Film Noir died sometime after the French discovered it. Like most things that the French suddenly cling to, American audiences ignored the genre and the various attempts to resurrect it. The French are always two days late and a dollar short. Think I’m wrong? Two words for you… Jerry Lewis.
But I digress. Frank Miller, possibly the most innovative comic book creator to ever pick up a pencil, took everything that made Film Noir famous and splashed it across the pages of comic books with fascinating results.
The Sin City series was, by and large, a comic opus. It wove stories and characters that walked a tightrope between good and evil, never revealing which side of the fence they’d fall until the final panel. Miller’s talent as an artist and storyteller was perfectly showcased in the comic book medium, but how well would it translate to film?
That’s the question many studio heads asked before putting the kibosh on any treatment presented for a celluloid version of Miller’s baby. The Weinsteins, Bob & Harvey, saw past the problems and focused instead on the visionary director Robert Rodriguez’s success for making something from nothing. Imagining what Rodriguez could do with something must have painted big fat dollar signs in their eyes.
Fans of the Sin City comic books might have a few bones to pick, but for the most part, what worked on the page, translates quite well, and in some cases much better, on film.
The cast reads like a who’s who of Hollywood’s A list with a few new hot up and coming properties thrown in just to make sure all bets are covered.
Bruce Willis is in top form, which is to say that he gets the girl and kicks ass. For me, it would be enough just to see Bruce doing what he does best, but he is far from the best thing about the movie. Clive Owen, Nick Stahl, Brittany Murphy, Rosario Dawson, and Elijah Wood do their respective characters justice, but it is Mickey Rourke who continues to surprise movie goers with his versatility and ability to steal scenes. Rodriguez obviously has a soft spot for the big palooka and Rourke delivers with zeal in his turn as behemoth tough guy Marv.
Not all the casting is flawless though. I’m not sure what happened to Michael Madsen, but for god’s sake, someone put that fat bastard out of his misery. He slept through his few lines and would have been unwatchable had he not shared screen time with Bruce Willis.
Overall Frank Miller and Rodriguez find the right balance, never letting the movie get away from them and becoming the kind of farcical schlock that almost ruined the batman franchise. In the wrong hands Sin City could have been something quite different and not nearly as entertaining. Instead, Miller and Rodriguez bring back the dark, foreboding sense that makes Film Noir one of the most revered celluloid genres to ever grace the silver screen.