The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Reuniting with Mickey Rourke 29 years later

with 46 comments

Once upon a time I had a crush on Mickey Rourke. It was in 1983 and I was 16 years old and laid my eyes on him in Francis Ford Coppola’s Rumble Fish. He was the Motorcycle Boy with sad eyes, a gentle smile and just a little bit too old and dangerous for my own safety.

My crush lasted a few more years through 9 1/2 weeks and Angel Heart and then I lost track of him for many, many years. I think he went for boxing instead, though imdb says that he also kept doing movies meanwhile. They probably weren’t all that successful.

But Mickey Rourke wasn’t the only remarkable thing about Rumble Fish. I also remember it for being very stylish, all shot in black and white, apart from a couple of fishes which were displayed in glowing colors. For years Rumble Fish was my favorite movie thanks to the style and Rourke’s bittersweetness. To be honest I don’t remember much else of it anymore, but when I did my top 100 list I included it, just for old friendship and in honour of the 16 year old me.

A lot of style
The other night I reunited with Mickey Rourke in Sin City. He had aged, but who hasn’t? One thing was the same as on our first meeting though: it was the most stylish movie I’ve seen for a very long time and just like Rumble Fish it was shot in black and white with only a few dashes of colour just for effect.

But the magic wasn’t quite the same and it wasn’t just that Rourke had lost his sex appeal. I guess I’m not quite as easily seduced by style anymore. I ended up admiring Sin City more than I loved it.

I know this movie has quite a few fans and I bet some of them are having coffee in this café at this very moment, getting it in the wrong throat as they read this. What is this lady saying, you may wonder? Doesn’t she LOVE this spectacular adaptation of Frank Miller’s comics? It’s brilliant! It brings the art of turning graphic novels into movies to a new level! It’s as if the drawings are coming alive! Did you ever see anything blacker, slicker, darker, prettier? What is there not to love about it?

Well, let me put it this way: I was on my toes for the first 15 minutes, my jawed dropped, at awe with the sheer beauty of it. And the violence I’d heard so much about didn’t affect me very much. It’s not the over-the-top acts that make me nauseous. So what if someone gets turned into a pez dispenser, their head hanging in a thin slice? It’s just a fantasy. (On the other hand show me a father slapping his son or a man raping a woman and I’ll want cover my face.)

Lack of heart
My problem wasn’t the violence. My problem was the lack of heart. The film consists of four short stories. They’re told with the biggest amount of voiceover I’ve ever encountered in a movie and I think this might be one of the reasons why the movie had a sedative effect on me as soon as the initial jaw-dropping effect had worn off. All that reading aloud was as soothing as any goodnight story and I caught myself having stopped paying attention, dangerously close to falling asleep. Time after time I had to rewind and go back to where I had dropped the ball in order to make sure I’d watched the entire movie. For being a movie that includes a lot of action, violence, bad deeds, drama, sex and revenge it was strangely uninvolving, not to say boring.

It’s hard to put a fair grade after such an experience.

Let me put it this way: I would happily recommend Sin City to anyone who has an interest above the average for comics or films. It feels like a “must-see”, one in a kind. But on the other hand, I can’t hide that I didn’t connect with it. Not even with Mickey Rourke.

Sin City (Frank Miller & Robert Rodriguez, US, 2005) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

February 1, 2012 at 12:00 am

Posted in Sin City

46 Responses

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  1. Liked your review. I definitely gotta agree with your assessment of both Rumble Fish and Sin City. Yeah, Sin City, for all its flash, for all its pizazz, I found frankly uninvolving. It sure did look neato, but that’s about all I can say about it.

    Dave Enkosky

    February 1, 2012 at 2:25 am

    • Thanks Dave! Yes, I wish I had been more involved, that the content had matched the surface so to say.

      Jessica

      February 1, 2012 at 7:46 am

  2. Rumble Fish, that is an awesome film. Definitely Mickey Rourke at his best. Dude needs to be in better movies. Oh, if you get the Criterion DVD for The Thin Red Line, you will find a deleted outtake of Mickey Rourke in that DVD as it’s one of the few deleted scenes saved for that released. He gives a great performance although I could see why Terrence Malick cut that scene out.

