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Back to the Drawing Board: The Spirit falters in Sin City's limelight 

click to enlarge So why do they call you the gay blade?
  • So why do they call you the gay blade?
So why do they call you the gay blade?
There's something extremely vapid about The Spirit and I don't mean the character-the movie. Sure there are big guns, pummeling, wisecracking and tons o' cleavage but the acting is wooden and stiff. The characters all seem soulless, leaving the audience no reason to care about any of them.

This work pays homage to the work and genius of comic book writer Will Eisner. Director Frank Miller gives Spirit his Sin City treatment-color highlighting the black and white tone, a constant weird sepia look, manic silhouettes, and white blood. You'll leave the theater with memories of these images, but the slick stylizing of Sin City just doesn't gel. There are some really funny lines, some over-the-top scenes, but overall it's too arty for its own good. All flash and no heat.


All the characters in Sin City had a history-past and pain you could relate to or at least empathize with. The people in this movie are stylized cardboard cutouts. The flick has plenty of wiseacre tough guy dialogue and femme fatale sexy innuendoes, but the characters seem to be on dream pills or Qualudes when saying their lines. Sure, they look like they're having fun, but were not. The story is largely forgettable; Miller tries to cram way too much into one episodic movie. With a safe-as-milk PG-13 rating, the gunplay, fisticuffs and plunging necklines are a 12-year-old boy's dreams come true.

The film follows the crime fighting Spirit (Gabriel Macht) and his quest to purge his beloved Central City (he voices over love-sonnets to said city) Eva Mendez as Sand Saref turns in the sexpot role as an ex-childhood sweetheart turned jewel thief. And Scarlett Johansson, as Silken Floss, the assistant to his nemesis Octopus, delivers an unbelievably bad performance with her tongue not sure whether to slither around or stay firmly planted in her cheek. Samuel L. Jackson is in his chew-up-the-scenery mode reprising all his badass performances rolled into one. Lately, he seems confined to some regrettable roles, although I have to admit I laughed at the absolute absurdity of seeing him in full on Nazi regalia for no apparent reason here. The thing I enjoyed most about the movie was recognizing actors-"she was in Deadwood" "he was that guy from The Sopranos" etc...Hey, when the HBO series end, actors need work.

There's a plethora of topics not explained and overused. Scenes are put in the wrong order. Octopus refers to eggs a lot-why? No clue. Cats follow the Spirit around-why? Go ahead and guess.

All the yammering and stylization is clearly an attempt to keep the story moving, but in the end we're left with a black hole. These tricks and turns have the exact opposite effect-nearly turning the film into an insult. Then this movie jumps around so erratically that it sends us into "what-the-hell-does-it-matter" mode. I would encourage a few bathroom breaks during the screening.

With all due respect to Frank Miller's genius, he should stick to his own material and leave the Spirit alone. Let someone else with Rodriguez and Tarantino's flair direct and deliver the goods. Maybe it was a good concept to revitalize the Spirit but not with an already established style. The Spirit isn't edgy enough, lacking punch except when the Spirit punches Octopus about 50 times in the head. As Octopus muses, "such pain, such suffering"- I can relate.

The Spirit ★★✩✩✩
Starring Gabriel Macht, Samuel L Jackson, Eve Mendez, Scarlett Johansson. Written and directed Frank Miller. PG-13

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