Starring: Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Christopher Walken, Giancarlo Giannini, Radha Mitchell, Marc Anthony, Rachel Ticotin, Mickey Rourke
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb) In Mexico City, a former CIA operative swears vengeance on those who committed an unspeakable act against the family he was hired to protect.
Okay, this certainly wasn’t the best movie I’ve seen in August but I probably enjoyed it the most. In many ways, it’s quite bad. Very cliché & predictable & all that. But Denzel Washington was as awesome as always (love him) and, yeah, I fell for the cheesy friendship that was so obviously going to form between him and Dakota Fanning, the young girl he’s hired to protect as she’s in danger of being kidnapped. The movie did that very well, though, and spent a long time showing their growing relationship and making us care about them instead of diving straight into the action. They had great chemistry, which helped make up for the characters of her parents (played by Radha Mitchell & Marc Anthony) being a bit rubbish. But it’s hard to live up to Denzel’s massive star power so it’s impressive that the very young Fanning held her own against him where most the adult actors couldn’t.
Christopher Walken was also good, as always, as Denzel’s old friend in this but I’d have liked to see much more of him as well as finding out more about their shared tragic past & what has made Washington’s character so broken. So, yeah – great development of the Denzel/Dakota friendship but really would’ve loved to have found out much more about Washington’s character. This movie is very much two movies: the first half sets up the characters & friendship while the second half is Denzel going on a bloody, violent, revenge-fuelled murderous rampage. Oh boy! He was PISSED OFF. So that was fun and exactly what people like in a revenge thriller.
I actually finally decided to watch this after seeing a Twitter thread showing movies with very different audience & critic scores (audiences loved Man On Fire & critics hated it). I always find that fascinating. I now see why there’s the difference on this one. No, it’s not a good movie. As I said, it’s very cliché & predictable & a little cheesy. It’s also fun and has some great characters plus who doesn’t love a good revenge thriller?? I’m a wuss with violence but find I can stomach it a bit more when it’s for a good reason. I wanted Denzel to kill all those evil bastards! And Denzel gives his all in this – he’s not one of these good actors who just phones it in when he’s not in one of his more “Oscar-worthy” films. It’s why I’ve never paid much attention to reviews from professional critics. Are movies not allowed to just be enjoyable sometimes? I enjoyed this. It had exactly what I expect from an action thriller plus it actually gave us far better characters than what we get in a lot of other films in this genre. Admittedly, though, Denzel (as well as Dakota) are what really make this one work. I don’t think the movie would be as popular with a different lead actor. Denzel was perfect for this film.
Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Damien of Flashback/Backslide. Thanks for the review, Damien! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Sin City, IMDB rank 136 out of 250…
There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.
Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB Review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews. I know I’ve made a few that are specific to the movie being reviewed. I’ll also do an IMDB update post soon & will post some more logos.
Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’s creation is the ultimate marriage of comics and film. Dozens of comic book adaptations hit screens before Sin City and with Hollywood’s habit of churning out superhero films (except for a Deadpool movie) it certainly won’t be the last. But it’s hard to think of another film that embodies the visual style of comics so well. Rodriguez applies his characteristic innovative film-making to capture the imagery and motifs of Miller’s series in a way few other directors could. Even other adaptations of Miller’s works including Zack Snyder’s 300 (2005) and Watchmen (2009), both great in their own right, don’t absorb the visual tendencies like Rodriguez’s tour de force. Like Miller’s other adaptations, Sin City received mixed reviews on initial release, polarizing critics with its hyperviolence and extreme stylization.
When judging the film it is impossible to separate the striking visuals and its unconventional storytelling. The majority of the film is presented in black-and-white but unlike Hitchcock who used lack of color to reduce the violence and gore in Psycho (1960), Rodriguez uses the technique to heighten the violence and draw attention to the gore. Our eyes are drawn to bright red streaks of blood flicking off a grayscale knife or the hot white blood pouring out of Benicio del Toro’s freshly shurikened wrist. Even though the film is in black-and-white, Rodriguez manages to create sequences that feel saturated with color using extreme contrast paired with busy frames filled with multiple shadows and bright foci like Kevin’s (Elijah Wood) glasses, or the bandages littering Marv’s (Mickey Rourke) face and arms. Many scenes go full comic using bright white silhouettes on black backgrounds.
