Hate The Sin, Love The City

Hilde and I went to see SIN CITY earlier this week.

I didn't expect Hilde to like it; she generally likes blow-em-up-real-good action movies, but she doesn't like characters (even "good guy" characters) that are brutal, callous and cruel (even towards "bad guys" that deserve it).

And the "good guys" in Sin City are brutal, callous and cruel. They're "good" because their actions are directed towards "bad guys" whose own brutality and cruelty are directed against innocents. (The "innocents" are, invariably, women.)

But I was surprised to find that even I was uncomfortable with the unrelenting level of violence and bloodshed in the movie. Particularly since I've read most of the original SIN CITY comics and loved them. (As widely noted, the movie is "the most faithful adaptation of a comic ever done.")

I think there are two main reasons for this differing reaction between comics and movie:

First, the comics are, essentially, short stories. They're stripped-down, pure-essence, high-speed morality plays. Reading one, even the multi-issue stories, can be done in half an hour or less. The reader can live in Sin City for that length of time, the reader can tolerate the continuous violence and bloodshed and desperate struggles.

But Robert Rodriguez collated four of the original SIN CITY stories into the movie. For over two hours, the viewer watches beatings and shootings and killings, and more beatings and shootings and killings, and still MORE beatings and shooting and killings. And in the end, it's just...

...too fucking long.

(The couple sitting next to Hilde and me in the theater got up and left partway through the movie. I think it was at the point where the dog was tearing a hunk of meat off of Elijah Wood.) (Fair Warning: If you see this movie, you'll never trust Frodo again.)

(I should probably also note that this movie probably sets a new record for the number of times, and number of characters, that are kicked, punched, stabbed and shot in the groin. And, in the movie's most notorious scene, a bad guy has his genitalia torn off . Ouch.) (After this movie, no one will ever shake Bruce Willis' hand again. Ever.)

And second, Frank Miller's high-contrast, highly stylized, black-&-white illustrations for the comics aren't real people. There's an extra layer of distancing in the comics; the reader can see the beatings and shootings and killings going on, but you never (quite) forget that these are drawings you're looking at.

Even though the movie tries (mostly successfully) to replicate the look and feel of the comics, even though most of the sets and backgrounds are computer-generated, these are still real people up on the screen. Even if the viewer knows that these are only actors pretending to be beaten or shot or killed (or to beat or shoot or kill other characters), when real people are going thru (pretending to go thru) the relentless, continuous, unstopping parade of beatings and shooting and killings, it's just...

...too damn close to the real thing. It's just too damn much to take for a solid two hours, when you have real human beings acting out these stories.

I don't regret going to see the movie. I think it was worth watching. Once. But if I want to enjoy the Sin City stories, I think I'll go back to the original comics.

- - - - -

While I'm on the subject of violent movies: The most violent movie scene I've ever watched was the final shootout in a gangster movie where both rival gangs, armed with machine guns, let fly at close quarters in a crowded room. Blood and gore go flying, and splashing, and dripping. People are hit in their limbs, their torsos, their heads. They drop like flies, covered and drenched in blood and gore, lying in pools of blood. When the firing finally stops, everyone, everyone, gangsters and innocents alike, is lying in heaps and mounds of blood-soaked corpses.

Then they all get up and do a final song-&-dance number.

The movie was BUGSY MALONE, and it was a children's movie. All the gangsters and other characters were played by children (including a young Jodie Foster). And the machine guns were called "splooge guns" and shot streams of whipped cream. So in that final shootout, all that blood and gore I mentioned was actually copious white splatters of whipped cream.

But... all the young actors, umm, acted as if the shootout was real, as if real bullets were flying, as if they were really being shot and maimed and killed. So, even all these years later, I can't help thinking that the "splooge" in that scene was only a stand-in for the "real" (in movie terms) blood and gore that would have been used in a gangster movie for adults.

And that's why BUGSY MALONE is one of the most violent movies ever filmed.

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