Sin City (Vol. 3): The Big Fat Kill by Frank Miller
The Big Fat Kill is the third volume in Frank Miller’s SIN CITY series, featuring Dwight McCarthy, Marv, and the ladies of Old Town delivering justice with extreme prejudice to some very deserving goons. It’s another celebration of violent revenge against some pretty reprehensible people, so it goes down fairly easily. It’s also the most creative storyline of the first three volumes, and is featured as the middle segment of the first Sin City movie.
The story begins with four drunken men banging on the door of Shellie (Brittanie Murphy), one of the waitresses at Kadie’s Bar, which Marv and Dwight frequent and Nancy Callahan dances at. One of these guys is her abusive ex-boyfriend Jackie-Boy (Benicio Del Toro), a particularly odious thug who demands that Shellie let he and his goons inside for a “good time”. Unbeknownst to him, Dwight is hiding in the shower of the bathroom, and when Jackie-Boy goes to the toilet, Dwight makes him pay for his mistreatment of Shellie.
This sets in motion a very outlandish and visually-inventive adventure that revels in mayhem, bodily mutilation, severed heads and limbs, Irish mercenaries, dinosaurs, torture, beatings, and of course a Big Fat Kill finale. If you are someone who gets squeamish at such things, this is definitely not a comic book for you. But if you are able to suspend your moral compass and enjoy some mean and nasty action with a subversive sense of humor, I think this is one of the most enjoyable episodes of Sin City. It’s complete lack of restraint is refreshing if sometimes upsetting, but it really doesn’t take its subject matter too seriously. It’s a celebration of the darkest elements of crime noir conventions, with a modern spin. The artwork is really quite impressive, distinctive and over-the-top, yet restrained by its strictly black-and-white palette, which is funny because the morality of the characters is very much gray-toned. The villains are very bad, so killing them is basically shown as a service to humanity, but our protagonists are pretty bloodthirsty about it. You wouldn’t want to hang out with such people in real life, but there is a vicarious thrill from seeing them wreak havoc in Sin City.
Movie Version (Sin City, 2005; directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller)
The Big Fat Kill makes up the middle segment of the 2005 film version, and is very memorable indeed. Clive Owens is the brooding Dwight, Brittany Murphy the waittress Shellie, Benicio Del Toro the sleazy Jackie-Boy, Mickey Rourke is the lovable but pathological lug Marv, Michael Clarke Duncan is the imposing Manute, and Rosario Dawson is the fishnet-stocking wearing amazon with the uzi who rules the ladies of Old Town including deadly little Miho played by Devon Aoki. All the actors here really delved into their ultra-pulp characters and delivered their hard-boiled dialogue with relish. It’s the kind of story where you have to buy into the excess, and if you can do that it will be a lot of fun. All the memorable mayhem and violence are not dialed down a bit, so I had to wait until my daughter went out before watching this film. The black-and-white medium somewhat mutes the violence screen images, but not really. Often times viewers may say that movie violence is comic book-like or over the top –here the comic has been transferred to the screen with total fidelity. This film made quite a sensation when it first debuted – it was a completely new visual medium, and the splashes of color were used very judiciously to accentuate the story without spoiling the perfect black-and-white noir look, with endless thunder, pouring rain, machine guns blazing, and cigarettes glowing. It’s a bravura piece of film-making that cannot be ignored.
I did like this section of the movie the best, mainly because I like Clive Owen and I liked Dwight, even if he was crazy. He is a criminal, and he’s nuts, but he still has his own code and I respected that.
Nice to see that the movie dialogue is taken nearly word for word from the source material.
Yes, I really thought this segment of the movie was the most outlandish and unrestrained bit of noir mayhem. Both the comic art and movie visuals were great, and I too am a big Clive Owen fan. Benicio del Toro is also suitably slimy as Jackie-Boy. And it’s sad to think that both Brittany Murphy and Michael Clarke Duncan are already gone from the world.