Sin City is another comic book to film conversion. Frank Miller´s dark tales are brought to the screen here by director Robert Rodriguez and an all-star cast in this sordid and violent adventure which succeeds in recreating the feel and look of the source material, but is this a good thing or simply another case of style over substance?
The film follows three intertwined storylines as a host of unusual characters collide in Sin City, these collisions generally involve an awful lot of violence and end in death. There´s the hard-bitten cop chasing a serial child rapist and killer, the mysterious murder of a high class hooker avenged by her psycho one night lover and the murder of an off duty cop which sparks a turf war for control of the city´s prostitutes.
Each of the stories works as a standalone tale and together they piece together the seedy and sordid roots at the belly of this crime ridden and nightmarish city. The most striking thing about the film is the art style which sticks very close to the look of the original comics. There is a pulp fiction/film noir feel to the black and white action with splashes of colour and a genuine attempt to recreate the frames of the comic. The initial impact of this vision does wear thin after a while but of all the recent spate of comic book films this one looks most like the source material.
The storylines and characters are somewhat cliched and the plot twists are relatively predictable. The Sam Spade narration persists throughout the film with the leading character in each sequence commentating on events as they unfold. The overall effect definitely has a shallow feel to it but it looks great and is very stylishly done.
Bruce Willis plays Hartigan, a tough but fair cop days away from retirement who refuses to turn a blind eye to the corruption around him any longer and takes down the sick son of the local senator. The revenge unleashed upon him is devastating and gives him no other choice than to kill his enemies or die trying. This is a central theme of the whole film as each character seems bent on some self-destructive suicide charge of violence.
The best character is Marv, the hulking psycho brute with a penchant for torture played excellently by Mickey Rourke. His quest to avenge the death of his one true love is the most interesting of the tales on offer here and things get very dirty as he hunts down the creepy cannibalistic killer Kevin, played by Elijah Wood. Kevin is a really creepy character and the combination of him and Marv is explosive and naturally very bloody.
The rest of the cast includes Rutger Hauer, Jessica Alba, Clive Owen, Benecio Del Toro and Brittany Murphy... and the list goes on as there are a lot of players in the city. Some of the make-up is brilliant, Mickey Rourke is barely recognisable as Marv but the part suits him perfectly. Benecio Del Toro is also given the treatment for his portrayal of sleazy loser cop Jack. The characters they are playing are fairly one-dimensional and the script is very hackneyed so there´s nothing here to really give the cast a workout. Everything takes a back seat to the style, and despite the depravity taking place this world never feels real enough to make you uncomfortable about it. This truly is comic book stuff.
Sin City is not a great film in terms of storytelling, script or plot. The actors involved are good, the director knows what he is doing and the commitment to recreating the pages of the original comic is impressive but the result is too lacking in substance to leave a lasting mark. What works well in one medium doesn´t necessarily translate to another without serious reworking and so Sin City is something of a mixed bag.