Directors: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller.
Screenplay: Frank Miller.
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Clive Owen, Benicio Del Toro, Elijah Wood, Nick Stahl, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Brittany Murphy, Jamie King, Carla Gugino, Devon Aoki, Alexis Bledel, Powers Boothe, Michael Clarke Duncan, Nicky Katt, Marley Shelton, Tommy Flanagan, Frank Miller, Rutger Hauer, Josh Hartnett, Michael Madsen.
“This is blood for blood and by the gallons. These are the old days man, the bad days, the all-or-nothing days. They’re back! There’s no choices left. And I’m ready for war”
Director Robert Rodriguez is a real mixed bag for me. Most of the time, I either find his films childish or over the top. This, however, is far from childish but so wildly over the top, it’s hard not to like it. It’s based on the adult comic-book by Frank Miller (who serves as a co-director) and is by far Rodriguez’s finest film to date.
Basin City is the film noir community that plays host to three hardboiled comic-book tales. “The Hard Goodbye” has Marv (Mickey Rourke) an brutish ex-convict who avenges the murder of prostitute Goldie (Jamie King) that he had fallen in love with; “The Big Fat Kill” where private detective Dwight (Clive Owen) finds himself helping hookers fight mercenaries from the red light district and “That Yellow Bastard” sees disgraced cop Hartigan (Bruce Willis) protect dancer Nancy (Jessica Alba) from a psychotic sadist and sex offender (Nick Stahl).
This film may be, unashamedly, computer enhanced but it doesn’t diminish it’s highly visual approach. It’s shot in true noir style with wonderful touches of vibrant colour throughout it’s monochrome palette. It also has the downbeat voiceover that most film’s of the genre indulge in. It’s quite simply, a stunning piece of work. Comic-book adaptations have taken to our screens on a regular basis but Rodriguez has probably been the most faithful to his source material. This is as close as I’ve seen in a page to screen transfer. Rodriguez has retained the look and feel of this fantasy world, practically word-for-word, and I can only assume that having it’s creator Frank Miller on board is a major merit. Like a lot of comics it’s most certainly a boys-own adventure; All the guys look tough and talk tough and most of the gals dress in dog collars and S&M gear. It could be deemed insulting or exploitative towards women but it’s written purely as fantasy and works an absolute treat. I’m a big fan of film-noir but you’d be hard pushed to find it done in such an audacious way. Into the bargain, Quentin Tarantino ‘guest directs’ a scene and we are also given a huge cast of familiar faces. All of which, are superb. The real standout though is a comeback performance by Mickey Rourke. He’s as brutal and relentless as they come – “… they should’ve shot me in the head and enough times to make sure” – and he’s unlike most comic characters you’ll find yourself rooting for. I’ve always been a fan of Rourke’s and this is one of my favourite performances from him. It’s great to have him back. Ultimately, it’s the look and feel of the film that possesses the real power though. It’s very hard not too be drawn into this visceral and uncompromising neo-noir.
Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For is in the works and if Rodriguez and Miller can recreate their true visual spectacle and technical achievements, then we could be in for another treat.
Trivia: Robert Rodriguez scored Kill Bill: Vol. 2 in 2004 for $1. Quentin Tarantino said he would repay him by directing a segment of this movie for $1. Tarantino, a vocal proponent of film-over-digital, has said that he was curious to get hands-on experience with the HD cameras which Rodriguez lauds. When asked about his experience, Tarantino merely replied, “Mission Accomplished.”