Sin City (2005)

I’ve drooled in anticipation ever since I saw the trailers, and that makes me biased. However, bias or not, you gotta hand it to Robert Rodriguez – he’s known for pushing the envelope for directing style, editing style, casting decisions. And, at the end of the day, if you only know him from the El Mariachi/Desperado/Once Upon a Time in Mexico trilogy, or from the Spy Kids trilogy, if you only know him as the guy who co-wrote From Dusk til Dawn, you would be drooling with anticipation as well.

The thing about Robert Rodriguez, is he’s either a very convincing person, or he has dirt on everyone in Hollywood – how does he get these actors in his movies – is beyond me. He’s not quite a cult director like Woody Allen, or late Stanley Kubrik, so I cannot imagine actors of all levels and ranges lining up for every one of his projects. Yes movie after movie he lines up people who don’t seem to have anything in common. Except, in his universe, they make a great ensemble cast.

The list of actors turning up in Sin City is very long, but what I liked about them is they don’t hog the camera. Whether it’s a two second walk on, or a major part, you are not looking at a celebrity, you’re looking at a character in a movie, a character who drives the plot along, and keeps the story moving. Mickey Rourke has a presence, not because of who he is, but because of who he plays. Same goes for Bruce Willis, Clive Owen, Nick Stahl, Benicio Del Toro. Each is immediately recognizable, easy to put into an archetype, and yet … they have unique storoes, their characters have unusual motivations, and it’s just a pleasure to watch them figure their actions out.

Then there’s the women. Abrasive, hot, seductive, vulnerable, and violent. They are victims and monsters at the same time. Perhaps, the men are a little more monstrous in a city where blood runs on the streets, the hookers have their own army, a corrupt senator turns a blind eye to his son’s horrible exploits, and regular citizens are forced to take claim justice on their own terms. Whatever that means.

The movie is violent – shootings, decapitations, castrations, penetrations, brutal beatings, head-on collisions, mighty falls, torture and so on. But it’s all stylish. The blood that spatters is almost never red, it’s white, yellow, silvery, syropy, it’s more stunning than horrifying. The limbs are animated in such a way you think you’re reading a comic book. The action seems real, but you’re convinced it’s just a detailed drawing, no people were harmed in this. Maybe this helps tone down the violence. Maybe it emphasizes it by turning things into black and white when there’s nothing on the screen but bullets, body parts and blood.

The visual style is consistent throughout – the scene is in b/w, but the eyes of a person are bright blue or green. Sometimes the shadows do more acting than some of the actors’ body language. So much effort goes into not showing the reaction, not showing where exactly the sword went, where exactly the villain is hiding, it’s terrifying and exciting at the same time. And yet, Sin City is not a horror flick, and is not really a whodunit. It’s a place, not one where people would like to visit, but once you’re there, might as well absorb it and experience it just like any of its citizens.

Only three stories are told on this movie, but when I walked out, I was ready to see more. This place is reborn every night, the criminals reappear in dark corners, and the vigilantes ready their weapons on the rooftops. There will always be hapless victims, and there will always be reluctant heroes, the city will continue, and the three stories we’re shown are only the beginning. I certainly hope this movie continues – different actors, different roles even. I fell in love with the look and feel of Sin City, its politics, its rules of existence.

Hope you will too. Gruesome, and beautiful at the same time. Blunt and poetic. Sexy and stinky. Enjoy, if you can handle it.

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