"Frank Miller's Sin City" is an all star pulp fiction/film noir/grand guignol/hellzapoppin' grotesque spectacular. The plot is based on three of Miller's graphic novels, the namesake, "Sin City'" "The Big Fat Kill" " and "That Yellow Bastard." Actually the narrative is a sloppy mess, but as any student of this genre learns, film noir is a triumph of style over substance. While there are three separate narratives, the characters interlap into each other stories. Josh Hartnett's character is the bookend to the pulpy details of the Sin City.
Detective Hartigan (Bruce Willis) is one hour away from retirement and suffers from angina. Despite advice from his partner (Michael Madsen) to take it easy, Hartigan is determined to arrest a murderous pedophile. What should become Hatigan's last blaze of glory becomes the detective's worst nightmare. It is only through the gratitude of young Nancy (Jessica Alba) does Hartigan regain some semblance of humanity. Based upon "That Yellow Bastard'" this segment provides the most traditional form of 1940's postwar detective stories..
Marv (Mickey Rourke) is a wolfish hooligan who gains comfort from a prostitute, Goldie (Jaime King). While the two sleep in each other's arms, Goldie is murdered. After being set up by the Basin City Police patrol, Marv vows revenge. Lacking political sophistication, Marv climbs the corporate ladder of corruption. Being an equal opportunity offender, Marv confronts a band of prostitutes with the same courtesy to Basin City's Arch Bishop Rourke (Rutger Hauer). Marv's Tale is the wildest of the three segments with the tone that balances from the most perverted to the most funny.
Dwight (Clive Owen) is dating Shellie (Brittany Murphy), the former moll of Jackie Boy (Bernicio Del Toro), an overgrown gang banger who delights in beating up women. Jackie Boy and his posse venture to the red light district and runs afoul Gail (Rosario Dawson) and her gang. Through a series of unfortunate events, a full scale war erupts between the crooked cops and the mob. Eventually the sadistic Manute(Michael Duncan Clarke)is recruited to settle multiple scores. Based upon "The Big Fat Kill," this segment suffers from too many interesting characters within too short story time.
The cast and crew of "Frank Miller's Sin City" fulfills the artistic goals of creating a modern day film noir. Unlike the subtle suggestions of perverted behavior from the 1940's classics, this modern flick provides full frontal sadism. Ticket buyers expecting a homage to the Robert Mitchum, Humphrey Bogart, Stirling Hayden classics of the past will be in for a shock. Two thugs have their faced washed in dirty toilet bowls and there are the creepy actions of Cannibal Kevin (Elijah Wood). There are multiple amputations and decapitations. At least two celebrity heads are brandished around the streets like a trophy.
In terms of production values, "Frank Miller's Sin City" ranks alongside with "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow." Both films do a great job mixing modern sensibilities with a nod to the original material that inspired such movies. Whereas the tone of "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" celebrated swashbuckling heroics, "Frank Miller's Sin City" acknowledges the darkness of the mean streets.