Where do I start? I guess the beginning is a good place, huh? Josh Hartnett opens the film as a killer for hire, and unlike most people, it was one of my favorite scenes. Marley Shelton (I believe that's her, am I wrong?) It was the very first thing filmed and was used to show creator Frank Miller that not only could they make Sin City, but they could do it faithfully. I think Hartnett pulls of a hell of a good job considering his acting chops, for once his stiffness isn't a liability, but an asset. It sets a great tone for the movie you're about to see.
I love that they used the original artwork in the opening credits, they're great, and that's really all there is to say about them.
Next up is the first part of the Hartigan storyline (played by Willis), and just like that the movie went from promising to "man, I hope the rest of it isn't like this." I thought Willis did a decent job as Hartigan and that Nick Stahl is excellently creepy as Junior, but Bob (played by Madsen) almost kills the entire story. I realize I'm probably in the minority, but it seemed like he was reading his dialogue from off camera. It's too stiff (in this film that's like saying the Pope was too Catholic) and it doesn't really vibe with Willis' portrayal of Hartigan. It was like trying to watch Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner competing to see who could over-act the most, you want to both laugh and cry. But, fortunately it gets better. The opening storyline should have very well been Marv's, though i do understand it was important to get Hartigan's opening out of the way so that he could basically be forgotten about.
Which brings us to Marv, played by Mickey Rourke. Unlike some I think Rourke has tremendous talent, just nowhere to exhibit it properly. Seems Rodriguez has made it a mission of his to show the world that "B" movoe actors can be just as good as "A" list actors. Rourke was solid in Once Upon A Time in Mexico, and even moreso here. It's probably the best casting in a comic book film since Hugh Jackman signed to play Wolverine, the difference being Rourke looks just like Marv. Yes, the make-up can be distracting if you let it be, which can pull you out of the movie, and I will tell you it's an easier pill to swallow the second time around. Marv's stpry moves too quickly for my taste, I don't think we're given enough time to grasp what Marv is and what he's about, which is a shame. Rourke captures equally the toughness and the tenderness that is Marv and with more time to soak it in Marv would have been a more relatable character, instead we're given a fast-paced action short that mostly succeeds at what it's trying to achieve. Jamie King is great as Goldie/Wendy, she's anoth "B" lister that doesn't get her due. Carla Gugino is good for what she is, and for those that care, she has a nude scene (Upon which my brain exclaimed "Holy Shit, the mom from Spy Kids is naked!"). Frank Miller and Rutger Hauer (another "B" who deserves more credit) pop in for brief scenes with Rourke's Marv and they do alright. I'm not gonna get into Miller's attack on the Catholic church, make of it what you will, but it's not as if Catholics have never been portrayed as bad guys (Look as far back as Dumas' Three Muskateers, or hell, the history of the Catholic Church, it's there). But, the man that almost steals the show never utters a single word of Miller's over-the-top dialogue. To say Elijah Wood is creepy as Kevin would be a tremendous understatement. He captures the depraved cannibal perfectly and in the end you're completely glad that he gets what's coming to him.
The Big Fat Kill is hands down the best stuff in the movie. Clive Owen as Dwight is inspired casting, and no one has ever come as close to looking the part as Rosario Dawson playing Gail. Del Toro's Jackie Boy is equally tragic, disgusting and comical, and I don't believe anyone else could have pulled that off. The scenes between Dwight and Jackie are some of the best in the movie. Brittany Murphy as Shellie appears to have had the most fun in her brief role, she chews the scenery like it was made out of chocolate and in the end leaves you wanting more. Michael Clarke Duncan's Manute is one of the story's weak points. He does an okay job, but the character feels too out of place in this world of hookers with guns. I can't really put my finger on it, but he just doesn't fit. Devon aoki as Miho is up there with Elijah Wood's Kevin, no lines and a great performance. Alexis Bledel as turncoat Becky was interesting, not the kind of role you'd expect to see her in, but she doesn't hold he own with the rest of the crowd, it's obvious from the getgo she's hiding something and it's no real surprise when you find out. Tarantino makes his "guest directing" credit here, with the scene between Jackie and dwight, which is a bit of a surprise; hookers with guns and swords seems like a definite match for him, but considering the way the car scene turned out, I'm glad he chose to do it, it's a standout moment in the film.
Back to Hatigan for the wrap-up. There's not much to add, other than alba gives a better performance than I dared even hope and Nick Stahl is perfect as Junior (wait, I said that...). It doesn't hold up that well with the rest of the movie and feels out of place mostly. It's not bad, just not as strong as the other material, perhaps because it is so serious and less tongue-in-cheek. Powers Boothe gives a powerful (pardon the pun) performance as Senator Rourk for his brief appearence, but the story is just too serious to be in a movie like this. That Yellow Bastard would have worked well as a seperate, longer film, giving it more time to establish the characters and their motivations. as it stands it's just a decent cop fights rapist tale with a few moments of greatness.
The movie ends as it began, on Hatnett, and rightfully so, he introduced us to this world and he should take us out of it.
All in all, Sin City is a damn fine film. It's stylistic and fun, moving at times, humourous at others, and very, very violent. The score, as some have said, is a bit distracting as the movie progresses, which keeps the viewer from ever really diving into the world completely. But, who's to say that's not its intended effect? Perhaps we aren't meant to be so involved in this movie, but view it as a complete outsider, no emotional ties to the characters, no judgements of what they do, we're just here to watch, like a stage play on film (in fact at times it feels like you are watching a stage play). The spot coloring isn't distracting at all, not for me, it lends alot to the visual style of the movie, as do the reverse B&W shots. It looks fantastic, like the comic come to life, and love it or hate it, that's what fanboys have been bitching for since this comic movie craze began. I admire Rodriguez for sticking to one artistic direction and following through, his love and faithfullness to the material shows and he actually pulls it off in the end. So, if you like the books, you're sure to like the movie.