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Wed March 30, 2005
Frank Miller's Sin City
Everything a comic book/film buff could want.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
"By Jove! I've never seen anything so unreal in my life. And
earth struck me as something great and invincible, like evil or
truth, waiting patiently for the passing away of this fantastic
invasion." Joseph Conrad's Marlow in Heart of Darkness
For the comic book geeks who can't warm up to Spiderman 2 and Hellboy film adaptations because they're dated and lack high art, Frank Miller's Sin City has some of the highest artwork ever with characters straight out of Miller's dark, post-modern noirish magazines. The film is broken up into the morbid adventures of three very tough guys in the fictional Basin City and a bevy of scantily clad femme fatales as deadly as the guys. Against a backdrop of a perfectly CGI'd city, this film has everything a buff could want except sophisticated plot, never a demand when artwork dominates. Sin City abounds, however, in themes of honor, lust, and redemption, the stuff of hard-boiled film noir.
Of the three heroes in three stories, Mickey Rourke as Marv is the most memorable, made up like Hellboy, just as impervious to pain as that bad boy, and tender to his women, albeit they are super efficient at prostitution or assassination, depending on the need. The impressive Bruce Willis is Frank Hartigan, ex-cop on his last day before retirement, looking after the welfare of an 11-year old girl, who just happens to be an attractive grown up 19 when he is released from jail. Don't ask; it's complicated but comprehensible when you view the film. For the women, Rosario Dawson as Gail the hooker Valkryie is unbeatably tough and gorgeous, and just as dangerous as the men for those traits.
The black and white of film noir, which accentuates the broad conflict between good and evil, is splashed with bits of color, especially red blood, and yellow, for that matter. The heroes are about as flawed as a Bogart detective on a bad day, and the women as voluptuous as an R rating will allow before it turns to NC-17. Although the three minimalist plots seem to revolve around some type of revenge, the important element is the evocation of an underworld unremittingly evil, just short of a true hell on earth. Because this is Frank Miller's comic book world, men are riddled with bullet holes but often recover to find revenge another day.
Rourke's confrontation with a powerful bishop and his murderous son is a tribute to Miller's vision of a flawed universe, where evil is unchecked and churches are often at the center of corruption. Sounds like today to me.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com.