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Reveling in Sin.

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned…and, whatsmore, I liked it. Without a shred of redeeming social value, Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City is a film very noir. It’s a sick, depraved, and smutty ride into a crime-ridden hellhole of a metropolis, exactly as it should be. Trust me — Mos Eisley ain’t got nothing on this wretched hive of scum and villainy. The alleys of Sin City are infested with sadistic, blood-smeared torturers, psychopathic, half-naked prostitutes, and trigger-happy, two-timing murderers…and those are the good guys.

As I said of the trailer, I was worried going in that the unique comic book style Rodriguez was attempting here would fall flat (no pun intended), and all that greenscreen work would mean Attack of the Clones-itis or Sky Captain redux: otherwise-good actors looking lost and bored in a muddy CGI-mess. Well, I’m pleased to announce that my concerns were unfounded — Sin City turned out to be a visual marvel and easily Rodriguez’ best film since El Mariachi (for which Frank Miller probably deserves much of the credit — virtually every shot in the film was storyboarded in his graphic novels.) And, a few hiccups notwithstanding (I’m looking at you, Michael Madsen), the wide-ranging and talented cast are all vibrant and alive here (even, as in the case of Benicio Del Toro, when they’re not.)

In fact, in a sinful sea of memorable performances, particularly Del Toro and Clive Owen (who have a great repartee in the Tarantino sequence), Nick Stahl as That Yellow Bastard, and Elijah Wood (continuing the post-Frodo deterioration he began in Eternal Sunshine) as Kevin the ninja-quick cannibal (no relation), the surprising standout of Sin City is a back-from-the-dead himself Mickey Rourke as Marv — even behind a putty nose, a swath of Band-Aids, and a continually applied sheen of blood and viscera, Rourke succeeds in making a (literally) hard-nosed and ultra-violent character compassionate. (There’s also great cameo work by, among others, Powers Boothe, Rutger Hauer, and Nicky Katt, the latter of whom may well be reprising his role from Full Frontal.)

If I have any qualm, it’s that the best stories came first, and the film may have run a little long. There’s really not much to the Bruce Willis-Jessica Alba tale that closes the film, although I don’t think it wears out its welcome. Speaking of which, I might well have preferred it if Alba and Brittany Murphy could’ve taken a page from a fearless Carla Gugino…But, see, that’s the sin talking. A few hours in this vile, shameless, beastly sinkhole and you too’ll become infected with it, and I mean that in the best way possible.

In short, despite all the odds (and be warned — despite a grotesquely debauched moral economy that some people may never get over), Sin City is easily the best movie of 2005 so far, and a welcome omen for other outside-the-box comic adaptations such as The Watchmen. (Graphic Novel-to-Film comparison link via LinkMachineGo and Neilalien.)

Omsbudsdog Emeritus

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