As engaging, entertaining and visually-stunning as Sin City is, it feels like something audiences have seen too many times before. Maybe “seen” is the wrong word, since the visuals of the film are by far the best thing about it. More accurately, they have experienced it all before. The plot, characters, rugged action scenes and absurd surroundings are underwhelming as far as the wow-factor goes. At the same time, most people should leave feeling thoroughly entertained and satisfied.
Sin City is a good movie, but many of those awaiting what they hope will be a masterpiece are going to be disappointed. All signs pointed towards it being great. The trailers were exciting, the cast nothing short of amazing, and the comic book it’s based on is an underground favorite.
Director Robert Rodriguez (Desperado) begins the film with a short, dialogue-heavy scene between two characters, as if to tease the viewers who came expecting action. After this short, which is not connected to the rest of the film, comes the beginning of the story. To go into plot details would take forever, given the Pulp Fiction-like feel of the interconnected stories and time-jumping. The basic story deals with revenge, and although it is exciting and fun, it doesn’t come close to the other big recent action revenge film, Kill Bill.
Kill Bill director Quentin Tarantino is a friend of Rodriguez, and actually served as a guest director on parts of Sin City. His influence is crystal clear, whether it’s through campy dialogue, absurd action, or even the casting. Tarantino favorites Michael Madsen and Bruce Willis both factor heavily into Sin City, while Antonio Banderas, a Rodriguez standard, is absent.
Even those unimpressed by the ensemble cast and Rodriguez’s previous work had to be interested in the look of the trailers. The film is almost entirely in black and white, except for a few spots of dominant color, like red lipstick or a shiny car. The technology that allowed Rodriguez to do this was revolutionary when he took on the project. Unfortunately for him, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow got an earlier release than his film and utilized basically the same visual style. Sin City is a slightly better film than Sky Captain but loses some of the visual shock factor because of coming out second.
Sin City struggles with its plot and writing and lacks the punch it needs to really stand out on its own. Most of the actors do a good job, especially Mickey Rourke in what will hopefully be his comeback film. But the stories often get so scattered that they lose their appeal, and no matter how cool the film is to look at, it has to be able to back that up as well.
Sin City’s biggest problem is that it sets itself up to be too good. Some good-not-great movies can take their best scenes or best attributes and make an amazing trailer out of them. By doing so, they might build more excitement, but they are setting their audience up for a letdown. Minus the hype, Sin City is a very enjoyable, well-crafted, comic book action film. But no matter what comic book fans might want to believe, it’s not the visionary masterpiece it has made itself out to be.
Shawn Wines can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.