Overview: In a city overrun with crime, various people commit crimes. Dimension Films; 2005; Rated R; 124 Minutes
Style Schmyle: Style for the sake of style will only get you so far, but in the case of Sin City, it seems to have gotten it very far indeed. I was shocked after watching it for the first time to learn that it was a critically respected film. Its visual style is unique and a few of its images are genuinely striking, but for what? It’s all done in the service of imitating the source material. If you’re going to make a film that looks exactly like the comic book it’s based on, then why make a film at all? Adapting something offers a chance to change things for the better, to make them more cinematic. Sin City may have unique imagery, but it fails to paper over the fact that it’s an ugly, cruel, terrible film.
Cut on the Edge: For a film that purports to pay homage to classic film noir, Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez don’t appear to have actually watched any. There is no subtlety in Sin City, no visual nuance whatsoever. Everything is loud and in-your-face, a hallmark of Rodriguez’s painful “too cool for you” cinema. The opening credits don’t say that the film was “directed and edited” by him; it was “shot and cut” by him. Those words imply a guerilla-style production that the film’s entirely digital mise en scene betrays. Not to mention how much literal shooting and cutting there is in Sin City. Rodriguez probably thinks he’s being edgy, but the facade could not be more evident. He is a terrible director, and his complete lack of visual control or intelligence makes this seem less like an homage to noir and more like a remake of one as imagined by a ten-year-old boy.
Dames and Broads: The filmmaking is awful, to be sure, but at least the stories are boring and the characters are indistinguishable! Sin City has a lot of violence in it, and almost all of it is interchangeable. Neither Rodriguez nor Miller are capable of saying anything interesting about our culture’s relationship with violence. They aren’t even capable of presenting true moral ambiguity. All of our protagonists are awful, awful people, but the movie barely seems to register that. It’s more interested in painting them as misunderstood heroes who are unfairly punished and persecuted. And if that weren’t enough, the film can’t go five seconds without resorting to some form of sexism or misogyny for either titillation or shock value. Despite the dead-serious tone, this is a juvenile film for adolescent boys, and I’m embarrassed to think that I might have actually enjoyed it in the past.
Wrap-Up: Sin City is violently terrible, its dull and lifeless stories broken up only by sprinkles of misogynistic violence.