Movie Review: Sin City (2005)

“There is no justice without sin.”

2 Stars
Sin City (2005)

Sin City (2005)


Director: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez

Cast: Mickey Rourke, Clive Owen, Bruce Willis

Synopsis: Four interweaving stories that take place in the grim underworld of Sin City.

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Sin City was the subject of a number of graphic novels written by Frank Miller before Robert Rodriguez adapted four of his stories into a movie in 2005.   Shrouded in seemingly perpetual darkness, the city’s neon-lit environs are a breeding ground for violence and despair, a putrid sinkhole into which the dregs of humanity have fallen.   Like Miller’s comics, the movie speaks to us on a level of which we’re barely conscious, offering us the pungent taste of hopelessness and despair that we hardly dare admit holds such a dreadful fascination.   Watching Sin City is like cruising through an urban vision of hell with the windows closed and the doors locked – fun as long as it can’t touch us, and the world of safe monotony waits patiently to envelope us once more.

Those who reside within the city’s borders seem resigned to their fate, and know no other way of life.   From the hills overlooking the city, wealthy serial killers, protected by the powerful and corrupt, select their victims as if they are fruit waiting to be plucked from the branches of a tree.  Hartigan (Bruce Willis – Marauders, Precious Cargo), an ageing cop – one of Sin City’s few honest ones – races to save one such victim, an 11-year-old girl who has fallen into the clutches of Junior Roark (Nick Stahl), the paedophile son of a ruthless Senator (Powers Boothe).   He succeeds, and shoots Roark in a place that will ensure he’ll rape no more under-age girls, but must then stay alive long enough after his treacherous partner (Michael Madsen – Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill: Vol. 2) shoots him in the back to prevent him from killing Nancy.   That’s the kind of place – and movie – Sin City is: all smiles are cruel, and love is a weakness ripe for exploitation.   Eight years later, when Nancy has grown into an achingly beautiful Jessica Alba (The Killer Inside Me, Mechanic:: Ressurection), Hartigan’s abiding love for her places them both in danger from the Roark family once more.

Love of another kind sees Marv (Mickey Rourke – Get Carter, Blunt Force Trauma), a hulking, brutal man of violence whose sole saving grace is a strong moral code, in pursuit of the killer of Goldie (Jaime King – Blow), the angelic one-off lover who was murdered as he slept by her side.   She was a hooker in danger who only zeroed in on Marv because she thought he just might be big and ugly enough to save her.   But that doesn’t matter to him, and he vows to track down her killer and deal out some inappropriate and excessive revenge, while trying to stay one step ahead of the cops who believe he’s the killer.

Dwight (Clive Owen – I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, Children of Men), is a killer with a new face but old fingerprints who takes exception to the way that the cruel Jackie Boy (Benicio Del Toro – Snatch, The Usual Suspects) treats Shellie (Brittany Murphy).   After forcing Jackie Boy and his gang from Shellie’s flat, he follows them into Old Town, a part of Sin City controlled by the deadly prostitutes who ply their trade there.   When Jackie Boy and his gang try to force a girl into their car, they’re killed with ruthless efficiency by the prostitutes who discover, to their horror, that Jackie Boy was a cop.   Dwight offers to hide the bodies in the tar pits on the edge of the city, but finds himself ambushed by Irish mercenaries on the way.

Sin City is an insanely ambitious exercise in style that sexualises violence in a way that defies commercial imperatives to remain faithful to the dark, grimy glamour of its source material.  The characters in Sin City are Noir archetypes taken to the extreme.   The men are lost, and bear the burden of their ultimate fate with surly resignation; the women are quick and capable, but overtly sexual creatures designed to appeal to those who fear that which they consider unattainable.   They all speak lines of dark poetry which would sound ridiculous in any other movie, but which glide serpent-like into this one’s ink-black shadows.  The violence is graphic, and delivered with a cynical precision that trivialises the horror, and turns it into an everyday commodity through which the balance of power is traded.   Sin City is unique, but not particularly likable, and you find yourself admiring it even though you wish it would just stop.

(Reviewed 19th December 2016)


Sin City (2005) Official Trailer #1 – Bruce Willis, Elijah Wood Crime Thriller



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