Reel Reviews

Film Reviews by a Real Person, Not a Critic

Frank Miller’s Sin City

I actually did this review last year, but for my other blog. I edited it to match the other reviews on this blog.

Title: Frank Miller’s Sin City
Year: 2005
Director: Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez (and Quentin Tarantino for one small scene)*
Starring Cast: Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Clive Owen, Benicio Del Toro, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson
Rated: A nice, big, fat R

Reel Reviews Rating:

Sin City is based on Frank Miller’s graphic novels of the same name. There are actually 3 separate plots (from 3 of Miller’s graphic novels) that are not really connected, except that you sometimes see a character from one story appear in another story. What unifies the three stories, however, is that they all take place in Basin City, which is pretty much an analogy of Hell. Basin City is controlled by a corrupt senator and a bishop, extremely powerful men who are not to be messed with. They pretty much own everyone in the city, and the police can’t do anything about it since they’re also corrupt. The three main characters in the stories- played by Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, and Clive Owen- are not your typical heroes. They all have specific strengths and weaknesses. In the sea of corruption that is Basin City, they struggle to stay morally afloat, but they end up in circumstances that test their morality and devotion to their friends.

While most comic book movie adaptations try to stay true to its origins, many are compromised due to factors such as time constraints, the director’s artistic freedoms, and the desire to capture a larger (read: PG-13) audience. However, Sin City breaks away from these restraints since Miller himself co-directed the movie (with Robert Rodriguez), thus preserving nearly every detail of his graphic novels. The movie nearly captures the graphic novels frame by frame, and each of these frames is visually stunning. Much like Bound and The Matrix, Sin City is filmed as if it came straight from a comic book, and the use of black and white with splashes of color make this film all the more visually and artistically gorgeous.

That being said, I’ll be straight up with you all: it’s violent.

It’s really, really violent.

Violent and visceral.

I thought Braveheart was bad. I thought that Saving Private Ryan , Starship Troopers, and the Kill Bills were bad.


There are lots and lots of guns and explosions. Swords neatly slice body parts, and people are literally beaten to a bloody pulp. I won’t even mention the more disturbing scenes. At the same time, in a way the black and white appearance of the movie offsets some of the violence, like the badass “Crazy 88s” scene in Kill Bill: Volume 1 where The Bride fights O-ren Ishii’s army. Furthermore, in my opinion, Sin City is still not as violent as the many horror films out there. The Howling franchise is definitely grosser.

A cool thing when you watch this film is that, although it contains an all-star cast, most are so convincing in their roles that you don’t see them as the actors but rather, as the characters they play. Bruce Willis and Mickey Rourke in particular are excellent in their roles as a grizzled old cop and an brutish ex-con, respectively. I didn’t even realize that it was Mickey Rourke until my boyfriend pointed out his squinty eyes. If Pulp Fiction brought John Travolta’s career back to life, I believe that this movie will resurrect Rourke’s own dead career.

Most of the supporting cast is as good. Their roles were small, but highly effective. The actresses played their parts relatively well. They were also all gorgeous, sexy, and hot. Yes, Jessica Alba did a great job portraying a stripper who doesn’t take her clothes off. I know that this goes against the graphic novel, but get over it, fanboys. What intrigued me the most is that several actors played against type. Elijah Wood is unbelievably scary and disturbing as Kevin. He completely destroyed his Frodo image with this role.

Overall, I enjoyed Sin City in spite of its excessive violence. It’s creative, visually and artistically breathtaking, and the actors do a terrific job (except for Brittany Murphy. She sucks). If you’re a Frank Miller fan, then I’m preaching to the choir since you obviously have this DVD by now. If you can take violence, and horror movies, then go rent/buy it. If you don’t like violent movies, then still see this movie and appreciate it for its artistry, but cover your eyes during the more violent, grosser scenes.

