Tag Archives: Josh Hartnett

171. SIN CITY (2005)

“It’s pretty damn weird to eat people.”–Marv, Sin City

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: , , (“special guest director”)

FEATURING: , , , , Nick Stahl, Jaime King, , , , Brittany Murphy,

PLOT: The movie tells three stories (with some common characters) set in the mythical Basin City: in one, a police detective risks his life to stop a child-killer. In a second, a brutal, mentally ill criminal hunts down the men he believes killed the only woman who ever showed kindness to him. A final strand tells of a suave assassin who attempts to prevent someone else’s accidental killing from turning into an all-out war between the cops, the mafia, and the self-governing prostitutes of Old Town.

Still from Sin City (2005)
BACKGROUND:

  • A fan of Frank Miller’s original series of Sin City comics, Robert Rodriguez wanted to make the movie as true to the book as possible: “a translation, not an adaptation.” The actual comics were used as the storyboards. The stories selected were “The Hard Goodbye,” “The Big Fat Kill,” and “That Yellow Bastard” as well as the short “The Customer is Always Right.”
  • Rodriguez shot the opening segment, “The Customer is Always Right,” in one day as a proof-of-concept to convince Miller that he could do justice to the art style. He then used that clip to convince actors such as Bruce Willis and Benicio Del Toro to sign on to the project.
  • Rodriguez insisted that Miller receive a co-director credit on the film, but the Directors Guild of America objected to the credit (they do not allow co-directing). He then decided to give Miller full credit, but Miller refused. Rodriguez then resigned from the Guild so the co-directing credit could remain.
  • Quentin Tarantino directed a single scene in the movie (a segment from “The Big Fat Kill” involving a conversation between the severed head of Del Toro’s “Jackie-Boy” and Clive Owen’s “Dwight”). Tarantino directed for a salary of $1 as a way to repay Rodriguez for composing music for Kill Bill: Vol. 2 for $1.
  • The movie was entirely shot on Rodriguez’s “digital backlot” (green screen studio) near his home in Austin, Texas.
  • Sin City screened in competition at Cannes and won the Technical Grand Prize.
  • Plans for a sequel (based on Miller’s “A Dame to Kill For“) were announced immediately after the film was completed; the followup feature was delayed until 2014, however.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: From the very first frame—a woman in a blood-red backless cocktail dress on a balcony staring out over a steel-grey city—Sin City‘s pulp Expressionism is consistently startling and poetic. Since we’re fascinated by the weird, we’ll select the first sight of the Yellow Bastard, the bald, satellite dish-eared pedophile killer dyed the color of French’s mustard, as our unforgettable take-home image from the movie.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: A marriage between the mythologies of film noir and violent comics, Sin City‘s bloody tales are set in an abstract urban hellscape inhabited by invulnerable tough guys and rough sexy dames. They play like the lost works of Raymond Chandler’s alternate universe grandson, written to scrape up a few bucks for a bottle of booze while he was down and out in Gotham City. With a cast of cannibal serial killers, jaundiced pedophiles and ninja hookers, the adventures of the hard-boiled demigods of Sin City are as fantastical as its random splotches of color in a monochrome landscape are visually unreal.


Original trailer for Sin City

COMMENTS: Sin City earns its “recommended” label almost solely on the basis of its visuals (bolstered by some finely weird touches), and not for its Continue reading 171. SIN CITY (2005)

CAPSULE: BUNRAKU (2010)

DIRECTED BY: Guy Moshe

FEATURING: , Gackt, , Demi Moore, Ron Perlman

PLOT: Set in a post-apocalyptic future that outlaws guns but promotes copious amounts of sword-heavy battles, Bunraku follows two mysterious lone strangers—a card-playing cowboy (Hartnett) and a pacifistic Japanese warrior (Gackt)—as they strive to take down the all-powerful crime lord (Perlman) who controls the city.

Still from Bunraku (2010)
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: The visuals are stunning and innovative and the effects are wildly impressive, but the cookie-cutter sci-fi/western tale and clumsy script hold it back from approaching true Weirdness.

COMMENTS: Introduced by a gorgeous animated sequence involving puppetry (which is also the only time the film’s title comes into play), Bunraku takes place in a type of future many films have already established. There was a world-wide nuclear war, everything was destroyed, and human beings build the world back up to create a lawless, decrepit landscape where everyone fights all the time.  The all-knowing, presumably winking narrator is upfront about what type of story this is, making cracks about the type of mysterious loners always found in places like these.  This self-awareness pervades the script and certainly makes the film more digestible.

The set-up and story don’t make a lot of sense, with bouts of under- and over-exposition that either confuse or bore.  Hartnett’s Drifter is stiff and stern, with no emotion and no reason for the audience to care about him.  Gackt’s Yoshi is likable enough (and magnetically androgynous), but like Drifter he’s so enigmatic there’s barely any character left for the actor to embody.  They’re one-dimensional archetypes to the fullest extent of the word, but Moshe seems fully aware of this. Woody Harrelson brings some levity and charisma to The Bartender, a friendly but heartbroken working man who doesn’t take sides but finds himself pulled into Drifter and Yoshi’s war against Nicola (Perlman), the vicious and world-weary “Woodcutter.”  Demi Moore is extremely out of place as the crime lord’s resentful woman, but her role is small enough.

Luckily there is plenty to distract from the weak characterization!  Bunraku is chock-full of fascinating visuals and downright exciting fight scenes.  The lighting is over-saturated and the locations are highly stylized, with cut-paper backgrounds and a few Caligari-esque sets.  A sizable chunk of the running time is devoted to intense action sequences, with an inexhaustible amount of literal Redshirts ready to be killed by our heroes (led by Kevin McKidd as Killer #2, easily the weirdest character in the film) in elaborate group scenes.  There are fistfights, swordfights, polefights, circusfights, axefights, and one cool car chase. The effects are excellent, transitioning from comic-book style animation to CG enhancements to miniatures with a believable flow.

For all its thrilling action and memorable visuals, Bunraku suffers from an overcomplicated yet under-explained plot and an inexcusably long running time.  It could easily have lost 30 minutes and become tighter, better paced, and more enjoyable.  The writing is hit and miss, with some really sly moments that show Moshe’s self-awareness and sense of fun, and others that are over-serious and dull.  Aside from its looks, the film doesn’t do anything different but it doesn’t mean to, so it’s forgivable.  It’s just a fantastical, stupid romp with the colors of a 1950’s musical and the stylized gore of a Frank Miller comic.  What’s not appealing about that?

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Extremely cool-looking in the manner of ‘Sin City,’ but clumsily staged, slackly acted and mind-numbingly dull, Israeli director Guy Moshe’s English-language fantasy is set in a future when guns, and apparently coherent conversations, have been outlawed.”–Lou Lumenick, New York Post (contemporaneous)