    Steven Flores

    February 1, 2012 at 4:24 am

    • He certainly wasted his career, didn’t he? Went for boxing and secondary movies. But is he having some kind of rerturn now? I need to check out The Thin Red Line. If I get hold of a copy with the extras I promise to check for that scene.

      Jessica

      February 1, 2012 at 7:48 am

  3. Shame you didn’t like it as much, I really love the movie and remember giving it a very high score at the time. As for Mickey Rourke, I really like him as an actor as he has done some great roles.

    Nostra

    February 1, 2012 at 8:06 am

    • I hope I don’t sound very negative because I’m not. I still think it’s incredibly stylish and a “must-see”, right? I would certainly watch part 2 if there would be one. I just missed something to be able to give it a 5/5. I think it was the heart.

      Jessica

      February 1, 2012 at 8:12 am

      • If part 2 is ever made it’s one I want to see as soon as I can! 🙂

        Nostra

        February 1, 2012 at 8:13 am

  4. Ahh… Sin City. Such an awesome move experience with so little emotional depth. Rodriguez seems intent on making films which look good in HD, but don’t last long in the imagination – kinda like fast-food cinema, I often say.

    Rourke rules this film, although both Willis and Owen back him up superbly….

    And I absolutely adored what Rodriguez did with Elijah Wood in this movie – so totally different than his hobbity activities in Lord Of the Rings….

    Rodney Twelftree

    February 1, 2012 at 10:56 am

    • Oh yes, Elijah Wood was my favorite. And it’s probably a shame I only watched it on a standard, non-spectacualar TV. I don’t even hav blue-ray. It probably would have been something different in a theatre consider how powerful the visuals are.

      Jessica

      February 1, 2012 at 11:08 am

  5. I haven’t seen Sin City for a very long time. But I do remember REALLY liking it at the time. I loved the novels, so maybe I was biased

    Scott Lawlor

    February 1, 2012 at 11:11 am

    • I haven’t read them, but I would definitely be up for it. I’d like to expand my knowledge of graphical novels.

      Jessica

      February 1, 2012 at 11:35 am

  6. I always try to stress to my students at USC filmschool that the audience needs to form some sort of empathy for a character on screen in order to become engaged in the story. No empathy…no tension. The audience doesn’t care what happens next.

    As for Mickey Rourke, my first encounter with him was the 12 minutes he was in Body Heat. Like Brad Pitt in Thelma and Louise, his raw charisma on screen was unforgettable.

    Now that his face has become an eerie mask, it’s just hard to care about the characters he plays…although I did like his performance in The Wrestler.)

    Jessica: Loved your comment on genrehacks.com about foreign films. I always have to watch foreign films alone in my office. When I go out with my friends and its my turn to pick the movie, they all groan, “Oh god, not something with subtitles.” Yet almost every single time I drag them to see a foreign film, they are happy they went. Most of the time they settle on some mainstream Hollywood film, they leave the theater complaining. Sigh.

    Sean Hood

    February 1, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    • Oh yes. I definitely need someone to hold on to. Not necessarily an altogether “good” or “nice” person, he or she can be very much flawed. But I need to get close enough to the character to start caring and engaging myself into what happens. And if all effort is put into the style and I think it’s easy to forget about that part with disconnect as the result.

      I haven’t seen The Wrestler, only images of Rourke in it. Somehow it makes me a little sad to see that eerie mask, most of all since it reminds me of my own fragility and aging I guess.

      I thought your little speculation about the future was lovely and couldn’t resist thinking about what the next step would be. As of subtitles it’s a little baffling to hear how scary some people find it. At least 90 percent of the movies I watch are non-Swedish, which means that they come with subtitles. Non-subtitled movies is the exception. And if the sound is bad and people speak with strong accents it happens that I miss them, even in a Swedish movie. Habit. That’s all it is – habit.

      I’m really glad to hear though that your friends appreciate the foreign films you drag them to. You would almost belive that they’d start trusting your judgement after a while since you’ve been proved right so many times.

      It’s very nice to see you pop in here and share a bit of your perspective. I wish I was one of your students, but this is the next best.

      Jessica

      February 1, 2012 at 9:19 pm

  7. @Sean
    My wife does the same to me. We get all these foreign DVD’s from Netflix and I complain, not wanting to “read”, just “watch” a movie. She has this mysterious friend at work that feeds her recommendations.

