‘Sin City’ – A Stylish neo-noir Masterpiece Faithful to its Source Material

I got up from my chair and turned on the lights. My knees were weak and wobbly. My body felt like it had just gone through twelve rounds with Muhammad Ali. My head felt like Jeffrey Dahmer had taken it for a souvenir. I turned and looked at the box for the DVD I had just watched. Sin City screamed at me in red letters big enough to be seen from the moon, or at least a really high tree. But this movie didn’t need big letters to show off. It was already larger than life itself. It was a locomotive of a motion picture and I had just stood in its way for that last couple of hours. It repaid in full by hitting me head on and leaving me wanting more. When the daze finally wore off I sat there rubbing my chin and running my fingers through my hair. I came to the inevitable conclusion that I had just watched the most faithful adaptation of a graphic novel that was ever put to film. Sin City is a chew glass and gargle with acid love letter to the great Frank Miller. Miller is the literary genius behind Sin City. He has taken the comic book and elevated it to the status of literature. With SinCity, the movie, Robert Rodriguez has taken film to the level of art.

Robert Rodriguez’s 2005 adaptation of Frank Miller’s gritty graphic novels is not just comic book noir, but noir artistry. With its bold visual palette of high contrast black and white drenched in splashes of color, ‘Sin City’ leaps from Miller’s pages with ferocious style. Mirroring the source material’s hard boiled tone, it’s a pulp fiction Valentine feverishly brought to life.

Like the books, the film stitches several hard-edged tales populated by tough guys, femmes fatales, crooked cops and deadly vixens. Mickey Rourke has the granite face and gravelly voice perfect for the hulking antihero Marv. Bruce Willis plays it cool as steely cop Hartigan. Clive Owen oozes cold charm as mercenary Dwight.

Rodriguez replicates Miller’s stark aesthetic through digital effects wizardry, creating a living graphic novel where rain pours down on white silhouettes against black skies. The comic panel structure provides the visual framework while allowing these vicious yarns to play out with grit and wit.

With Quentin Tarantino guest directing a vignette, the film captures the anything-goes spirit of underground comics, reveling in sex and violence. But also their razor sharp abilities to probe the dark corners of human nature. Hard-boiled yet artfully crafted, ‘Sin City’ makes movie magic out of ink on paper.

I stopped typing and looked at the words on the page. I was satisfied with my words. This was not a review. How can I review a film that I think is nearly perfect? This is a thank you letter to Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller and Quentin Tarantino. Thank you for making Sin City. Thank you for staying true to the source. Thank you for making a film that is every bit as good as its source material.

I finished gushing like a schoolgirl and gathered my wits. I looked at my words and knew that I had said my piece. I got up and turned off the lights. I sat there in the darkness. Sin City. Perfection. Enough said.


Based on the graphic novels “Sin City” (the first graphic novel was just called “Sin City;” this story has been renamed “The Hard Good-Bye” by Miller), “The Big Fat Kill” and “That Yellow Bastard”, by Frank Miller. The opening footage with Josh Hartnett and Marley Shelton is from the Sin City short story “The Customer is Always Right” from the “Babe Wore Red” collection. However, the epilogue featuring Hartnett and Alexis Bledel is an original scene written specifically for the movie.

Directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller planned each shot in the movie by using the panels from the original book as storyboard.

Christopher Walken, Willem Dafoe, Steve Buscemi and Michael Douglas were all originally offered roles. Douglas was offered the role of Hartigan, Buscemi was offered the part of Junior when he became the Yellow Bastard, and Dafoe and Walken were both offered the role of Senator Roark.