State-of-the-art technology allied to classic genre filmmaking. Red-hot stars interacting seamlessly with eye-popping digital backdrops. An endlessly creative amalgam of hi-tech futurism and retro cool... Yes, but Sky Captain still sucked. So much so that there must have been a few crossed fingers down Hollywood way as Robert Rodriguez readied his $45 million digital extravaganza. An endlessly inventive mix of retro cool and state-of-the-art technology. In which red-hot stars merge seamlessly with eye-popping computerised backdrops...
Luckily the Spy Kids man had an ace up his sleeve – one Frank Miller, creator and guru of Sin City’s dark, twisted universe. Winning him over by promising total fidelity to his cult graphic novels, Rodriguez brought him on board as co-director, mentor and even actor. (He’s the priest who gets a bullet in his confession box.) Okay, so that Director’s Guild-baiting credit might have been as cosmetic as the stylised crimson plasma that splatters the faces of Sin City’s implacable monochrome avengers, but it was as much a statement of intent as a courtesy – a guarantee that Miller’s visceral, morally ambivalent fables would make the leap from page to screen with their nihilistic brutality, mordant black humour and psychopathic protagonists intact.
There are times, though, when you begin to question Rodriguez’s slavish faithfulness to his source material. For one thing, the violence feels awfully repetitive: an orgy of decapitated heads, severed limbs and sundry impalements that soon start to cancel themselves out. You could say the same about the use of voiceovers: hear one moody, Chandler-esque narration and you’ve heard them all. And while the switchback storytelling and mangled chronology keeps us on our toes, it makes Sin City look more like some bastard offspring of Pulp Fiction than a pic in its own right. (Even if Tarantino hadn’t been enlisted as “special guest director”, his sticky fingerprints would have still been visible on every frame.)
But none of the above prevents Sin City from delivering an eye-watering thud to the solar plexus, searing our collective corneas with its bravado visuals and gifting its ensemble cast parts they can really get their molars into. (Figuratively, in the case of Mickey Rourke’s soulful bruiser Marv; literally, in the case of Elijah Wood’s vampire cannibal Kevin.)
Using Miller’s atmospheric originals as virtual storyboards, Rodriguez has produced the first truly authentic, compromise-free comic-book movie. And while we’d prefer not to wait for the extended version, there’s no denying this instant noir classic packs a killer punch Mike Tyson would be proud of.