Sin City

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(2005) ★★★★

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Soft-headed brute Mickey Rourke wants to avenge a call girl’s murder. Veteran beat cop Bruce Willis is guardian angel to paedophile survivor Jessica Alba. And assassin Clive Owen looks out for the streetwalkers of Basin City. A place around the corner from Dick Tracy’s New York, in black-and-white and way downstairs. These three tales from the cesspit are loosely connected in a roundabout way. Good behaviour is an abstract concept in Sin City. Frank Miller’s graphic novel stories – and rarely has graphic been quite so apt – are brought to vibrant life by Desperado director Robert Rodriguez (with a little help in the final stretch from his Dusk Till Dawn cohort Quentin Tarantino). This hardboiled hitman-and-hooker saga notches noir up to pitch black. But when push comes to shove, is it really any great technical advance on the heightened production design of Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy? With the Technicolor turned off. There are splashes of colour to decorate the murk. Rourke’s blood-spattered T-shirt. Jaime King’s flowing golden tresses. Rutger Hauer’s green eyes. And, looming over everything, Powers Boothe’s black heart. The razorwire-and-hatchet narration zings with a crazy kind of poetry: “My muscles made me a thousand promises of pain to come…” And the whole sordid show is stolen by Rourke’s easily confused, stout-hearted yeoman. Looking like HellBoy on a bad face day, he even gives his prison executioners a hard time: “Would you get a move on – I haven’t got all night.” Filmed in Austin, Texas – but mainly in Rotoscope City, would be my guess. Which is where Frank Miller’s Sin City sequel, A Dame to Kill For, maybe should have stayed. On the drawing board.

Certificate: 18
Duration: 119min