Sin City

Not Recommended. This is a visual masterpiece of cinematography that more accurately translates a black and white graphic novel into cinema than any other movie has ever done. Splashes of color on a black and white canvas, harsh contrasts of light and dark, surreal landscapes, exaggerated characters. It is inescapably brilliant in this aspect. BUT it is pornography. And I don’t mean merely the sexual softcore porn that litters its celluloid like a two hour Victoria’s Secret Ad on steroids, but the violence is also pornographic and exploitative. This is a juvenile male fantasy, with all the women as sex objects—literally all of them tramping around in leather and lingerie AND shooting guns — the two male idols of the mind. And it is an orgy of revenge without redemption. The most extreme violence you can imagine contextualized as legitimate because it’s less bad guys giving it to worse bad guys. And for that reason it will do extremely well in the box office and monstrously better on DVD with all the myriads of teenage youth who should NOT be ingesting this filth watching it by the droves. And they wonder why kids are killing kids with guns in our schools. Its various episodes are all based on vengeance. Mickey Rourke is Marv, a killer who goes on a killing rampage of criminals connected to the murder of the only woman who would sleep with his ugly mug, a high class call girl. And because the ultimate killer is himself a sick cannibalistic serial killer who mounts the heads of his victims on the wall, well, it’s supposed to be all right that Marv cuts off the cannibal’s arms and legs and keeps him alive to have his own wolf eat him alive. And oh, yeah, the serial killer, of course, READS A BIBLE with a cross on it, once again linking Christianity with the worst of the worst in humanity. Religious bigotry at its finest. And this is the kind of stuff in this story that doesn’t stop. Another episode of Josh Hartnett as a contract hit man who mulls over the beauty and value of certain women before he kills them for his employers. Clive Owen goes on a murderous rampage to protect a town of prostitutes who are themselves murderous rampagers. But it’s all supposed to be moral because after all, it’s women beaters, women murderers and women haters who are getting their comeuppance. Bruce Willis is a cop, who is the closest thing to a good guy in this movie, but even he is a cynical nihilist just like everyone else. And his revenge on bludgeoning a yellow criminal monstrosity is supposed to be okay as well because it is in the defense of a little girl who was going to be raped and murdered by the “yellow bastard” as he is called. So this depraved little series of tales is diabolically genius because it cloaks its nihilistic evolutionary survival of the fittest worldview in a pseudo-moral context. It makes the villains all woman haters and woman abusers so extreme that the moral protective sense in all of us wants to see them pay for their evil. But the problem is, it is all entirely violent vigilante revenge outside the law. It is a nihilistic world of the flesh without grace anywhere. Even all the religious characters are frauds (A corrupt priest and a cannibalistic cardinal). There is no hope outside of sheer brutal violence driven by hatred. Now, I would not say that I do not want all these evil men to die. I do. In fact, I know some people whose young girl was killed by a serial killer, and I can tell you that the God of the Universe gave lex talionis (“eye for an eye”) for a good and just reason. Because rape and murder and certain other crimes can only be justly paid with by another life. BUT that God also dictates that it must only be accomplished through due process, through the law, NOT through vigilanteism (Romans 12:19-13:4). God says that the state is God’s avenger, not individuals. If you want a more in depth examination of this concept, see my article, A Time For Revenge? Vigilanteism and Movie Justice in A Time to Kill. The difference between this movie and a moral movie about revenge, like Man on Fire, is that Man on Fire acknowledges that inner lust for personal revenge that we all have for the wicked of this world, but concludes that it does not accomplish true justice. It begins with vengeance, but ends with grace. Man on Fire illustrates atonement and grace from God found in the midst of this dark world. Sin City exploits an inner sense of justice against evil into a rationalization for unjust violence. It is a religion of carnage, where personal revenge, not grace or justice is what accomplishes redemption. Sure, there’s concern for girls and woman in this movie, sure there’s self-sacrifice and even substitutionary atonement (one dies that another may live) and protective instincts for the “innocent.” But there is no transcendent context for these values. They take place in a Godless universe of nihilistic meaninglessness, of kill or be killed ultimacy. At best, this is an example where, as Francis Schaeffer would say, the unbelieving artist cannot escape God’s image in himself. These reflections of redemption are echos of the conscience in the writer, that bleed out, regardless of how hopelessly lost he is. Even the depraved lovers of violence know the universal need for redemption. But I would say that the dominant ethic of this movie is ultimately: kill or be killed.
Romans 12:17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. 13:1 Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2 Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. 3 For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same; 4 for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil.
p.s. Oh, and by the way, I never thought I would see a movie that had more useless voice-over narration than Million Dollar Baby, but Sin City beats it hands down. I realize that was part of the translation of the graphic novel, which relies heavily upon thought bubbles and narration, but it only works half the time. The other half, it’s just telling us what we are seeing the character do anyway. I love voice-over narration, but this is the kind of movie that gives it a bad reputation.