    Last year we got “Departures” and I rolled my eyes and figured I’d be in for a nice nap. I can still close my eyes and conjure images from that amazing movie.

    Somewhat puzzling, though, is that I still prefer less challenging movies at home. I’m willing to see anything at the theater, but at home I have to be nudged to watch a subtitled movie. Laziness is a bad thing.

    Bristal

    February 1, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    • Departures was a lovely movie.

      As a native Flemish speaker it would be hard if we didn’t look at movies with subtitles, we wouldn’t have much to choose from 😉

      Carra

      February 1, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    • Hehe poor Bristal! Victim to the whims of some colleague of your wife. I can hear you grinding your teeth as she brings home her latest sleeping pill of a movie 🙂

      I’m known to easily fall asleep in the sofa as well so I need to pick the movies I watch at home with some care and above all pick my moment. If it’s a very slow one int might be better to save it for the weekend when I might get to watch it a bit earlier at night. Loading with a lot of coffee also helps of course.

      My next challenge will be Kieslowskie’s color trilogy. I’m waiting for a good moment when I’m not likely to fall asleep. I expect it to be good but somewhat demanding in that aspect.

      Jessica

      February 1, 2012 at 9:27 pm

      • They’re very good, especially blue & red, I didn’t like white as much. I’d even call Red brilliant. The Decalogue is still on my to-watch list but has been for over a year now…

        Carra

        February 2, 2012 at 12:06 am

        • I’ve heard a lot of good about blue. I must admit that Veronica escaped me a little bit but I’m still willing to give him a try.

          Jessica

          February 2, 2012 at 1:27 pm

  8. Sin City is an absolutely wonderful movie, on par with Pulp Fiction. It’s an incredibly visual movie which had my attention from the first to the last minute. If I were to make a top ten of best movies of the last decade it would surely be in it.

    So, sad to see that you didn’t like the movie. I guess we can’t always agree 🙂

    Carra

    February 1, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    • That’s interesting! Why would you say that you loved the movie? Was the visual intensity so dramatic that you didn’t need to feel an emotional connection to the characters? Or, do you think that you felt an emotional connection to the characters that, for whatever reason, Jessica and others didn’t feel?

      Sean Hood

      February 1, 2012 at 8:11 pm

      • It’s been a few years since I’ve seen it. If I think about the movie now, I still remember some key visual scenes. And the atmosphere, boy, the whole movie is drenched in a dark, brooding atmosphere. You can feel the violence in the air even if nothing has happened yet. I guess it’s the same reason as why I liked the Cell so much, they’re incredibly rich visual and atmospheric movies, even if the story gets to the second place.

        You’re right though, you do have to love a character a bit or you would not care about what happens to him for the rest of the movie. At the end of “Of Gods and Men” I didn’t care that everyone died so I knew that I didn’t liked- the movie very much. Considering this, I must have cared for the main characters in Sin City.

        Still, I think that the most interesting characters are those you both love and hate. Tyrion Lannister is my favorite character from the A song of Ice & Fire series. He’s an ugly, drunk dwarf who visits whores, did one of the worst possible crimes and is often cruel to others. But on the other side he’s compassionate towards other outcasts and often helps them. A lot of George R.R. Martins characters are incredible bastards and yet we deeply care about them.

        Carra

        February 1, 2012 at 8:47 pm

        • I think saying “emotional connection to” or “care about” confuses issues. The main thing is to be engaged by the characters.

          For example, in Drive I don’t think I know enough about any of the characters to feel emotionally connected to them or to really “care” about them, but I am engaged by their drama. Why am I engaged? Well, the story is extremely simple and identifiable within western genre tropes, so that helps, but also the style of the film pulls me into the story and I end up wanting to learn more about the characters and their story so that I can get more of the style so that I can learn more about the characters and their story so that I can get more of the style and so on and so forth.

          The problem with Sin City is that as amazing and original as the style is, it is actually a distancing style. It isn’t emotionally compelling. It’s almost intellectual. You watch it and go “hey, isn’t it so cool how this looks like a moody comic book?” And so you NEED a good story and engaging characters to pull you into the world, and I just find Sin City lacking in that department. The characters are gruff, but completely boring, and that there are several different stories being told is almost an admission that none of them are particularly engaging. Instead of making any one of the stories great, the film settles for piling in three mediocre ones, hoping you won’t get too bored by any one in particular and will just enjoy the style of it.

