Stylized violence, boobs galore in ‘Sin City’

Jason LeRoy

Bruce Willis and Jessica Alba are set to lasso in some theatregoers with this weekend’s Sin City.

Credit: Jason LeRoy

The first thing you should know about Sin City, Robert Rodriguez’s much-anticipated adaptation of several graphic novels by Frank Miller, is that it is not quite as cool as its trailer. It was perhaps foolhardy to expect that a feature-length film could consistently maintain the chest-exploding cool of those two orgasmic minutes, but the optimist in me hoped for the best.

The second thing you should know is that however gruesomely violent you expect the film to be, it will more than likely exceed your expectations. This is easily one of the most violent R-rated films ever made, and one can only imagine that it won this rating by being shot in black and white so that all the splattering, spurting blood is dark gray rather than red.

Like its clearest cinematic ancestor Pulp Fiction, Sin City weaves together three sordid stories of revenge and redemption. The first story tells the story of Marv (Mickey Rourke), a grizzled, tough-as-nails ex-con out to avenge the death of Goldie (Jaime King), the prostitute who showed him a hint of kindness. His journey takes him first to his parole officer (Carla Gugino, evidently playing a nudist Andrew) and then on to Kevin (Elijah Wood), a creepy serial killer.

The second story is about Dwight (Clive Owen), a grizzled, tough-as-nails ex-con out to protect the army of prostitutes that rules the streets of downtown Sin City. The army is led by the likes of Gail (Rosario Dawson, mammoth breasts almost tucked away), Wendy (Jaime King, playing Goldie’s twin sister), Becky (Alexis Bledel) and Miho (Devon Aoki, giving off shades of the Saigon whore who bit Chris Farley’s nose off in Dirty Work).

Dwight heads to Sin City to try protecting the lethal whores from Jack Rafferty (Benicio Del Toro), a sleazeball who has just come from roughing up spastic waitress Shellie (Brittany Murphy).

The final story features John Hartigan (Bruce Willis), a grizzled, tough-as-nails ex-con out to protect Nancy (Jessica Alba), a comely young stripper who is surprisingly naive and innocent for a woman who arouses men for a living. He must protect Nancy from Junior (Nick Stahl), a creepy murderer/pedophile who tried attacking Nancy when she was a little girl and is back to settle the score.

If you’ve been paying attention at all, you may have noticed several threads running through the above plots. The “heroes” are all grizzled ex-cons of one sort or another, and they are all out to protect or avenge one or more helpless women who are invariably involved in one sex industry or another. The stories usually involve any number of unforeseen betrayals, and they typically end in a win-lose situation with some shred of redemption floating around in a great big pool of misery.

To point out that these stories reinforce negative gender stereotypes is rather like pointing out that the film is shot in black and white. In the one story where the women are in any way empowered, they are also prostitutes. One can only blame this on Frank Miller, on whose graphic novels this film is religiously based. Rodriguez and Co. can only be faulted for faithfulness to the original texts.

Ultimately, there really isn’t too much to say about Sin City. It just kind of is. No attempts are made at deeper meanings or revealing some striking connectedness between the character’s lives. In some senses, this is refreshingly un-didactic. The film certainly has style to spare, while still consistently cultivating a worldview of bleakness and doom. And yes, it’s pretty damn cool.

Contact Pop Arts reporter Jason LeRoy at [email protected].