Sin City showed how to make entertainment for a mature audience – could its sequel change cinema as we know it?
It’s a cold night. A night where the stars are gone and only the bright lights of the city cast a glow on the clouds above. It’s raining and you’re standing on the edge of a roof, looking out knowing you won’t see another dawn. A stranger’s steps make you start for a moment, but only for a moment. He’s strong this stranger, and kind with it. You fall into his arms, safe after a lifetime of running. You kiss him, then close your eyes and let him hold you tight. He tells you he’ll keep you safe; he’ll protect you. Then he shoots you, the “silencer making a whisper of the gunshot”. Your epitaph consists of, “I’ll cash her cheque in the morning”.
There was always something hidden beneath the surface of Sin City, something you could only have in a story meant for adults
That’s how the first Sin City film, a slick tribute to the black and white medium as much as it was to the old film noir staples of the 40s and 50s, started. What followed was a cinematic head trip where even the music seemed to hold your head under the water, until you drowned in the corrupt, fetid, yet perversely glamorous world the film’s events took place. In an age where 18 or R-rated films are threatening to become an endangered species, in terms of mainstream distribution, the original Sin City seemed to point the way forward when it came to how you would save the breed. For only $40 million dollars (around £24 million), it made $158 million worldwide at the box office.
The film’s success, and that of the comic it was based on, lay very much in the style through which it told its stories. There was always something hidden beneath the surface, both with the plots and with the characters, something you could only have in a story meant for adults. Josh Hartnett kills a woman he loves, not because she paid him to do it – the money’s just a bonus – but because she asked him to. Marv avenges his one true love even at the price of his own life (though death is no barrier to his return in the sequel), while Hartigan (also back, albeit as a ghost, and only a cameo ghost) kills himself to protect Nancy. All of it takes place in a world of violence, but violence not indiscriminately depicted. Just as Marvel seem to have cornered the market on making kiddie-pleasing superhero films and turning their comics from has-beens into gold mines, so Sin City showed the way in how to make a comic and a film intended for a more mature audience.
The sequel has taken nine years to become a reality, but now that its emerged, it promises to be every bit as dirty, filthy and nasty as you could ever want, but would never dream of asking for. That’s right folks: where forbidden fruit is concerned, this is the Promised Land. There’s even been a little controversy over a revealing poster of Eva Green. The trailer for Sin City: A Dame to Kill For alone is filled to the brim with dominatrix femme fatales, vengeful strippers, scheming cardsharks, murderous psychos, seemingly not-long-for-this-world hookers, and the sweet seduction of a woman’s smile. Oh and the blood, here shown as wonderfully white gloss, is on more than just tap.
Can Sin City 2 rip open the PG-13 cocoon Hollywood has been winding around itself, thus paving the way for other similar films?
From what Duncan Bowles at Den of Geek and Robbie Collin in the Daily Telegraph are saying, there are great wide rivers of it flowing through the film’s narrative. So, with the sequel looking set to be a commercial success, along with likely being another addition to the pantheon of cult cinema, the question remains: Can Sin City 2 start a true film revolution and rip open the PG-13 cocoon Hollywood has been winding around itself these last few years, thus paving the way for other, similar films? (Like Deadpool, or Dredd 2, for example…)
The answer isn’t straightforward. Mark Daniell quoted Frank Miller as saying of Sin City, “I decided I would please myself and I would do the one comic book that couldn’t possibly be turned into a movie. Then this guy [Robert Rodriguez] showed up”. Rodriguez, along with Quentin Tarantino and Miller himself, is a veteran of telling these stories, intended from the outset for more mature audiences. The real test of success, then, for Sin City 2 and the adult themes made explicit there, is whether they’ll inspire a new generation of filmmakers to take the same kind of creative risks.
Hopefully so, otherwise films like this will find themselves only being shown in the small, alternative cinemas found in big cities. Great news for those cinemas, since it will give them another source of revenue besides the latest foreign language film the critics are raving about, even though no one else has ever heard of it; not so great news for those of us who live in towns 20 or 30 miles away from the nearest city. Sin City 2 could open the way for more mature entertainment coming to grace the screen at your local cinema.
Mature entertainment like Sin City offers a reminder that we’re adults now, and that we can enjoy that
Which is good news for film fans. Those cult films that speak to a dark part of the soul that would, otherwise, fester away, brooding and resenting the fact that you did your level best to ignore it. Watching a film like this, or the first Sin City for that matter, lets you embrace that dark part in you – it shows things that are violent and gruesome, but never oversteps the line between fantasy and reality. It inspires us to indulge in bad thoughts and to have a little fun with them, in a way that’s healthier by far than anything drugs, booze or porn has to offer. A creative outlet for those bad thoughts, if you will, in a way that most mainstream films, for all that they’re funny or well written, can simply never do; a reminder that we’re adults now, and that we can enjoy that.
All images: Dimension Films