*FUN FACT: Tarantino directed a small scene in Sin City for $1 as payment for Rodriguez doing the score for Kill Bill: Volume 2 for the same price. If you’re familiar with Tarantino’s work, you can easily guess which scene he directed.

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January 30, 2006 - Posted by | Action, Crime, Drama, Film Adaptation, Film Noir


  1. awesome movie…

    I was so shocked in every scene with Elijah Wood. I also thought Josh Hartnett’s role in that movie was pretty cool, even though it was very small…

    By the way, watched 2 pretty cool movies over the weekend: Lord of War and Crash. I thought Lord of War was entertaining and I think Crash has moved right up into my top 3 of All-Time Favorites!

    Comment by J | January 30, 2006 | Reply

  2. Another of my favorites.I absolutly loved this movie.It takes you away to another world and that is all I ask of a great movie.Any movie that gets an award usually stinks.Stick to anything Tarantino is associated with and you wont be dissapointed 🙂

    Comment by foo | January 30, 2006 | Reply

  3. Love the new blog design :). What scene did Tarantino direct? Is it with the japanese assassin in the story with Clive Owen and Rosario Dawson?

    Comment by Damon Z | January 31, 2006 | Reply

  4. J- I haven’t seen Lord of War and Crash. So what are your Top 3 All Time Favorites?

    foo- Hmm, not necessarily. There are lots of movies that get awards that do not stink 🙂

    Damon- Thanks! I think it’s a nice blog design too.

    As for the scene, you’re on the right track. Yes, it’s from that particular story, but the Japanese assassin wasn’t technically in that scene. I’ll give you a hint: it’s the one scene in the whole movie where the characters were the most talkative 🙂

    Comment by Toni | January 31, 2006 | Reply

  5. I am not sure what exactly my top 3 are to be honest, they depend on what kind of mood I am in, but I think Crash has secured a spot in the top 10 for sure…

    I would have to think about that question a little more before I could come up with an answer…

    Comment by J | January 31, 2006 | Reply

  6. What I loved about the movie was, as you said, their ability to be true to the comic. I read the comic first and loved how the plots intertwined, right down to where cetain cahracters are sitting in the bar while another subplot is ocurring. I was surprised with the actors abilities to let the cahracters overshadow them. Perhapd it’s because the character were just that. Characters from a comic book…caricatures if you will… I was pleasantly surprised by Jessica alba as I am not usually a fan of her work. I almost didn’t recognize Eljah Wood for a moment. A rare movie that stayed true to it’s inspiration…without pandering.

    Comment by amateurish | February 3, 2006 | Reply

  7. Ooh, I think I got it. It’s the scene where Rosario Dawson vows to wage war on anyone who interferes in their “business”.

    Comment by Damon Z | February 6, 2006 | Reply

  8. Amateurish– they may have been characters in a comic book, but many of them had more substance than some movie characters, IMO. And yeah, I didn’t recognize Elijah either for a moment. I was like, “Creepy- waitaminute, that’s Frodo!”

    Damon– Um, not quite. Consider that because this was based on a graphic novel, we often heard what one solidary character was thinking, so there was a lot of narration.

    Conversely, one of Tarantino’s signature styles is to have characters banter with each other, usually in a very casual and comical manner. Usually the characters talk about nonsense topics (e.g. the “Madonna” conversation at tthe beginning of Reservoir Dogs), but sometimes they talk about relevant stuff (e.g. Jules complaining to Vincent about having to clean the bloody car in Pulp Fiction). It’s always funny though.

    Can you recall a scene when two characters are talking back and forth, and the scene is somewhat comical? It’s between two guys 🙂

    Comment by Toni | February 6, 2006 | Reply

  9. This has got to be one of the funniest comments I’ve ever heard from Bruce Willis:

    “I’m a man and I will beat up anybody who tries to tell me that I’m not a man just because my hair’s thinning,”

    Talk about some severe insecurities!

    Comment by mr skin | October 17, 2006 | Reply

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