National Review film critic and Baylor University Dean of the Honors College Tom Hibbs has reviewed Sin City for NRO. Though I know Hibbs and have had the chance to talk film with him at a restaurant that absolutely refused to bring our check to the table, I remain loyal to the work of "the greatest living film critic in the English language," S.T. Karnick.
Nevertheless, Mr. Karnick has ceased to produce early release criticism, so we'll have to settle for some Hibbs-ian stylings about this black and white gorefest:
Although Tarantino gets a director’s credit for assisting on a certain segment of the film, the central vision — and full director’s credit — is Miller’s, with assistance from Robert Rodriguez. The devotion to Miller’s sacred text is apparent throughout, but the decision to use easily recognizable actors such as Elijah Wood, Benicio del Toro, Jessica Alba, and Bruce Willis gives Sin City the feel of a Tarantino satire on pop culture. The viewer cannot help but be distracted from Miller’s vision into thinking, “That’s Bruce Willis reprising his role from Die Hard or Pulp Fiction,” or muttering, “Wow, that’s Benicio del Toro whose skull has just been turned into a ‘pez dispenser,’” or wondering, “Is that actually Elijah Wood playing a rapist-cannibal in league with the local Catholic cardinal?”
Media talking heads have been bubbling about the timing of Sin City’s rise to the top of the charts on the very weekend during which Pope John Paul II died. A dramatic contrast to be sure, but beyond that it is not clear what the point of the media attention is. The timing was of course pure coincidence, unless we think the pope held on just to provide a counterpoint to decadent American film. Nor is such a contrast unprecedented. Just last year, The Passion was unseated from its number-one ranking by Kill Bill, Volume II. Sin City’s in-your-face mockery of religion locates the Catholic clergy and its sacramental system at the very heart of this corrupt world.