Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Sin City


Say you’ve got a great big pile of steaming horseshit. You’ve heard that there are a lot of people out there who like great big piles of steaming horseshit, or maybe you’re a horseshit aficionado yourself. So you hire the very best photographer in the world. Cartier-Bresson, or Ansel Adams, or Dorothea Lange, if they weren’t all dead. The photographer lights it wonderfully, with that special eye, that special genius, and takes a picture that just knocks your socks off. What you’ve got is still a photo of a great big pile of steaming horseshit. Or you can call it a “graphic novel.” It’s still horseshit.

Now, say you want some actual action, say you want to make a movie about horseshit. You get the best prop man in Hollywood to design a very clever shovel, a visually interesting shovel, a shovel that people will be talking about for years to come. You hire a special effects man to run a big wind machine. You hire a computer geek to make a really wonderful, artful, just flat-out fantastic background. You shovel up the horseshit and toss it into the wind machine against a blue screen and film the resulting action. This is called “animation.” It looks fantastic! The critics rave! But what you have is still a great big pile of steaming horseshit hitting the fan.

I don’t object to violence in movies. The Wild Bunch and The Road Warrior are on my Top 25 Movies list. I have enjoyed movies based on comic books, though I admit that list is a short one. I liked Kill Bill, Part 1, until it finally stepped over the edge and over the top in the final half hour. But I thought Kill Bill, Part 2, was … not a steaming pile of horseshit, but boring, pretentious bullshit.

What have we come to, friends and neighbors? What has happened to our society that these ugly, super-violent, misogynistic images of horror are accepted as great art? I guess we’ve been eased into it. I know plenty of people said the same things about Kill Bill, and I can certainly understand it. It was awfully violent. It was unbelievable. But I felt it had some wit.

I guess I can’t explain the difference between that movie and this one. It’s like porn: I know it when I see it. I know the difference between images of violence that wink at you, that are clever, that make you gasp and then laugh uneasily, and this … this worship of torture, dismemberment, decapitation, child molestation, sado-masochism, humiliation, cannibalism, and relentless degradation. [Misogyny.]

Lee and I agreed: this movie is wonderful to look at. Lord, the creativity that was squandered on this turd, the visual style, the noir homages. And that’s where it ends. I’ve been reading some reviews from the people who loved it—and 7 respected critics gave it 100% on whatever meters they use. One worshipped the tough-guy dialogue. The dialogue was doo-doo! Another said it had a “thrilling undercurrent of morality.” I guess that was when the guy said “I’ve never hit a woman,” and then beat the living snot out of her, in vivid red against black and white. Or maybe it was when the guy tied another guy (a very bad guy, it’s true) to a tree, cut off his arms and legs, and then let a dog devour what was left of him. Yes, sir, morality for the 21st century.

I know it’s a comic book, I expect over-the-top antics. But getting bullet-riddled like Swiss cheese, and surviving? You remember L’il Abner’s “ideel,” Fearless Fosdick? When Fosdick got in a gunfight with thugs, both of them would end up with holes neatly drilled through their heads and bodies. Flies flew through the holes. They took no notice of it. That’s the level this movie operates on. Only with Fosdick, it was funny.