Sin City 2005
After hearing the reviews for the disappointing sequel Sin City: A Dame To Kill For I had decided to wait to revisit the original movie until after seeing it for myself. I thought that doing it this way around would remind myself of how good it could have been rather than setting myself up for disappointment. And in that respect it worked exactly the way I hoped it would. There are still a handful of issues that I noticed in the sequel that were also present in the original, but for the most part, the original still holds up almost 10 years later while the sequel is the one that feels dated. I don’t specifically remember seeing this when it was originally in theaters. I was a fan of Robert Rodgriguez from Desperado and From Dusk Till Dawn but knew nothing about the Sin City books. But I liked it enough to get the three disc DVD edition that has a version where you can see the four stories individually and extended. It also came with a mini reprint of the comics used in the movie so you can see how visually similar they ended up being. There’s just something about this movie that can be felt, the actors are better, the cinematography is better, there’s just a more intense feeling that everyone involved knew they were doing something different. This was an experiment in filmmaking, the digital cameras were fresh. Rodgriguez was able to change up his style of directing, letting the cameras roll continuously and let the takes flow naturally. There was just an unspoken buzz in the air that can still be felt, something that was absent in A Dame to Kill For.
There are essentially four different vignettes spread throughout this movie in a somewhat interconnected anthology style. There’s the prologue and epilogue featuring Josh Hartnett, That Yellow Bastard featuring Bruce Willis and Jessica Alba, The Hard Goodbye featuring Mickey Rourke, and the Big Fat Kill with Clive Owen and many others. The prologue was a nice set up to the world of Sin City, and it bookended well with the comeuppance of one of the characters from the Big Fat Kill. That Yellow Bastard was the only other one split into two parts which makes sense as it has a clear break in time of eight years. While the DVD I own gives me the option of watching the theatrical version or the stories separate and extended, I decided to first watch the theatrical cut. While the stories are good on their own, the movie works much better when they are interconnected the way they are in the theatrical cut. One last thing I’ll say about the sequel is that while there are characters that pop up in different chapters, it doesn’t feel nearly as connected as this one does. Another thing that I noticed through all of the full-fledged chapters is that the hero often has some type of mental abnormality. Marv tends to forget things and often refers to needing his medicine. Dwight is a self-proclaimed murderer and has a conversation with a dead man in the passenger seat of his car. And finally, Hartigan has spent 8 years in solitary confinement and has gone a bit stir crazy when Nancy’s letters suddenly stop coming.
While the Big Fat Kill isn’t the first segment in the movie, it’s one of the two that are presented in its entirety, and it’s probably the best out of the four. It’s also the segment that has the fewest cast members who return for the sequel, as Manute, Dwight, and Miho are all replaced while Shelly, Jackie Boy, and Becky are absent. Benicio del Toro is the bright spot here as his gravelly voice fits perfectly into the world of Sin City. His performance in the somewhat overhyped scene by “guest director Quentin Tarantino” is inspired as he easily mimics the casual head loll from the movement of the car, exposing his prominent neck wound. He also manages to play it completely straight even though he has the barrel of a gun sticking out of the middle of his forehead. Clive Owen has a great presence throughout the chapter, though more than anyone else I did have the occasional problem with his dialogue sounding too forced or over-enunciated. Every member of the cast is spot on in this short, from Brittany Murphy to Nicky Katt’s brief role as a henchman who gets an arrow through his chest yet doesn’t seem the worse for wear.
The other segment presented in full would be the Hard Goodbye. And while the Hard Goodbye isn’t necessarily the best chapter in the movie, it does have two of the best characters with the heroic brute Marv and the sadistically silent Kevin. It also features the best use of the selective color as every time Goldie is on screen she is in full, oversaturated color. While some of the other chapters use selective color just to make things more visually interesting, like Dwight’s shoes, some of the cars, or even that Yellow Bastard, here it serves a more literary purpose. Especially towards the end when Wendy comes to visit Marv in jail as a sympathetic character and is in color like her sister until Marv realizes who she actually is. There are also a few other places where there isn’t the oversaturated colors, but instead the colors come in slightly muted and sepia toned when in Kadie’s strip club. This was also a bit of an odd moment as the focus shifted away from Marv to hear the perspective of Dwight from the earlier chapter make a comment about Marv. It seemed like an odd choice to pull away from Marv at that moment just so it could better tie the chapters to each other. It’s also of note that this chapter is the one that has the most nudity in it from both Goldie as well as Lucille.
Finally the longest chapter and the only one to be split into two parts is That Yellow Bastard starring Bruce Willis as one of the very few honest cops in the Basin City police force who is about to retire. This is definitely the weakest of the three main chapters and is one of the more predictable, both for how he gets turned on in the beginning, and how he is led into a trap during the second part. Jessica Alba’s PG-13 stripper persona was never really much of a hindrance, but she also never made much of an impression beyond just being a pretty face. Nick Stahl as Junior and later That Yellow Bastard played his role fairly well, but it was also a rather one dimensional character whose greatest impression was based solely on his grotesque looks. There’s also a brief background moment that helps give chronology to these connected-yet-out-of-order chapters as Kevin can be seen still alive when Hartigan goes to confront That Yellow Bastard. This also falls in line with the chronology of Sin City: A Dame To Kill For as Marv would still be alive and not in jail after what happens to Hartigan.
All in all, the stories presented in Sin City work well and even after all these years feel unique. There are some places where the overly serious narration falls more to the ridiculous side of the coin, but it’s buffered by the many interesting visuals that make it obvious to the viewer that they were lifted from the comic book page. It would be an interesting experiment to watch the two movies back to back, or even to intercut the two movies even further to make an extended Sin City event that might come up with something slightly greater than the sum of its parts. But for now, there’s still this testament to experimental filmmaking done right and still one of the most literal translations from comic book to film that you can ever find. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.