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Thursday, March 31, 2005 04:34 am

movie review

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Sin City

Sin City is a scorcher. Try to imagine Pulp Fiction on adrenaline, and you might have an image of this throwback to the antiheroes of a few decades back, mixed with the dark, moody visuals of a 1940s film noir. It’s good to see a hard-boiled crime saga that never compromises just to comfort more sensitive viewers. The source for this bizarre work is, of all things, a comic book, but fans of this literary form call it a graphic novel. Director Robert Rodriguez (From Dusk Till Dawn, Desperado) worked at full throttle to bring Frank Miller’s ultrablack world of dirty cops, prostitutes, and demonic psychopaths to the big screen, creating a psychedelic orgy of violence and eroticism. The stark black-and-white images, highlighted by occasional splashes of color, are generated by the best use of computer graphics in any feature film to date.

The elliptical narrative recounts three peripherally interconnected stories that are bookended by a short bit featuring Josh Hartnett as a mysterious hitman. Bruce Willis supercharges the first story as a dogged police detective tracking a deranged rapist (Nick Stahl) who is holding a young girl hostage. Just when the story seems to be heading for a happy resolution, it takes a turn for the dark, then vaults to the next story. Mickey Rourke is the film’s centerpiece as Marv, a hulk of a street fighter who seeks revenge for the murder of a prostitute. His methods of extracting information may leave you gasping, as will his battle with a cannibalistic fiend (Elijah Wood).

Benicio Del Toro, as corrupt cop Jackie Boy, and Clive Owen, as Dwight, come to blows over a waitress (Brittany Murphy) in the third story. The feud continues into the sleazier part of the city, which is ruled by a gang of prostitutes who have banded together as an army of Amazon warriors. We then jump back to the Willis story, many years later, but the direction it has taken is hardly expected.

Miller’s co-directing credit suggests that Sin City is true to its source material, but familiarity with the stories is hardly necessary. Sin City certainly lives up to its title, and it is recommended for those who prefer thrillers with a harder edge.

Also in theaters this week:

Bad Education (La mala educación)[NC-17]An examination of the effect of Franco-era religious schooling and sexual abuse on the lives of two longtime friends. Pedro Almodóvar directs. Parkway Pointe

I’m Going Home (Je rentre à la maison) [Not rated] During a performance of Eugène Ionesco’s Le roi se meurt, veteran actor Gilbert Valence receives terrible news: His wife and two children have been killed in a car accident. Valence learns to cope with grief. French with subtitles. Brookens Auditorium (UIS)

Strayed (Les Égarés)[Not rated] A teenager comes to the rescue of a widowed schoolteacher who flees Nazi-occupied Paris with her children. Springfield film festival selection. White Oaks

The Upside of Anger [R] A suburban wife (Joan Allen) and her daughters juggles romantic dilemmas and other issues after her husband disappears. Parkway Pointe

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