          Well, the style could only go so far, and the stories were never compelling, and it’s sad to say this, but each time I’ve seen Sin City I’ve found it nothing more than boring. That’s probably the worst offense for any film, and it’s even more sad when the style really could have been applied to something more engaging.

          Corey Atad

          February 1, 2012 at 8:57 pm

          • See, I actually did care about some of the characters in Sin City. I think Hartigan and Nancy are an interesting duo, and a wholesome one ultimately. I think Dwight is a fascinating character, charismatic and at least relatively moral within this dark world. Marv was relatively moral as well I suppose but far less charismatic and thus not really able to pull it off and thus that section clunked for me. But overall I was interested in the characters and the story for most of the film, even if I wasn’t exactly emotionally invested. It wasn’t just style for me.

            Bondo

            February 1, 2012 at 9:06 pm

            • Bondo: Yeah, that’s what I guessed. I’ve seen a number of movies in which other people have said they “didn’t care about the characters” while I felt deeply engaged and emotionally caught up in what happened to them. The elements that trigger that emotional engagement can be different for different people.

              Sean Hood

              February 1, 2012 at 9:18 pm

            • @Bondo: I’m really not surprised that you liked the Hartigan/Nancy duo, especially in the second part of their story. And I guess you’re not surprised that I disliked it. The mother in me speaking again. 🙂

              Jessica

              February 1, 2012 at 9:50 pm

          • No, what I’m talking about is precisely “engagement,” not whether a character is likeable. A viewer has to feel some sort of emotional involvement in whether a character succeeds or fails in the story, even if that character is despicable or remote.

            I may not have “liked” the main character in Drive, but I empathized with him. I felt like the storytelling and style put me “in his shoes” so I was “emotionally engaged” by his predicament.

            Sean Hood

            February 1, 2012 at 9:12 pm

            • We’re right on the same page here, Sean.

              Style, and even plot, can only go so far. There’s a reason Raiders of the Lost Ark and Die Hard are the pinnacle of the action genre, and it’s not because they have great action. In fact, the action in Die Hard isn’t really that notable. Those movies have great plots, and Die Hard has a really tight script, sure, but what ultimately keeps people coming back, and the reason they wanted to see sequels made, is because the characters are all engaging. Every single one of them. Even the characters you don’t like. The two FBI agents in Die Hard are assholes, and even with their scant lines they manage to be engaging assholes. The villains in Raiders are engaging. I’m engaged with the characters and so I want to see what will happen to them.

              I never once felt that with Sin City. It strikes a mood and tries to sell its characters, but only artificially.

              Corey Atad

              February 1, 2012 at 9:20 pm

          • Corey, I’m probably a bit more forgiving than you are, as I often am. But yes, I think too it’s a bit of a shame that all this excellent style wasn’t used for something that engaged my guts and not just my brain. It could have been perfection. Now it’s just a movie that is worth watching because of the esthetics.

            Jessica

            February 1, 2012 at 9:41 pm

        • I love Tyrion as well!

          Although maybe we should make a distinction between “liking” or sympathizing with a character, and empathy. When I say “emotional engagement” I’m talking about empathy – walking in a character’s shoes and caring deeply about what happens to them…even if they are downright despicable. My favorite characters with whom I empathize, even though they are reprehensible, are the ones in the TV series Deadwood.

          Sean Hood

          February 1, 2012 at 9:06 pm

          • I’ve never seen Deadwood but if it has your strong recommendation I probably should. And I’m all with you that being a despicable character doesn’t stand in oppositon to being a character you can care about.
            Just look in the real world! Women fall for assholes all the time. The good thing about doing it in a movie is that it doesn’t lead to any bad consequences as it does in real life.

            Jessica

            February 1, 2012 at 9:54 pm

          • There’s a small line between making your characters despicable but believable and someone we care about and just simply despicable.

            To make us emotionally engaged, as you put it, you have to give your character some positive traits which we can relate to.

            Carra

            February 2, 2012 at 12:16 am

            • I agree. Some redeeming trait, motivation or decision is key, even in villains and anti-heroes.

