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Appellate Judge Amanda DeWees's Blog

Appellate Judge Amanda DeWees • Location: Athens, Georgia
• Member since: March 2004
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Sin City sizzlesÖand sickens
April 4th, 2005 9:02AM

I went into Sin City unprepared. I knew it was a noir based on -- or, rather, reproducing frame-for-frame -- an acclaimed graphic novel series. I knew it would be visually innovative, using a digitally created black-and-white world with selected touches of color for impact. I didnít know that it was going to contain eviscerations, cannibalism, a dog eating his masterís guts, dismemberments, decapitations, torture, and a character who remains talkative after having his throat slashed and getting the cartridge of his own gun lodged in his forehead.

Noir and violence have always gone hand in hand, of course; I expected the hard-boiled denizens of Sin City might encounter gunplay, beatings, maybe even knifing and broken necks. But the way the film revels in unusual brutality reminds me not of its film noir antecedents but of the old horror comics, where stories like ďStrop! Youíre Killing Me!Ē would feature characters getting sliced into pieces by a giant razor, or a dying fugitive getting his eyes plucked out by vultures. You can do these things in comic books and graphic novels: A panel or two with a nastily violent image has dramatic impact. But seeing the same thing played out in real time, with sound effects and photorealism -- even without the use of color -- is stomach-churning and left an unsavory taste in my mouth (and I donít mean just stomach acid). Itís, literally, overkill.

Thatís not to say that I didnít like a lot of things about Sin City -- like them a lot. It looks simply fabulous; there are compositions that would make you catch your breath in admiration, if not that the momentum of the story keeps propelling you forward. Itís made me a fan of Mickey Rourke, which I never thought would happen, and itís convinced me that Bruce Willis, with his sad, weary, seen-it-all eyes, is the closest weíve come yet to another Bogart. (As for Clive Owen, itís more clear than ever that he should be the next Bond.) The dialogue is unforgettable, the pacing and structure smart. But the way the film seemed to revel in viscera disturbs me deeply.

I could deal with the gore in the Kill Bill films; those movies had a touch of the absurd about them that redeemed them from seeming pornographic in their violence. Thatís not the case in Sin City. Thereís nothing tongue-in-cheek about the horrors it unfolds in such detail. Iím amazed, too, that reviews Iíve read since seeing it donít comment on this. Have The Cell, Seven, and the Hannibal Lecter films inured critics to shock? If thatís the case, I donít think theyíre the sort of people I want to hang out with -- or eat dinner with.


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