Tough guys, tougher broads

It’s a rare occurrence for graphic novels to make a successful jump to the silver screen, as film adaptations often fail to capture the verbal and visual essence of a story. But thankfully, “Frank Miller’s Sin City” (Dimension Films) was not altered in this transition.

“Sin City” isn’t a perfect film, but it’s the closest a movie has ever come to eliciting the same emotions that are conjured in reading the original material. Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller co-directed the film and even got their good friend Quentin Tarantino to guest-direct a scene (Clive Owen and Benicio Del Toro’s bizarre conversation while driving to dispose of some deceased thugs). The film features three of the seven “Sin City” stories, which all fit perfectly into the film.

Much of the amazing use of black and white in the graphic novel has been directly translated on to the screen. Rodriguez’s camerawork is excellent, with all the stylistic elements of a film noir, only created with CGI. The sets, although completely fabricated in the computer, look real, and recreate the dark atmosphere of the city.

“The Hard Goodbye” involves a hardened ex-con named Marv (Mickey Rourke) who meets and falls in love with a prostitute named Goldie (Jamie King), then wakes up the next morning to find her dead without any sign of what might have happened. An unrestrained maniac, Marv sets out to find who killed the love of his life. Rourke’s extreme and unrealistic characterization captures the nature of the “Sin City” series. The voiceovers in this segment were also notable, mainly because Rourke’s rugged tone of voice perfectly outlines Marv’s past of countless confrontations and criminal activities.

The second segment, “The Big Fat Kill,” follows good guy Dwight (Clive Owen) and a potential war between mobsters and the prostitutes that run an area of the city called Old Town. Clive Owen isn’t as rough as Mickey Rourke and Bruce Willis, but neither is Dwight. His facial expressions carry his performance more than his presence, and his American-accented voice, while tough to get used to, narrates the story as only a private detective would sound.

“That Yellow Bastard,” the film’s final segment, was easily the best. Bruce Willis plays Hartigan, a good cop lost in a city filled with corruption and vice. After saving a little girl from the titular rapist, he’s framed and sent to jail, only to be released once she is in trouble once again. The film preserves the stunning pictures than spanned two pages in the graphic novel. Performances by Willis, Jessica Alba and Nick Stahl are some of the film’s best, and the segment featured some of the best lighting and camerawork.

Sin City is two hours of film noir and pulp fiction stories as seen through the high contrast black and white stylings of a rebel graphic novelist and his filmmaker companion. The film faithfully captures the core of the graphic novel while also creating a great experience in the theater. It is the most fun and excitement that one can hope to experience in a cinema.

“Sin City” is now playing in Washington, D.C.

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