed by movies, basically, so you get hallmarks of characters without any fleshing out which really lets you get lost in that world. There's not a lot to think about when it's over (except how empty it is). And I know the argument against wishing for more is "it's just entertainment." Well, okay: then that turns it back to us. What are we seeking out as entertainment? But, yeah -- I bought my ticket, so I contributed. I should have gone with my instinct. Yep -- it looks good, but that pleasure disappears pretty quickly. It's not Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow -- which was ridiculous in a whole other way -- but it suffers a similar effect: good technology just can't take the place of a gripping story. If this movie had been as cleverly plotted and populated as, say, Blood Simple, and we actually gave a damn about the characters except as action figures, it could've been a masterpiece; it had all the elements except for some bad acting here and there (Jessica Alba, and especially Michael Madsen, who is just awful). It's just sad, bro. C+.

  • April 4, 2005, 3:31 a.m. CST

    Rourke Was Also Good in ...

    by Jervis Tetch

    "The Rainmaker" , a Grisham novel movie from '97, of all things (he has about three scenes and steals the movie), and in "Man on Fire" last year. He crashed and burned in the 80's, but Rourke's been quietly sneaking back over the past few years. Looks like he's made it. What's neat about his look as Marv is that sometimes, face on, you can clearly see Mickey right there. Sideways, less so. Like some reviewer said: "a cross between Kirk Douglas and a Humvee."