Sunday, October 28, 2007

"Prove you're still worth a damn";

so sayeth several of the lost souls wandering through the film adaptation of Frank Miller's seminal Sin City. Their words illustrate a common fear of inadequacy, the one thread linking their three separate stories together, and if there's one thing I can't stand, it's watching a bunch of impotent old men overcompensate.

Seriously, Bruce. Turning your head from Jessica Alba? Someone get the Viagra!

I kid, I kid. I have no problem with infirmity. After all, I'll probably be seeing the new Indiana Jones movie. But I think this motif fits the movie pretty well, because Sin City is desperately trying to overcompensate for its graphic novel roots with sheer force of violence and stunning aesthetics.

I mean, seriously. The movie is visual poetry. Why didn't it pick up any special effects Oscar nods? Oh, that's right; overexposure. As gorgeous as Sin City often is (gorgeous being a figurative term, when you consider what's lurking beneath the surface), you kind of get exhausted of the whole noir-on-crack shtick by the end of it. Eventually, the luster completely wore off for me. It's still an amazingly crafted movie - just one that overuses its assets, like the cheap strippers at Centerfolds.

But still...beautiful, beautiful movie. A bunch of mismatched screencaps don't do it justice at all (on a side note, I wish my DVD drive on my computer worked, so I could take some damn caps of my own.)

The same goes for the incredible brutality of the film. In the span of two hours, people get beaten, tortured, stabbed, raped, drugged, shot, devoured, exploded, skewered, castrated, hit by cars, and forced to sleep with Mickey Rourke, and what's it all for? To prove that Sin City is a bad place. Well, duh. To me, the most insidious sorts of violence are the ones that show themselves at the most opportune of times, peeking out their ugly heads only when the time calls. After watching them scurry around Sin City tirelessly and without respite, you grow numbed to the shock of it all. I think the pinnacle of my revulsion with Sin City's graphic deaths was watching Elijah Wood getting eaten alive by his own dog about 40 minutes in. Past that, I started moving through it like some sort of macabre routine. Even the third genital mutilation didn't faze me.

The big problem with this is that Sin City's narrative is constructed around its violence, and the action that delivers it. The movie honestly doesn't give a shit about its plot. It's merely a conduit for more violence; thus, the storyline gets glossed over to an unbelievable extent with internal monologues. Hours and hours of them. There is more voice-over than actual dialogue in the movie, I kid you not. I don't know if your English teachers ever made you learn "show not tell writing", but Robert Rodriguez's sure didn't. Scenes such as Clive Owen explaining to you how he's considering shooting the cop, while you're also seeing him finger the gun as the cop draws nearer to him, are downright insulting to the viewer's intelligence.

I realize that this sort of narration is a staple of film noir, but a) Sin City is not really film noir and b) all the self-pontification you see in movies like Double Indemnity is used to develop the thoughts and personality of the protagonist, not complete the storyline. I make my first argument on the basis that it's really just an action movie with film noir window-dressing. There's no mystery to the happenings of ol' Sin City; just mass violence. And with such a great setting, it's almost a shame that there aren't any secrets to explore.

But anyway, I don't hate on Sin City for having found such great success. It's an innovative if not deeply flawed step in the right direction. I'll probably watch Sin City 2, simply because it'll be an original treatment instead of a graphic novel adaptation, which is where from most of the flaws of this installment arose. As I've speculated before, things that sound cool in comic book land simply aren't when real actors are spitting them out, and that's what makes Sin City seem kind of...cheesy in the end. Cheesy and impotent. Damn you, old men.

(Caps courtesy of and

1 comment:

Shannon Vasquez said...

1. I thought Sin City was awesome, despite my hatred for both Jessica Alba and Bruce Willis.
2. There's a Sin City 2?
3. Have you been to Centerfolds? I'm pretty sure there is no such thing as a CHEAP stripper.