Rodriguez pairs this visual style with near-constant voice-overs providing slick narration from multiple characters. Here Rodriguez combines Miller’s style with his own penchant for paying homage to films past. In the same way that Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindouse (2007) celebrates B-movies and Rodriguez’s The Faculty (1998) does the same with sci-fi horror (albeit to a lesser extent), Sin City celebrates film noir and old crime films. Well-versed on the genre’s mannerisms, Rodriguez uses them to full effect to breathe life into Miller’s creation. In an earlier post on flashbackbackslide.com we walked through a list of commonly used techniques in noir’s bag of tricks. And Sin City applies them by the fistful. Femme fatales and Sam Spade-type tough guys enter and exit the film continuously, none of them taking a majority of the spotlight. With this arrangement an extensive list of chain-smoking Hollywood A and B-listers sneak onscreen. Mickey Rourke’s scenes as Marv in particular feel like a scene cut out of a Golden Age noir. With a keen eye for quality trench coats and a near indestructibility, Marv alone could fill a board of film noir bingo with his voice-overs:
“She fires up two cigarettes and hands me one and I taste her lipstick on it and suddenly my heart’s pounding so loud I can’t hear anything else.”
-Marv (Mickey Rourke)
The cinematography and shot selections are covered with noir fingerprints. An early scene with Clive Owen, Benicio Del Toro and Brittany Murphy plays out a familiar scenario with Owen out-tough-guying Murphy’s abusive boyfriend Del Toro. Venetian blinds, mirrors, Dutch angles and silhouettes, all tools in the noir kit, are used in this one brief scene, as outlined in the two stills below:
With Sin City, Miller and Rodriguez have created a space to flex all of their combined creative muscles. After an initial phase of critical uncertainty, time has served the film well and it is now considered an artistic benchmark and one of the best neo-noirs of the last ten years along with Memento (2000), Brick (2005) and Drive (2011). The visual style the film wraps itself in has influenced other films in the genre including 300 (2006), The Spirit (2008), 300: Rise of an Empire (2014) and in some ways Snyder’s Watchmen. We will remember Sin City for this style but the hyperstylization is also what makes the film less enjoyable when judged alone. At times the images are headache-inducing with awkward dull red hues playing on bright white lines. This may also be a stylistic choice but two hours in the world of Sin City’s style can become exhausting.
And the stylistic choices seem to have taken precedence over a coherent and interesting plot as the continuous jolt of storylines tends to be frustrating as we are dropped into sequences with no knowledge of our context or the characters’ relationships. It appears that the trailer recognizes these inconsistencies and tries to sell a single unified plot that really does not exist in the movie. The film’s nonsequential timeline is reminiscent of Pulp Fiction (1994) but far less comprehensible and not nearly as enjoyable. Pulp Fiction presents its story in a deliberate order, controlling the action and tension to maximize the film’s effect. Sin City gives the impression of randomness without cause. During the Pulp Fiction scene when John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson sit down for breakfast after being hosed down by Harvey Keitel we know that Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer are in the diner and the tension builds as we wait for the chaos to begin. But in Sin City, we see Elijah Wood in a scene even though we already witnessed his death. The problem is that knowing about the previous scene does not add any tension to the later scene like it does in Pulp Fiction.
Part of the plot problems stem from the film’s base in an expanded comic universe which does not serve the story well at times as it cannot hope to contain all the stories of the graphic novels. But the film never sets out to be judged on story alone and puts all its money on style. And the bet pays off in the long run as it is still relevant today especially with its highly anticipated sequel Sin City: A Dame to Kill For coming out soon. It will be interesting to see how the sequel treats its storyline and uses updated visual effects technology but there’s little reason to believe the newest Sin City will be drastically different from the original and will awe us with its visuals while leaving narrative content to be desired.
Rating: 7/10. The sequences with Marv at the beginning of the movie earn a 9/10. After that I found the stories less interesting and the visuals no longer as exciting.