Comic books have been adapted on the silver screen countless number of times as this process has been going on for decades & will continue to do so for many more years to come. However, adapting a comic book series on the film canvas is one thing but transitioning it into a live-action motion picture in a manner that it brings the comic book to life in an almost literal sense while mirroring the events of the novel frame to frame is something that has never been done before. That was the case until Frank Miller & Robert Rodriguez teamed up to accomplish exactly that & to say that they succeeded will be an understatement. Why? Because Sin City turned out to be a groundbreaking cinematic feat that brings on screen something never done before, something never seen before & something never experienced before.
Based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel series of the same name, Sin City is divided into 3 primary segments which are narrated in a non-chronological & overlapping order (unless you’re watching the recut, extended & unrated version). The first chapter we are introduced to is That Yellow Bastard; following an aging police officer who saves a young girl from a pedophile while also covering the aftermath of that event. Next up is my favourite segment of the three called The Hard Goodbye; concerning a man who goes on a killing rampage to find the murderer of his one-time sweetheart & exact revenge. And finally we have The Big Fat Kill; focusing on the street war between prostitutes & mercenaries in Old Town. Also opening & closing the film is another short segment named The Customer Is Always Right which isn’t much related to the rest of the film & only serves in bookending the whole narrative.
Directed, produced, photographed, edited & scored by Robert Rodriguez whose films are more admired for its style rather than substance, Sin City in my opinion remains the finest & most accomplished work of Rodriguez’s filmmaking career. Also sharing the direction credits this time is Frank Miller, who makes sure the film is adapted the way he envisioned it, plus we also have Quentin Tarantino filming just one scene & receiving credit as guest director. As far as technical aspects is concerned, Sin City is an astonishing work of cinematic art & a marvel of digital filmmaking. Cinematography makes a striking impression with expert use of colours, contrast & lighting, thus giving the entire film a noirish look & feel from start to finish while editing smartly handles its overlapping plot lines by providing smooth transitions from one chapter to another. And last but not the least, the soundtrack doesn’t feature any particularly impressive track but as a whole adds a lot of flavour to the entire film.
Coming to the performances, Sin City features a highly impressive cast in Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Brittany Murphy, Jaime King, Devon Aoki, Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Elijah Wood, Clive Owen, Benicio del Toro, Michael Clarke Duncan & many more. And even though everyone suits & justifies their given characters, the standouts for me were Mickey Rourke, Elijah Wood & Brittany Murphy. Rourke is an absolute show-stealer & an unstoppable beast in the role of Marv & delivers the most impressive performance amongst all. Elijah Wood follows him closely with a sinister rendition of Kevin; a mute, cannibalistic serial killer. Brittany Murphy’s performance borders on overacting but she never crosses that thin line & has the most infectious screen presence amongst the female cast which was only & closely matched by Devon Aoki’s slick portrayal of Miho; the silent assassin & defender of Old Town.
That Yellow Bastard introduces Officer John Hartigan (Bruce Willis), Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) & Roark Jr. aka the title character (Nick Stahl) with Michael Madsen present in a cameo role as Hartigan’s corrupt partner Bob. The Hard Goodbye features Marv (Mickey Rourke), Goldie & Wendy (Jaime King) & Kevin (Elijah Wood) with supporting work coming from Carla Gugino as Lucille; Marv’s parole officer, plus a cameo by Frank Miller himself as a corrupt priest. The Big Fat Kill introduces Dwight (Clive Owen), Shellie (Brittany Murphy), Jack (Benecio del Toro), Gail (Rosario Dawson), Miho (Devon Aoki), Becky (Alexis Bledel) & Manute (Michael Clarke Duncan). All the major characters from the three stories also make their appearance at least once in Kadie’s Bar, the only location where all objects are in colour. Lastly, the prologue & epilogue features Josh Hartnett as a hitman known as The Salesman.
Although by no means is it a flawless film, Sin City is nonetheless the closest cinema has come to mirroring a graphic novel on the silver screen and it certainly adds a new chapter to the filmmaking manuals. Every element of Frank Miller’s novels is captured with all its glamour, sexiness & unadulterated quality plus the few modifications like addition of colours in what is a black-n-white comic series only elevates the film’s uniqueness & artistic appeal. On an overall scale, Sin City is one of the most stylish, inventive, faithful, original & visually pathbreaking films to have come out in the 21st century. The level of violence & extremity is sure to put off those who are easily distressed but there’s no denying that it’s going to thrill the new viewers almost as much as it’s destined to amaze the fans of the book. An extraordinary achievement in genre-filmmaking & a breathtaking cinematic ride from start to finish, Sin City is a must for every cinema lover out there. An instant classic. An unforgettable experience. A technical masterpiece.