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Sin City

Year: 2005
Production Co: Troublemaker Studios
Studio: Dimension Films
Director: Robert Rodriguez/Frank Miller
Producer: Bob Weinstein/Harvey Weinsten
Writer: Frank Miller
Cast: Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke, Brittany Murphy, Clive Owen, Rosario Dawson, Elijah Wood, Michael Madsen, Nick Stahl, Rutger Hauer, Devon Aoki, Alexis Bledel, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Clarke Duncan, Jaime King, Carla Gugino, Josh Hartnett, Frank Miller, Powers Boothe
A funny thing happened to Sin City. Early US reviews wrote it off as mostly style over substance. By the time it was being released in the UK and Australia, critics went gaga over it, hysterical about how it was something they'd never seen before and how faithfully it was adapted from Frank Miller's graphic novel series.

Miller himself must think all his Christmases have come at once. Instead of hanging around conventions of nerds with trench coats and T shirts of obscure comic book characters who had no girlfriends, he's probably at all the best Hollywood parties right now, surrounded by twittering, top-heavy starlets.

But here's a Hollywood anomaly. The violence is over the top (for once, there's an excuse for making it seem like a comic strip) but the sex is toned way down.

That's not the anomaly. Party pooper Jessica Alba refused to get her kit off. In the comic, Nancy - a professional stripper - is naked in most of her appearances, but in the movie she stays fully clothed, the comic strip is not translated faithfully, and nary a mention is made.

The violence, however, is something else. It says a lot about American entertainment (and the culture and politics thereof) when it's more offensive to see a naked woman dancing than to see men burying tomahawks into another guys genitals (or ripping them off with bare hands).

Of course, this isn't the first movie to draw attention to the essential hypocrisy at the heart of American moviemaking, but it's one of the most marked examples. American studios love to imply sex - depicting it is something else entirely. But they loooooove their violence.

Taking three stories from Miller's series (of which there are eleven; multiple sequel alert) the movie was entirely photographed with actors and a few rudimentary props, everything else plainted digitally during post production. It follows the adventures of (respectively) Marv (Rourke), Dwight (Owen) and Hartigan (Willis), surrounding them with a huge cast of recognised faces in the form of psychotics or murderers (the men) and prostitutes, strippers, or other appropriately naked professions for the women (including a parole officer who by a strange coincidence has a body that could be that of a fantasy prostitute or stripper).

It's all extremely misogynist, and Rosario Dawson's comments in the media that the female roles are all about sisterhood and empowerment because the girls are deadly and carry guns is the same old laughable line trotted out by a million starlets that look hot carrying guns as long as they're dressed like sluts. Like you can always observe in films, Hollywood is all for empowering women so long as they're young, hot and ready to take their clothes off.

It's the ultimate teenage male fantasy. All the guys are tough and mean and carry guns and beat people up, all the women are young, gorgeous and spend the entire movie in underwear.

The stories themselves are the same fusion of detective noir and comic book look as Miller's printed version, and that it was recreated so lovingly here says more about what Rodriguez wanted than what audiences wanted. Although they appear to be lapping it up now, with local audiences agreeing with the critics and sending it to the top of the charts.

Of all the stereotypical characters, only Clive Owen looks uncomfortable. His lines are corny and the staging extremely hokey (and not just in his segment). Willis, an unrecognisable Rourke and at least a dozen other famous faces all have fun and play their characters to the perfect two dimensional pitch, and it's all fun but after you get over the look and the aesthetic, nothing will really stay with you.

I just wish Jessica Alba had shown us her tits.

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