Whichever way you looked at it – and mostly I do my looking upwards, from the gutter – the streets of Sin City are mean. Really mean. They’re the kind of mean that makes junkyard dogs nervous. They’re the kind of mean that involves dramatic slashes of light through slatted blinds and a reflection catching on a killer’s glasses just so. They’re the kind of mean where a cop with one more day until retirement just can’t resist trying to finish off that one last big case.

People say crime is a problem in Sin City, but buddy, you’re more likely to get flattened by a cliché than shot in the head. And, in the end, almost everyone gets shot in the head in Sin City.

This is the kind of place where old, scarred men with gravely voices narrate their own stories. Where a chest full of bullets is a minor inconvenience. Where racial stereotypes are rigidly enforced. And narrators talk in short sentences. Like Chandler. Kinda. But without the beauty.

Of course the broads have the worst of it here in Sin City. First there are the terrible clothing shortages. Sometimes even smart ladies, ones with good jobs, are forced to walk around for days with almost  nothing on. It’s tough. And if you’re a hooker? Forget about it! Luckily for us guys, there isn’t one chick in the whole damn city aged over thirty. No one wants to have to stare at anything that might be sagging, right? Yeesh!

And then there’s the shitty career opportunities. There are only two jobs for dames in Sin City – a whore or a victim. And believe me, buddy, they’re both fucked. But at least the whores get to carry round unfeasibly large calibre weapons. The victims? What can I say, big guy? Sometimes you just got to ritually humiliate someone if you want to justify twenty minutes of ultra-violence. And if it just so happens that it’s always a broad that gets humiliated, well that’s just the way things are on the very mean streets of Sin City.

Hey, but even a place like this has to have something going for it, right? Sin City has Marv (Rourke), Hartigan (Willis) and Dwight (Owen), and any town with those guys in it can’t be all bad, am I right? Damn straight.

Marv, well he’s the star and everyone loves the big dumb lug. Okay, maybe not everyone, but a psychopath sometimes has to torture a lotta stiffs if he’s going to get revenge. Let’s just say that almost everyone that survives his bloody rampages loves Marv. Someone killed Goldie, and Marv loved Goldie, so lots of people are going to die and Marv isn’t going to stop until he gets his revenge on the killer (Wood) and the man who is protecting him.

Hartigan’s a cop, but one of the honest ones – no matter what anyone else says.. He’s got one day left on the job, a heart condition, and the senator’s son is torturing and killing little girls and no one but Hartigan wants to stop him. But there are no medals for good guys in Sin City. All Hartigan gets is framed and a prison sentence. But you and I both know that when he finally gets out, there’s going to be hell to pay.

And then there’s Dwight, who might be Sin City’s last knight in shining armour, if he wasn’t a wanted killer with a new face. Dwight can’t stand to see a woman hurt, so when a rogue cop threatens his girlfriend and the safety of the prostitute militia that runs Old Town, Dwight just can’t stay out of the fight. The mob ain’t gonna know what hit ‘em.

And there you have it, three tough tales of everyday life in the meanest city in the world. Now some people are gonna tell you this is cheap pastiche, and others are gonna say it’s an homage. I say, you pays your money and takes your choice.

But let me tell you about Sin City. She might be mean, and she might have some ugly spots but you ain’t ever seen a city looked better than this. The Miller stuff – the sexism, the crummy warmed-over dialogue and predictable, bloody revenge stories – that stuff I could do without. But the Rodriguez stuff – the razor sharp action sequences, the fantastically physical performances from a magnificent cast, the technical perfection – that’s the stuff that makes visiting Sin City worthwhile.

Still, I wouldn’t want to live there.

(Originally published in Matrix 173, May/June 2005)

© Beli. All Rights Reserved.