Adam Fields (weblog)

This blog is largely deprecated, but is being preserved here for historical interest. Check out my index page at for more up to date info. My main trade is technology strategy, process/project management, and performance optimization consulting, with a focus on enterprise and open source CMS and related technologies. More information. I write periodic long pieces here, shorter stuff goes on twitter or


Sin City is pure beautiful genius

Filed under: — adam @ 4:53 pm

We saw Sin City on Friday, and I wanted to let it gel a little before writing it up. The more I think about it, the more I enjoyed it. It is brutal, ugly, violent, and unpleasant, and also one of the most interesting movies I’ve seen in a LONG time. It captured my interest from the very beginning, and didn’t let go. Unlike Sky Captain, the cinematography is varied and fresh, the pacing is good, and the characters are certainly not boring cookie-cutter templates without life.

Obviously, it was very beautiful, and captured the revolutionary look of the books in a way that has never been done before. But, there’s been a lot of dismissal of the violence and the story as childish and simplistic, and I think it goes way beyond that.

(Some spoilers inside.)

I think that some of what I see here is represented heavily in Dwight’s characterization of Marv. This passage appears in A Dame to Kill For, one of the stories that didn’t make it into the movie, but was obviously important enough for them to use anyway.

I’m no shrink and I’m not saying I’ve got Marv all figured out or anything, but “crazy” just doesn’t explain him. Not to me. Sometimes I think he’s retarded, a big brutal kid who never learned the ground rules about how people are supposed to act around each other. But that doesn’t have the right ring to it either. No, it’s more like there’s nothing wrong with Marv at all–except that he had the rotten luck of being born at the wrong time in history. He’d have been okay if he’d been born a couple thousand years ago. He’d be right at home on some ancient battlefield, swinging an ax into somebody’s face. Or in a Roman arena, taking a sword to other gladiators like him. They’d have tossed him girls like Nancy, back then.

This is pre-pretty Dwight speaking, which was also largely dropped from the movie.

This passage struck me as remarkably apt when I first read it, and again when I heard it delivered on screen.

Sin City itself is, in fact, exactly the kind of world that best fits Marv. For some value of the word, he thrives there. He acquires a drive, in murder and revenge, and while he is ultimately done in by the forces that be, he goes willingly and defiantly to that end, having accomplished his goals of driving some greater evil than he from the world. But if you take the statement in the context of the real world, hopefully it’s true – Marv doesn’t fit here, in the kind of world we’d like to have. Maybe Sin City the story doesn’t either, and that’s okay.

Dwight was my favorite character in the books, and he shines in the movie. Some have complained that he’s portrayed as sexist somehow, as the man that the women of Old Town need to save them from their own evil. I really don’t see that. He’s a man with a plan, yes. He’s a serious badass, yes. But there’s never a sense that Gail and the others can do any less than look out for themselves just fine. Sometimes you need to be saved, and sometimes you need to do the saving. If anything, this is a respectful relationship of equals. “Where to fight. It counts for a lot. But there’s nothing like having your friends show up with lots of guns.”

That Yellow Bastard is just weird. I still have no idea how I feel about that. I do think the parallels between Marv and Hartigan are interesting – they’re both busted for taking out a Roark, they’re both tortured for confessions (which they both sign – and that’s a whole other analysis right there), and they both ultimately feel like their lives are worth trading for something larger than themselves – for Marv, it’s revenge in and of itself; for Hartigan, it’s an end to the chain. Cowardly? Maybe, but he’s also supposed to be MUCH older and in much more pain than he’s accurately portrayed in the movie. I can see where that sort of a decision might seem to make sense.

There’s a lot of layered complexity in here, and I think there’s much more in there than credit is being given for.

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