Directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller, starring Bruce Willis, Clive Owen, Benicio Del Toro, Elijah Wood, Mickey Rourke, Brittany Murphy, Jessica Alba, Josh Hartnett and Rosario Dawson.
'Sin City' brings to life Frank Miller's graphic comic book tales that are set in a world that's black, white and noir. Initially Miller, who ended up as co-screenwriter and director, was reluctant to let anyone at his baby. However when Robert Rodriguez fired ahead with a demo, starring Josh Hartnett, which showed he intended to replicate rather than adapt, he got the go-ahead.
The cast was filmed in front of a green screen, with the black-and-white backdrop added after, along with meaningful splashes of colour. The end result is a film that looks like it was made into a comic book, rather than the other way around, with everything artificial except for the actors, their props and a few small sets. Made for just $40m and with a short three-month postproduction, it is a step forward in digital filmmaking.
The film combines three of Miller's stories ('The Hard Goodbye', 'The Big Fat Kill', and 'That Yellow Bastard'), with the three main characters having a dodgy sense of morality and plenty of bloodshed needed to do the right thing. Bruce Willis plays a rugged cop framed for raping the girl he is hell-bent on protecting (Alba); street fighter Marv (Rourke) is out to avenge a hooker's murder (she was the first lady to treat him well, bless him) and Owen plays Dwight McCarthy, an ex-detective who gets caught up helping out some ladies of the night.
Shot in a highly stylised way, you can almost but not quite detach yourself from the unrelenting violence. At over two hours long 'Sin City' is one of those surreal films that leaves you a bit dazed and paranoid as you emerge into the bright lights of the nearby Spar. The violence is wince-inducing - anyone like to see a dog eat its owner's leg or a man castrated with the bare hands of another?
However for most people the impact of the violence will be reduced - and many will enjoy it - because it is so far from reality, with blood white on occasion and heroes shaking off bullet wounds. It seems fitting that Quentin Tarantino guest directed a key morbid scene, where Owen banters with Benicio Del Toro's half-decapitated corpse.
The women in 'Sin City' can take care of themselves, leaping around killing when they need to, while looking like a group of models fresh from an Anne Summers shoot. Most are hookers and the good girl is a stripper.
Making up for the high body count is some decent acting from a top-notch cast that makes the most of the limited dialogue. There is not a trace of the sweet Frodo in Elijah Wood, who plays the silent, creepy cannibal Kevin and Mickey Rourke makes an admirable comeback as the seven-feet of muscle and mayhem that is Marv.
Like the comics, the film is a twisted take on 1940s Hollywood film noir. It is also meant to be a comedy, and mostly succeeds. There are some hilarious scenes when an Irish gang show up who just love making big explosions and its jilting to hear the raw Dub accents after the slick drone of the 'Pulp Fiction'-style voiceover.
For many, especially comic book aficionados, 'Sin City' will be a masterpiece with 'Sin City 2' (already in the making) eagerly awaited. For others it will be a bit of fun and some will probably regard it as ultra-violent, sexist, and seedy. 'Sin City' is definitely not for everyone, but technically and cinematically it's a stylish piece of work.