"That the best you can do, you pansies?"

Sin City movie poster

Sin City movie poster

I went to see Sin City on Friday, and I've got good news and bad news. The good news is that it looks fantastic. The bad news is that's the only good news.

Let's be honest for a moment. The Sin City comics have never been more than enjoyable trash — they're second-rate Mickey Spillane pastiches, populated with undeveloped characters and cursed with some of the most horrid, clichéd dialogue you'll ever read. Their success is entirely due to Frank Miller's mastery of his craft. His images are carefully chosen and beautifully drawn, his storytelling exquisite, and that artistry transforms the stuff of horrid poitboilers into something more visceral and engaging. Unfortunately, what works on the printed page doesn't necessarily translate to the big screen.

Not surprisingly, the visual aspects translate well. The stark lighting and bold, simplistic compositions are enlivened by a heavily textured, gritty cinematography that looks like nothing else coming in Hollywood. The use of spot color is, if anything, even more successful than it is in the comics, instantly attracting the eye while at the same time being horribly unsettling.

The other aspects don't translate nearly as well, though. The leisurely pacing of the comic page translates into staccato storytelling, leaping from plot point to plot point without a rest. The dialogue is cringe-inducing, and is only salvaged by Mickey Rourke and Clive Owen turning their performances into masterpieces of high camp. I admire Rodriguez's fidelity to the source material — too many comic book adaptations jettison all the elements that make their stories worth reading — but he winds up being too faithful. All three stories have rough edges and gaping plot holes that could have been corrected with a minimum of effort, while leaving their essential natures unchanged.

Is Sin City worth seeing? Sure. It's entertaining, visually inventive, and much better than the disposable action movies that Hollywood churns out by the dozen. Just don't expect it to be art.

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