Saturday, October 08, 2005

The Sin of Sin City

A review of Sin City, the movie.

The movie, an almost uncannily accurate reproduction of the Frank Miller cult-classic comic-book series of the same name, is certainly as brilliant as it is bad. It's brilliant because its black-and-white palette with pulsing intrusions of red, yellow, and blue looks beautiful; because its acute and vertiginous camera angles are thrilling; because its imitation of the comic's atmosphere is remarkably complete; and because the cast is excellent. It's bad because all that aesthetic power is put into the service of a masturbatory barbarity.
In other words, it is a great movie--if you can make yourself ignore any larger implications of the gratuitous, well, everything. As a former comic book junkie, I loved Sin City. It was beautiful, creepy, stylized, and obviously ridiculous enough to make it easy to laugh off the excessiveness--unlike, say, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Way of the Gun, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, or Kill Bill. It's graphic novel aesthetic made it the high point of the Tarantino-inspired fetishization of violence.

Indeed, it succeeds exactly where the reviewer thinks it fails. For all of the insistence that the noir films of old had moral battles at their core, and Sin City is just "violent because violence looks cool and arouses the filmmakers’ adolescent sensibilities," the reviewer fails to note one essential fact about the movie: in every story there is a good guy and bad guy. The good guys aren't just perfect, far from it, but the bad guys are just bad. That's right, there are no root causes that need to be addressed to begin the healing, no wondering what the good guys did to make the bad guys so bad. The bad guys are bad and need to be destroyed. The good guys are no where near perfect, but they're better than the bad, and they are searching for redemption by defeating the bad and protecting the innocent or near-innocent or just plain weak.

There is a problem with digging into Sin City to find out what messages are hidden in its depths, beyond the chance of ruining a good time. It's message is not hidden deep down; it is not a violent expression of some sort of embedded cultural moral relativism. Stop digging--the message is right there: imperfect good versus absolute evil. Sounds right to me.


dcat said...

Oh, Tom --
Your jejune take on the reviewer's deconstruction is largely borne of your own ignorance of the binarism inherent in the framing of any text, which, hermeneutically speaking, any film is. By trying to engage in the crass reductionism of such socially constructed terms as "good" and "evil" you fall into the phallocentric discursive nexus. My God, it's like you've never truly ABSORBED Derrida (RIP).

Tom said...

Too "true." Too "true."