Cinematical loves a love-it-or-hate-it proposition. Great is great, but disaster is infinitely more interesting to read about than mediocrity. So it's with no small measure of pleasure that we dive into the following pile of reviews. Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller's Sin City, the first major release of 2005 with major pretensions towards artistry. Its Metacritic rating is 71 ... which is low, low, low, considering a whopping seven critics (fancy real critics, not make-believe internet hacks like myself) gave it a score of 100.
Those that like the film can barely contain their undiluted joy: Slate's David Edelstein informs us that he "loved it" four times in a single paragraph. He goes on to state that he "loved every gorgeous sick disgusting ravishing overbaked blood-spurting artificial frame of it" - because we didn't hear him the first four times. But there are many competing voices of warning; J. Hoberman does not deliver his rating of 40 without ample qualification. It's "predicated on a 12-year-old boy's fantasy of the lone, misappreciated tough guy protecting or avenging some vulnerable little lady—even, or rather especially, if she's a kickass Amazon hooker in full circus regalia." His Village Voice review is the strongest cautionary this bit of "Pulp Fiction by rote", has yet inspired outside of the religious community.
Pulp Fiction (which, incidentally, has a Metacritic rating of 94) pops up in most of Sin City's reviews, and I think this is about more than the one scene directed by Quentin Tarantino, or Rodriguez's attempt at creating a temporally elastic narrative. I think there's some kind of collective yearning going on here - I think we maybe need a new Pulp Fiction, and a lot of people had hoped that Sin City was going to be it. The negative reviews, when not girlishly squeamish, seem to be upset at the film for not being better, for not matching its technological innovation with equally impressive spiritual depth. The positive reviews accept the film for what it is, an exercise in style, perhaps, but one that offers its own rewards.