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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino|
scr Frank Miller
with Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Clive Owen, Rosario Dawson, Benicio Del Toro, Jaime King, Nick Stahl, Elijah Wood, Devon Aoki, Brittany Murphy, Michael Clarke Duncan, Carla Gugino, Michael Madsen, Makenzie Vega, Josh Hartnett, Powers Boothe, Rutger Hauer, Alexis Bledel, Tommy Flanagan
release US 1.Apr.05, UK 3.Jun.05
05/US Dimension 2h04
Get even: Owen and Del Toro
Robert Rodriguez takes another bracingly original approach with this adaptation of three of Miller's graphical novels. It looks absolutely amazing, but it remains an exercise in style over substance that never gets beneath our skin.
Marv (Rourke) is a tough guy who finds a moment of tenderness with a prostitute (King) whose sudden death sends him on a quest for vengeance against the politician's son (Stahl) who is killing women with the help of a silent sidekick (Wood). Relentless private eye Dwight (Owen) is helping the hookers who run Old Town get out of a tricky situation involving a greasy cop (Del Toro) and an opportunistic mobster (Duncan). And almost-retired cop Hartigan (Willis) tries over eight long years to protect a girl (Vega, then Alba) from the now-deformed politician's son, at any cost.
Yes, all three stories feature men protecting and violently avenging strong women. The film is jammed with outrageous action set pieces and tense dramatic standoffs. And there's real power in every scene; each actor goes for broke, blurting out lines exactly as they'd appear in a comic book--short, sharp blasts, with gravely running commentary that takes us into their heads and makes it feel like the noirest film noir ever.
Artistically, this is a triumph that should change the way comic books are adapted to film. Rodriguez and Miller use colours sparingly (Tarantino directs the moody car sequence with Owen and Del Toro). Much of the film is flatly black and white, silhouetted against the light and streaked with rain, snow, mud or blood. There are splashes of colour--red shoes, a blue car, a yellow villain, shimmering blood. But calling it blood-soaked is an understatement. At least the horrific brutality is done with an exaggerated sense of reality.
It's awash with wit and humour, and many sequences are mind-bogglingly well orchestrated. But you can't help but wonder why we're here. There's not much to the film beyond the visual feast and a sense of honour and humanity even in the dregs of this most corrupt of all cities. Is that reason enough to watch?
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