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Sin City (18)

Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Behind the Scenes of 'Sin City'.

AS gut-wrenchingly brutal as it is visually astounding, Sin City is unlike any other film you're likely to see this year.

In adapting Frank Miller's graphic novels for the big screen, maverick director, Robert Rodriguez, goes all out to provide cinema-goers with the ride of their lives.

The result is a fast, hip and unapologetically violent experience designed to titillate the eyeballs while taxing the brain.

Comprised of three Sin City stories - The Hard Goodbye, The Big Fat Kill and That Yellow Bastard - the film succeeds in capturing your breath, as well as your imagination, pretty much from the outset.

Story one book-ends the movie, as Bruce Willis' honourable cop, Hartigan, a good guy with a 'bum ticker', tries desperately to save a sweet girl from a murderous rapist (played by Nick Stahl).

The ensuing saga, spread out over eight years, finds Hartigan being framed as a paedophile and forced to 'do time' in order to protect the identity of the girl he has saved, before gaining his own form of retribution in the hardest way possible.

It pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the film.

The longest story belongs to Mickey Rourke's ex-con Marv, an ugly heavy who vows revenge after waking up next to the dead hooker (Jaime King) he has only just fallen in love with.

Framed for her murder, Marv is beaten up by cops, shot at by prostitutes and hounded by his own twisted morality, before his search for the truth takes him to a farm presided over by Elijah Wood's cannibalistic Kevin, who mounts the heads of his victims as trophies once has had consumed their bodies.

Needless to say, Marv's form of retribution is protracted and painful and certainly not for the faint-hearted.

And finally there's Clive Owen's hard-boiled private eye, Dwight, whose decision to come between a beat-up waitress (Brittany Murphy) and her vicious boyfriend, Jackie Boy (Benicio Del Toro), almost threatens to kick off a war between the cops and Uzi-wielding whores of Old Town Basin City.

Each one of the stories is connected in some way, although part of the fun lies in piecing them together.

As such Rodriguez's movie operates as sort of a noir-ish Pulp Fiction, one which cleverly films actors against computer-generated backgrounds to create a world that is completely unique.

Most of the frames in Sin City appear in black and white, with only splashes of colour to make a moment more distinctive, such as the splash of red blood on a white vest, the green of a woman's eye, or the yellow skin of a creepy villain.

As such, audiences may find themselves seduced on a visual level even if they find the savagery deplorable.

For what Rodriguez has done, in essence, is turn violence into an art form, enlisting the help of both Miller and guest director, Quentin Tarantino, as accomplices.

The world they create exists in a moral vacuum, where no good deed goes unpunished and acts of kindness are few and far between.

The result is a film with no easy sentiment and one which could easily become cold and remote, especially for those of a sensitive disposition.

Yet those willing to stick with it will emerge with the satisfied glow of knowing they have seen something different and daring; a film that isn't content to play by convention.

The cast seem to know it too - all delivering measured performances that rival the best work on their CVs to date.

Willis is tough but sensitive, while Owen is charismatic and bold, each placing themselves in situations they have little hope of walking away from.

Likewise, Rourke, whose bruiser with a heart of Gold(ie) provides the film with some of its best and funniest moments.

Yet everyone seems to know they are part of something special, working together as a whole to ensure Sin City retains its distinctive edge.

All of which helps to ensure that Rodriguez's uncompromising vision hits home with all the thunderous accuracy of one of Marv's fists.

Pray you don't miss out on the mayhem.

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