Saturday, September 10, 2005
BaSin City Blues
I admit it's been a while since I saw this flick and I was intending renting it on dvd before delivering a definitive review but, truth be told, I'd rather sit through Battlefield Earth, Bridget Jones: the Guantanamo Bay Years or Enya, Paul McCartney & Cirque de Soleil Pay Tribute to Celine Dion than subject myself to this drivel again. I know I'm in a minority of one on this issue but, hey, at least the company is stimulating.
I might as well put my cards on the table right from the get-go: I've never been a fan of the Tarantino school of stylised misanthropy. Strip away the hip, post-modern veneer and the improbable dialogue (I'm no expert but I'll wager a whisky sour to all the beer in Brooklyn that hitmen don't talk like video store geeks) from Tarantino's movies and you could swap what's left for the sad, sado-masochistic fantasies of the average maladjusted post-pubescent and not notice the difference.
Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction's sugar-coated sadism was rendered almost palatable by great soundtracks and a few good lines but Kill Bill 's kitsch "carnage is cool" aesthetic seemed to be predicated solely upon the erroneous assumption that the conjunction of Uma and Ultraviolence is irresistably and undeniably sexy. Even if we concede a frisson of cool to the aforementioned combo, the dismal dovetailing of kung fu and Quentin was always likely to becalm my palpitating heart.
Sin City isn't, strictly speaking, a Tarantino movie but it might as well be. His pernicious influence is all over it like a lovesick john over a hooker. Apparently he directed a bit of it, wrote a bit of it, produced a bit of it...I'm surprised he didn't "star" in a bit of it (maybe he did: I was probably asleep at the time)...Hell, QT's brought his prodigious acting talent to bear on practically every other project he's been involved in: like an altrusitic maiden aunt who can't resist donating her inedible scones to the village fete, Quentin can't be stopped . Trouble is, kleptomaniac Quent diminishes everything he touches.
The "real" director was Robert Rodriguez (Tarantino popped up in, and collaborated on, Rob's Desperado and From Dusk Til Dawn) but Sin City might as well have "Property of Tarantino" tattooed on it's ass: the Ubergeek owns this beeyatch! Don't get me wrong: I'm not proposing locking Rodriguez up in San Quentin and throwing away the key; I'm just interested to know if he's capable of taking a leak sans Quentin!
The movie starts off promisingly: a sexually-charged encounter between a charming hitman and a foxy femme fatale in one of the noirish neighborhoods which comprise BaSin City's nightscape. The live action/animation hybrid looks great (though we've seen this black & white with flashes of colour schtick before in Rumblefish) and I'm starting to give Quent and Rob the benefit of any available doubt.... Dumb move, punk. Dumb move.
Suddenly we're cast adrift in a depressingly depraved and unimaginitively undifferentiated milieu where all women are either 1) street-wise, sadistic hookers, 2) masochistic victims or, and this seems to be BaSin City's core female demographic, 3) sadistic hookers who are really masochistic victims.
The only difference between the "good" guys and the "bad" guys is that the "good" guys only torture, maim and kill other guys whereas the "bad" guys torture, kill, maim (and eat) women and children too. The dialogue is execrable: barely-digested chunks of Chandler, Hammett and Ellroy extracted from the vomit of a sub-literate teenage sociopath.
There are 3 stories here but they are all the same story: knight in decidedly soiled armour seeks the only kind of redemption on offer in Sin City: saving a vulnerable virgin/hooker from death, depravity or a life on the game by torturing/snuffing a pervert.
Sin City indulges in the laziest legerdemain (let's call it "popcorn prestidigitation"): after nothing more than a mundane magician's misdirection (the style over substance trick) we're, presumably, expected to root for the "good" guys as they heroically maim, torture, castrate and kill the "bad" guys. I know we're deep into The Age of Barbarism but the parallels with Abu Ghraib seem a little too acute for my refined taste. Maybe one day, though hopefully not one day soon, I'll get hip to the misanthropic zeitgeist.