              Sean Hood

              February 2, 2012 at 12:31 am

        • That’s one more movie where we disagree! I loved Of Gods and Men and I cared deeply about those monks and what happened to them. I’m not a super religious person myself so I don’t think it was that. But that movie had some so involving, touching moments…. Like the scene with the last supper to the music of Swan lake. There was so much in the air. I don’t know. I just had managed somehow throughout the movie to really get inside their heads and see their pain and worries and broodery as they tried to make up their minds about what to do.

          I give you right though about the most interesting characters being ones you both love and hate. That’s one of the reasons why I fell so hard for Tyrannosaur. Peter Mullan’s character was amazing – scary and appalling and yet fragile and pitiful at the same time. I connected to him, brute or not.

          Jessica

          February 1, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    • We agree about so many movies so it would be eerie if we never disagreed a bit. Mind you I didn’t hate it. I just didn’t fall in love with it like you. Couldn’t quite connect for reasons that Sean has put into words more eloquently.

      Jessica

      February 1, 2012 at 9:29 pm

  9. I think you’re being far too nice to this film. Yes, it’s slickly made, but you’re spot on about the film having no heart and never making you truly feel involved whit anything that happens. Yes, it’s a visceral thrill, but an ultimately empty one.

    I’m sure I’ll catch flack for this, but I think the much reviled The Spirit is better than this.

    James Blake Ewing

    February 2, 2012 at 5:17 am

    • I like movies too much not to be generally nice to them. I save my bashings for those who really deserve them. 😉

      Jessica

      February 2, 2012 at 1:30 pm

  10. Too bad. I can agree with you about the lack of heart but for some reason, that didn’t put me off it. I think I was much too seduced by the style even though I’m no great comics (or Rourke) buff. Having to rewind is definitely not an option 😉

    Sofia

    February 2, 2012 at 11:38 am

    • Good for you that the style seduction lasted throughout the film for you! For me it wore off after 15 minutes. That’s when I had to start rewinding because I lost attention.

      Jessica

      February 2, 2012 at 1:38 pm

  11. […] from The Velvet Cafe, my favourite person ever, wrote a review of the problematic Sin City. Not only is it a good review, but the discussion in the comments is equally […]

  12. Yea I saw Sin City a couple years ago. Stylish from a visual standpoint but really completely forgettable otherwise. And how the women are depicted is borderline misogynistic.

    Castor

    February 3, 2012 at 5:37 am

    • It is very stereotypical. I know Bondo @ The Movie Warehouse argued that it’s taking sides with the women, like the prostitutes fighting back and compared it to Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. But I don’t quite agree. They still all come out like some kind of sex fantasies if you ask me – objects to a (predominantly) male gaze. I didn’t bother bringing it up this time though. It’s so common that I barely see it anymore.

      Jessica

      February 3, 2012 at 7:36 am

  13. Sin city wasn´t a bad movie but it was very hollow, all layer and nothing more. Being a big fan of comics and having read the most of Millers comics I´ll have to say that the adaption was good but that doesn´t mean the movie was good. Miller is a comic creator that i´m having a hard time to like but he is somewhat interesting.

    filmitch

    February 5, 2012 at 10:36 am

    • Well you’re putting it more harshly than I do but I reckon we’re a bit on the same track here. A spelendid surface. Something missing inside.

      Jessica

      February 5, 2012 at 9:03 pm

  14. First off, great review Jessica and a nice link from Rumble Fish to this. Rumble fish is a film I grew up with and hold dear also.
    I can see where you’re coming from on the lack of heart from Sin City but in all honesty I’m not sure it really set out to have any in the first place. I could still identify with the tortured characters but it was more about unadulterated fun and striking visuals for me. I wasn’t too comfortable with the Hartigan and Nancy relationship though. Something about that didn’t sit right with me. Rourke? I thought Rourke was an absolute blast.

    Mark Walker

    May 11, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    • You grew up with Rumble Fish too? Awww. Not all that many people around these days who remember it. I really would like to make a revisit, though I hesitate a bit. I hope it will hold up.

      And while I grumble a bit about the lack of heart, I will definitely watch the sequel.

      Jessica

      May 11, 2012 at 4:13 pm

      • Yeah, I read S.E. Hintons novel and remember Rumble Fish and The Outsiders fondly. What great casts they both had. I seen The Outsiders a few years ago and it didn’t hold up to what I remember but I’d love to see Rumble Fish again. Sin City sequel? Yes please.

        Mark Walker

        May 11, 2012 at 4:18 pm


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