Sunday, June 11, 2006

Frank Miller's THE BIG FAT KILL

Directed by Alex Rodriguez and Frank Miller with special guest director Quentin Tarantino, USA, 2005, 44 minutes.
Source: SIN CITY:recut-extended-unrated (DVD, disc 2)

One of my favorite short films once I found out in this class that this is actually a short film, is either story from the triptych of the Recut-Extended-Unrated edition of SIN CITY, an over-the-top adaptation of the B/W graphic comic novels from creator Frank Miller who also co-directed this movie (which is why he is given credit in the title). For this blog I choose THE BIG FAT KILL. Why this one over the others is later. This is what this film is about.

Dwight is a man with murder in his past and a new face. He is in his girl, Shellie's apartment in Basin City when the girl's nasty ex-boyfriend barges in with his friends drunk and looking for a good time wanting Shellie to make some whore calls. Dwight confronts Jack in the bathroom telling him to stay away from Shellie, so Jack and his friends leave. Dwight knows that the next girl Jack and his gangs meet might get hurt...or worse, so Dwight follows them into Old Town where the prostitutes are in control of the area. Dwight is met up by his old flame, Gail, and they both see Jack's car trying to follow a young hooker, Becky, into a dead end alley. There they trap him and with the help of their samurai style mercenary gal, Miho, Jack and his boys get killed. Jack gets the worse by getting his hand cut off, his gun barrel backfiring into his skull, and being made a Pez dispenser out of his neck. During the collection of possessions from the dead bodies, Dwight found out that Jack was a cop, and Gail knows that for letting the hookers control Old Town, any cop who is not there for fun, is sent back alive, the Truce of Old Town. If this gets out, the truce would be broken and the pimps and the mob would take control of the town and the hookers again. Dwight agrees to hide the bodies in the tar pits, but even cut up not all 5 bodies can fit in the trunk of a car, so Jack was put in the passenger seat. While Dwight is driving, Jack appears to be alive talking in his deceased state, apparently being a negative enforcement on Dwight, when a cop pulls him over fortunately for a broken taillight, unbeknownst about Jack. When Dwight tries to push the car into the tar pits, Irish mercenaries knock him out and take the head of Jack. They tossed Dwight into the tar pits. But then Miho comes to kill a few guarding the pits and rescued Dwight. They come to find out that Gail is kidnapped by the mob because of Becky, the informat. The mob sent the mercenaries to give them Jack's head so they can hand it to the cops. By leaving one alive to talk and be tortured, Miho helped Dwight find out which way the mercenaries were heading. Dwight and Miho were able to find them, kill them, and get Jack's head. Miho sends a message to the mob that they have the head and if the mob wants it, the large mob group is to come to the crooked narrow back alley with Gail. There they give Gail to Dwight then Dwight gives the mob the head, which he detonates the grenade in Jack's mouth and all the hookers on the top buildings surrounding the back alley kill every last man in the mob. The big fat kill.

That was certainly the most I have ever written about a short film, but I love this so much every thing needed to be told, that way people will see that the story is just the half of what makes this short great. When I took this short films class and the word omnibus came into play, I automatically thought of the recut edition of SIN CITY. At first I was told that it wasn't an omnibus short film, but through more research it was discovered that a movie that has stories with no interwinding characters or scenes are considered omnibus shorts. I rejoiced. Just like the director Alex Rodriguez did when he was making this movie. Alex knew that he could not do this adaptation without authenticity so he brought in Frank Miller to co-direct the movie, making sure that everything was as precise as his comics, every action, every angle, even lighting. There is a scene where Dwight is drowning Jack and the scene is bleached to make it look the closest to the comic panel in the novel. A sign of the Alex's faithfulness to the adaptation.

Though some people believe that this was "Film-Noir on steroids." because of the over-the-top acting, the acting is supposed to be faithful to the comic characters where everything is over-the-top for visual reasons. Speaking of visual, the one thing that was really amazing was the specific objects that were given color in this B/W short, Like Dwight red shoes and car, Jack's blue car, Becky's blue eyes, and certain moments of blood. I do believe only the primary colors were used but mostly red and blue. These specific objects were not colored just for show, and it only made the short even better.

Why I picked this short over the other two are the slight differences. For example, in both THE HARD GOODBYE and THAT YELLOW BASTARD, you hear the central character's asynchronous narration immediately. In the BIG FAT KILL, the narration is not heard in the beginning and we get to see the interaction between Shellie and Jack first. Even when Dwight first speak we don't hear it yet because we need to see his emotion when he drowns Jack seeing how feels when he assaults someone. Only after he heads for his car does the narration begin.

Another reason why I picked this short over the others is that this contains a sequence that Quentin Tarantino was a special guest director for, where Dwight is driving with Jack in the passenger seat. Using from what he saw in an Italian movie, he used a variety of colors flashing by in the car (using a cool light and a warm light for special effects), and a scene where Dwight is actually speaking his asynchronous narration while Jack is supposedly undead. That part was not in the novel but it worked so well that Frank Miller allowed in the short. The specialty just adds more excitement to the short.

What makes the three shorts in SIN CITY connect, other than the same visual adaptation of the comic novel, is the atmosphere of Basin City where all the shorts takes place. Everything just seems like the people are living in Hell. You don't actually see an entirely good person in this triptych, everyone has a form of darkness inside of them. Every central character seems to be forced to kill, whether it is killing for revenge (THE HARD GOODBYE), killing for protection (THE BIG FAT KILL) or even killing for justice (THAT YELLOW BASTARD), it just seems like the right thing to do in all three shorts. Even the killing was done over the top in all three shorts which really intrigues me because no other film that I know of has killed or tortured as graphic as these shorts. Also in THE HARD GOODBYE and THAT YELLOW BASTARD there is a highway sign indicating Basin City is close by. Though THAT YELLOW BASTARD was shown last in the movie, only in THE HARD GOODBYE did the sign had the B and A in Basin City scraped out making it look like the word SIN CITY. Showing that this city has been Hell for a long time. And what a hell of a city to be Hell itself.


Jay said...

It's intriguing to consider how the genesis of "Sin City" came about primarily through a film short, i.e., through the making of the self-contained introductory segment mentioned in class featuring Josh Hartnett ("The Customer is Always Right"). Rodriguez used the medium of the short film in two of the senses we've discussed: as a means of formal experimentation, to test and perfect the innovative visual style of the film, and also as a professional calling card targeted specifically at Frank Miller, to prove that he had the means to faithfully adapt the material Miller held so dear. According to Wired magazine, "Rodriguez made Miller a simple offer: Come to Texas and shoot with me for a day. If you like what you see, we'll make a deal. If not, the short film ("Customer") is yours to keep . . . After the shoot, Rodriguez cut the footage in his editing bay, laid down a few special effects, and added music - all that same day." Not bad for a day's work. It's obvious that Rodriguez is a gambler, and only fitting, then, that he would stake the entire future of his project on a form that itself is something of a gamble (the short film).

Jay said...
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