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Sin City

A Noir Masterpiece

Quite simply: Sin City will blow your mind. While it is reminiscent of several other films, it is unlike any other movie you have seen. It has the bloody violence of a Quentin Tarantino movie (in fact, he is credited as a "special guest director"), the hard-boiled shell of a 1940s noir classic, and the thrill of one of the recent comic book adaptations but its soul is all its own -- its aesthetics are one of a kind.

Directed by both Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi, Once Upon a Time in Mexico) and based on three of Miller's stories, the film plays out in three vignettes: a bruiser, Marv (Mickey Rourke), out to revenge the murder of his one and only lady love, Goldie (Jaime King); a hero-wannabe, Dwight (Clive Owen), torn between two women -- the fiercely independent prostitute Gail (Rosario Dawson) and the needy cocktail waitress Shellie (Brittany Murphy) -- he's trying to protect from Jackie Boy (Benicio Del Toro); and a cop, Hartigan (Bruce Willis), on a quest to save a young girl, Nancy (at age 11, Makenzie Vega and at age 19, Jessica Alba), from a pedophilic serial killer (Nick Stahl). The latter story serves as bookends for the movie.

The setting is the dark and violent Basin City, otherwise and more aptly known as Sin City, and its environs. The city is ruled by massive corruption from the very top (the omnipotent Rourke family) down to the very bottom (all cops). Everyone in power is so dirty, the residents seem to have no other choice but to be rendered in shades of sinister black and gray with the occasional smear of red (they're not dead, just fighting for survival) or shocking cobalt blue; bright, radioactive yellow is saved for the vilest of characters. Indeed, everything in Sin City is drenched in an unmistakable monochromatic palette. Its affect is shocking, indelible and perfect.

The sets seem to have been taken straight off the pages of Frank Miller's grisly graphic novels along with the "colorful" characters themselves. It is a place like no other. For example, "Old Town", a seedy part of the city ruled by half-clad, dominatrix-inspired heavily armed prostitutes.

The dialogue is sparse and hard-boiled, with characters grinding out things like, "These are the all or nothing days." Sin City is not the kind of place in which you sit around and wax poetic. The performances are bar none, particularly that of Mickey Rourke as misunderstood, towering vigilante Marv and Devon Aoki who turns out a delightfully campy performance as Miho, a prostitute/assassin of deadly prowess.

Thank God Robert Rodriguez finally came to his senses and, instead of making another Spy Kids sequel, he returned to his roots and took on this magnificent film. However, Sin City is not for the weak of heart. In this city you will find pedophiles, cannibals, brutal mercenaries, wife-beaters, crooked cops, pimps, girl gangs, etc. It is really, really violent. In some instances this brutality is stylized but, in most cases, it is not.

Regardless, Sin City is sure to reach instant cult status.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars