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April 02, 2005

At the Movies With Ace and Ice-T

So, as I'm buying soda, I notice a black guy in a baseball cap and leather jacket buying hot dogs and popcorn. I also notice his bombshell blonde of a girlfriend. It's Ice-T, and his girlfriend, who I might say looks like she could be a porn-star, and of course I mean that in the best way possible.

I've seen them around the neighborhood once before. The first thing you notice is, "Hey, that's Ice-T." The second thing you notice is the girl, and you keep noticing her for a good long while. I think he's dating her primarily so that people don't recognize him.

Ice-T and his girlfriend gave me their own brief review of Sin City. More on that later.

Sin City is one of the most cinematically-gorgeous movies I've ever seen. Black and white is used to startlingly evocative effect, and the camera does a great job of capturing the stark and melodramatic compositions of well-drawn comics. Color is dabbled onto the canvas here and there, and that looks lovely as well, but I think the black and white itself could easily have carried the day. The colorization is a bit gimmicky, and we've seen it before... all the way back in that dumb Elton John video.

This movie has made it safe to shoot in black and white again. Expect there to be more black and white films. And they'll look amazing.

The credits are odd: the film is "shot and cut" by Robert Rodriguez -- have you ever seen that credit before? -- and directed by "Frank Miller [the comic's author] and Robert Rodriguez." Plus, a special "guest director" named Quentin Tarrantino. Tarrantino hasn't shown me anything since Pulp Fiction, but whatever he contributed here is good, because it's all good.

The film is ultraviolent, as you might expect, but in a fun way. A lot of people have described this film as having no "good guys." That's not really true. There are three genuine heroes, even if one is a violent monster of a thug suffering from psychotic hallucinations, and one is an ex-murderer (who, in a bit of one of the film's problems with repetition and similar characters, also apparently is prone to psychotic halluciantions). And then there's a genuine moral heroine in Jessica Alba, and a minor heroine in Brittany Murphy, who's really more cute and spunky than a genuine heroine, but whatever.

And of course Bruce Willis, playing a non-wisecracking version of John McClane.

Basically, the movie is a mix between Pulp Fiction -- violent vignettes lightly connected in entwining storylines -- and L.A. Confidential. In fact, an awful lot of the characterization is taken from L.A. Confidential. But whereas LAC featured three distictive heroes -- Jack Vincennes, the sleazy cop who develops a conscience; Ed Exley, the smart and ambitious tight-ass; and Bud White, the hulking, brutish thug who sees it as his personal mission to protect abused women -- this film also features three heroes, but all of them are Bud White.

Mickey Roarke is a hulking monster, looking a bit like Quasimodo before the first coffee of the day, who cannot abide the abuse of women and uses brutality and mayhem to save them.

Clive Owens is the handsome cypher with a dark past who also cannot abide the abuse of women, and who also uses brutality and mayhem to save them.

Bruce Willis -- turning in another fine performance -- is the One Good Cop in the dirty city, about to retire (the film claims he's "pushing sixty," which provoked chuckles from the audience), who also, get this, cannot abide the abuse of women -- or at least one specific woman, a little girl he saved years before -- and who also also uses brutality and mayhem to save her.

Repetition is the only real problem with the film... we see an awful lot of hands being chopped off, and at least three instances of villains having their genitals either shot off (or, in one grim scene, ripped off by hand). Mickey Roarke goes on a suicide mission to save a woman from a creepy farmhouse guarded by corrupt cops; and wouldn't you know it, an hour later Bruce Willis goes to the same creepy farmhouse guarded by corrupt cops to save another woman.

That said, the film is a hell of a good time. The dialogue (60% of it narrative voice-overs) is over the top noir-speak, sometimes ludicrous, but the spirit of the film, and its inherently gonzo nature, makes it all work. There are dangerous men and beautiful (and also dangerous) dames -- more dangerous dames than dangerous men, actually, as the "Old City" is controlled entirely by what appear to be covert-ops trained whores -- and there are gorgeous shots of long twisty LA-ish coastal highways, cigarettes being lighted left and right, driving rain and driving in the rain, and it's always nightime, sometime around 3am it seems...

It's basically every noir film you've ever seen turned up to 11, or actually about three notches above 11. Sort of the Raiders of the Lost Ark for violent pulp noir.

One thing: Don't expect what I was expecting, the "team up" between the various heroes, as occurs at the end of LA Confidential. My one disappointment was that Clive, Mickey, and Bruce didn't all get together for some serious ass kicking at the end. Their storylines remain almost entirely separate, save for the fact that they see each other in the same bar from time to time. They never actually talk to one another or interact in any way.

Highly recommended.

Anyway, back to Ice-T.

He was in the next row over, and we happened to get to the aisle at about the same time (I timed it a little, yeah), and so I introduced myself as a reporter and asked for his review.

He said it was interesting though he sometimes found it confusing (I imagine he means the Pulp Fiction-esque unclear chronology), but that he really got into it once he began to understand the city and everyone in it. He says it's a breakthrough role for Mickey Roarke, and that "Mickey is back." I think he may be right about that.

I suggested that Roarke was soooo hulking in several scenes that I thought the might be using digital effects to enlarge him, and his girlfriend said, "Yes, I was just saying that!" But Ice-T disagreed, saying it was just his head that was big (he wears a lot of facial prosthetics) and pointing out that Roarke is a boxer.

I think the girlfriend is right. I've seen Mickey Roarke, and while he's beefy, he ain't a hulking monster.

Both were surprisingly friendly and enthusiastic about talking about the movie with strangers. So, okay, Ice-T might have a shitty attitude about cops, but he's not an asshole personally.

And his girlfriend... well, she's hot enough to be a bitch and get away with it -- easily -- but she's not. She really was pretty damn friendly and nice. Plus, I could see about 80% of her boobies, which sort of won her bonus points.

So, there you go. I said I was a reporter, and I didn't lie. I interviewed a subject, remembered what he'd said, and reported it.

I am now ready for my media exemption to the coming FEC rules governing non-reporters.

Coupla Other Points I Just Thought Of: If you hate Elijah Wood -- and, let's face it, who doesn't?; if I had heard that freak say "We really were a genuine Fellowship" during his LOTR publicity blitz I would have hunted him down and killed him like an animal -- you'll be shocked at the audacity of his casting in a role as a heavy, and how well it actually works. I won't give away the surprise, but let's just say if I described his character and his, erm, combat abilities, you would just laugh at me. But it works.

I'm always down on CGI, but here it's used to good effect, and is only mildly obtrusive a couple of times.

Lotta people in the cast -- Nick Stahl, Rosario Dawson, etc. -- and all pretty good.

If I had to guess which part Tarrantino directed, I'd guess it was the Old City super-ninja commando-whores sequence, because he's been peddling that conceit of his for more than ten years-- from the first introduction in Pulp Fiction (Mia was in the pilot for "Fox Force Five") to the chhhorible Kill Bill abortions. Come to think of it, that part was the dumbest and most juvenile of the film, so yeah, I'm gonna go with Tarrantino on that.

The three main heroes seem to correspond to gonzo versions of classic noir heroes. Roarke is the thuggish and fascist Mike Hammer, this time made into a physical monster (as Hammer had been, arguably, a moral monster); Owens is the smooth and deadly Phillip Marlowe, with a touch of Marlowe's trademark of fighting on behalf of causes for reasons which seem a mystery to both the reader and himself. And Willis-- well, I can't think of a classic noir hero who's the One Good Cop in the dirty city, but, for crying out loud, there must have been hundreds.

Is This the Blonde Bomshell? Update: Allah wants to know if this is the woman I saw with Ice-T. (Not quite safe for work.)

I'm pretty damn sure it was. She looks better than that, though. That's a pretty harsh shot of her.

And Allah also tips to her website, "Coco's World" (definitely NOT SAFE FOR WORK). Well, whatever I can do to help a fellow blogger and movie-buff out, right?

Ooops... for some reason that website doesn't seem to want to, ahem, load. Perhaps she just can't handle an Ace-alanche.

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posted by Ace at 06:37 PM

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