Sin City (Cert 18)
Stars Bruce Willis, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Elijah Wood, Benicio del Toro and Josh Hartnett; Directors Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. 124 Mins.
SIN City is probably the most stylish Hollywood movie since Citizen Kane - but it is also one of the most brutallyviolent Based on a series of comic book graphic novels by Frank Miller, it retains the hard-edged look of Miller's drawings with amazing backgrounds, exaggerated characters and tough guy (and girl) antics.
At times the visual look of the film is so intense that it almost becomes a strain on the eyes, every shot, every scene filmed in a high concept, amplified look with crazy angles, curious settings and bizarre action.
At just over two hours, however, it must be said that the film fairly zips along with no spare meat anywhere.
Filmed against green screens with the backgrounds added later thanks to computer technology, the result is the comic book come to life with all its extremes, flaws and nasty storylines in place.
Scripted by Miller who served as codirector with Robert Rodriguez, it is a compilation of three of Miller's extravagantly violent tales of crime and retribution in a fictional city populated with mean streets and even meaner people.
In the first tale, Bruce Willis plays veteran cop Hartigan ('pushing 60 with a bum ticker', he tells himself) who is determined to nail the man who has kidnapped an 11-year-old girl.
Then there is a very odd-looking Mickey Rourke as tough guy Marv who is set up for murder when the girl he loves, Goldie, is killed in his room.
Finally Britain's actor of the moment Clive Owen is private detective Dwight who is out to get the thug Jackie Boy.
Perhaps the strangest character of all is an all-yellow villain known as Yellow Bastard, played by Nick Stahlleft The stories become intertwined with characters from one story popping up in another until finally the whole thing goes full circle as we are back with Willis again.
Rourke gets the most amazing make-up (it took him over two hours each day) which gives him a huge chin and a nose that rises straight into his forehead.
He also has the ability to be shot several times, knocked down by a car and still get up to leap around with superhuman energy. But that's the comic book world for you.
Willis is more recognisable and even his character Hartigan is not that far removed from his Die Hard character. He's just tougher, nastier and in his own way, more noble.
As for Owen, he gives a splendid hard man performance, especially when he joins a gang of local prostitutes led by a leather-wearing Rosario Dawson (all the female roles will delight those who enjoy fetish costumes). When the girls manage to kill a nasty piece of work who turns out to be a cop, Owen offers to dump the body.
It's his scene with the body alongside him in the car which Tarantino directed for a reported fee of one dollar. Strangely it fits into the rest of the movie quite easily although the body does start to talk.
With retribution consisting of limbs being removed and male genitals ripped out by hand, it is not a film for the faint-hearted.
But it does make all today's action films look horribly conventional in contrast.
Brittany Murphy as Shellie; Clive Owen stars as private detective Dwight in Frank Miller's Sin City.