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Culture Reviews
Sin City
Tchaikovsky Cultural Center 
Directed by: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez and (special guest director) Quentin Tarantino. Written by Frank Miller. Starring: Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Nancy Callahan, Rutger Hauer, Elijah Wood. 126 min. USA.

By Sam Gerrans

Review top sheet: a very stylised film noir nightmare with lots of blood (much of it white) and unnaturally husky narrative voices.

This is not so much a film as a spitting competition between a directing fraternity of talented (but very nerdy) overgrown art students with a lot more money to spend than they had when they were at art school.

Is it a great film? Not in my book.

Is it art? Er, dunno. Ask me in a century or two.

Will you like this film?

Yes, if: you’re into the D.C.-comics brand of pithy and languid one-liners on a backdrop of stylised and excessive violence
No, if: like me, you really liked “Sideways”, “Lost in Translation” and “Before Sunset” (i.e. wimpy films which concentrate on character and theme at the expense of hacking off limbs and blowing things up) and you don’t like comics
Maybe, if: you’re a second-year art student and really hard up for ideas

Comments: a film populated by cardboard characters with no compelling motivation battling through an insipid but hostile terrain doesn’t do it for me. But that’s me.

Parts of “Sin City” are funny, but this film is not dramatically engaging or exciting in any comprehensive sense and it’s certainly not a comedy – not even a profoundly sick one.

That said, it is sufficiently revolting to hold your attention to the end. There are some excellent snippets of dialogue and the film generates a sense of unease which should persist long enough to make your walk home from the Metro feel more uncomfortable than usual.

Out-of-five star ratings:

• Story: *
• Dialogue: **
• Substance:
• Film craft: *****

Story comments: there is a story of sorts, but is has a disposable, almost polystyrene-cup quality to it. There must be a template somewhere for designing comic storylines, and they weren’t afraid to use it here. But nobody cares because what’s important is the delivery, the packaging.

Go prepared for a genre fest rather than a story with a point. You’ll enjoy it more.

Dialogue comments: the acting and dialogue are delivered in the same heavily stylised flat pack boxes as the visuals, i.e. they have their genesis in the comic genre and are as three dimensional as a pizza.

But if you prefer to order out rather than eat a healthy and balanced diet, then you’re in for some toppings which include a liberal sprinkling of very passable one-liners.

Substance comments: this film has no unifying point other than to demonstrate how clever the directors are. They are clever, but I don’t go to the cinema to be reminded of the fact.

Film craft: if Stan Lee were to reshoot “The Matrix” with Humphrey Bogart in the lead after the two of them had spent six months in Guantanamo Bay being force-fed mind-bending substances by the CIA and being beaten severely about the head with rolled-up Batman comics the result might look something like “Sin City”: dark, scary, way over the top, and disturbingly disjointed.

Having said all that – and having registered my own dislike of this particular film – the film craft is, objectively, masterful and visually refreshing.

A taste of the story: an adaptation of Frank Miller's stories based in the fictional town of Sin City where everyone is either a prostitute, criminally insane or just waiting for someone to make their life a misery for no apparent reason.


Sam Gerrans is a freelance writer and translator: http://samgerrans.com.

03.06.05
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