Looming shadows fall starkly across rain-slick streets. A door chain jiggles because a very bad man wants to come in and hurt someone. Hookers pull guns from their garter belts. Tough, tough talk comes from bruised lips that dangle cigarettes and spit blood.
The villians are unspeakably evil. The heroes are compromised and overmatched. The city is filled with corruption but the country is even worse.
In "Sin City," two of today's greatest stylists join forces in an audacious synthesis of graphic novel and movie. It has the logic of a nightmare. It is movie-making pared down to the essentials Pauline Kael once saw on an Italian movie poster: "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang."
It is intentionally shocking when it confronts us with heart-stopping cruelty and violence. And it is even more shocking when it finds a terrible beauty in ruination.
Robert Rodriguez (Desperado, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Spy Kids) defied the rules of the Directors Guild to bring on as his co-director Frank Miller, the writer/artist who created the Sin City graphic novels.
The result is a faithful, shot-for-shot rendition of each stunning panel. Hard, resolute voice-overs accompany stark, inky images. There are brief flashes and flutters of color -- red for brake-lights, a heart-shaped bed, a lightning-streaked sky, a sleek getaway car, and for blood. Yellow for the golden curls of a dead hooker and the jaundiced skin of a cowardly villain whose toxic perversions have turned him the color of bile.
Three stories about heroes battling overwhelming odds circle around each other, amplify each other, and ultimately intersect.
Marv (almost unrecognizable Mickey Rourke in a career-restoring performance) is a gigantic brute of a man. "I love hitmen," he says, "No matter what you do to them you don't feel bad." After a...