Trash, Art and the Movie Critic

Trash, Art and the Movie Critic by Il Ragno

Eastertime now usually means a graphically gory cinematic blockbuster opening in 3000 theaters, which this year means Sin City: a CGI extravaganza featuring hookers, psychos, bent cops, angelic pole dancers, and cannibal pedophile priests, and full to bursting with multiple lovingly-rendered mutilations, decapitations, castrations and scenes of people being eaten while still alive. The critics are on their knees, hosanna’ing with awe and delight.

By interesting coincidence, last Easter another bloody and violent release captured the public’s fancy. True, it was only based on a historical occurrence that has had wide global significance for the past 2000 years as opposed to a comic book that shows you tits, but what’s interesting is that those exact same critics not only didn’t love it, but they hated it for the very reason they adore Sin City.

Isn’t it funny how much difference one little year makes? Or maybe it’s something else. See if you can tell which blurb refers to which movie, ‘kay?

E! Online

A two-hour bloodbath.

You’re gonna love it.

Tom Long, Detroit News

“The Passion of the Christ” will surely be the feel-awful movie of a lifetime, a filmed bloodletting like no other on record, essentially a terribly graphic two-hour torture sequence. It’s hard to imagine anyone enjoying this film (and please, please, don’t anyone take a child to this movie). Gibson would doubtlessly defend it as realistic, which it may well be. But watching a man have the skin flayed from his bones as his blood sprays the faces of his attackers, and while his mother looks on in horror, isn’t really is butchery. The question becomes, are we going to linger on horror in the name of accuracy? Is this one case worthy of drastic examination? Myself, I wish I’d never seen it.

“Sin City” is a teenage boy’s dream-nightmare come true, a cauldron of violence, vengeance and sexual sensationalism that revels without pause in its own shameless celebration of twisted fantasies. It’s loud, large, sick and a whole lot of fun. Understand, there’s no way you want to miss this movie. “Sin” is worth any penance you have to pay.

Josh Bell, Las Vegas Weekly

This is crucifixion-as-popcorn-flick, since Gibson gives us a horror-movie-style Satan, hordes of extras, a fight scene and Monica Bellucci as Mary Magdalene, last seen cavorting with a messiah of a different sort in the Matrix sequels. I simply saw a brutal and well-crafted film, the story of a nice guy with some really bad luck. Gibson’s reverence for his source material is like Peter Jackson’s reverence for Tolkien: a good adaptation, nothing more.

A treasure for both cineastes and those looking simply to be dazzled for two hours.

Slant Magazine

A high-art snuff unhealthy, inhuman, pornographic, masochistic torture mechanism.

An exhilarating tapestry of valor, selfishness, deceitfulness, and martyrdom.

David Edelstein, Slate

This is a two-hour-and- six-minute snuff movie—The Jesus Chainsaw Massacre—that thinks it’s an act of faith.

I loved it, I loved it, I loved it. I loved every gorgeous sick disgusting ravishing overbaked blood-spurting artificial frame of it.

Ken Hanke, Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

In many ways, in fact, The Passion could qualify as a horror film. Everything you may have heard about the movie’s extremely graphic violence—almost to the point of being sadistic—is true. If this were a horror film instead of an “edifying” religious drama, it would have been sent back for cuts or had an NC-17 slapped on it. In a perfect world, I’d be able to overlook all the baggage that comes with The Passion; however, Gibson’s high-profile, right-wing, homophobic, misogynistic pronouncements, and the movie’s equally high-profile, built-in controversy, make that impossible.

This is the vilest, most disgusting and most violent film I’ve seen in some time. It’s also one of the most entertaining exercises in total stylization and pitch-black humor to ever hit the screens. Early on, I lost track of the number of decapitations and dismemberments, but the film also boasts two castrations, pedophilia and cannibalism as well as attacks on the Catholic Church, the judicial system and government in general. My partner in movie-reviewing crime, Marci Miller, told mutual acquaintances that the movie made her sick, adding, “I’m sure Ken will love it”—thereby proving that she’s an excellent judge of character.

New York Daily News

The movie is a compendium of tortures that would horrify the regulars at an S&M club.

It leaves you breathless as only a movie can.

Jean Lowerison, San Diego Metropolitan

A story of betrayal and vindictiveness leading to a mind-numbing gorefest that provokes exhaustion more than it inspires the “tolerance, love and forgiveness” which is one of Gibson’s stated aims.

The question at hand seems to be this: how many disgusting ways can you make a man die—and how many times? “Sin City” features lots of limb-hacking and sticking of heads in toilets, along with other, less amusing methods. There’s even a cannibal. There’s plenty of style, and some fine direction by Robert Rodriguez. Give “Sin City” a whirl.

Eric Lurio, Greenwich Village Gazette

BLOOD GORE PAIN!!!!!! Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Brilliant, but repulsive. It’s like a car wreck. We can’t take our eyes off it. You won’t either.

Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel

Bloody to the point of gruesome, moving without being inspiring.

...over-the-top characters, situations and dialogue, violence that wallows in sadism, remorseless executions, savage beatings and multiple shootings that no human being could survive; human ugliness taken to its lowest level. It is the flat-out coolest looking movie to come along in years.

Bill Muller, Arizona Republic

The basic message of Christianity—love your brother—is obscured under torrents of blood to the point of benumbing the audience.

Every now and then, a movie does more than gamely defend the status quo...but actually advances the art form. So it is with Sin City.

Andrew Sarris, New York Observer

Whereas the words say love, love, love, the sounds and images say hate, hate, hate.

In the end, I liked Sin City in spite of myself.

Gabriel Shanks, Mixed Reviews

As a film—and more importantly, as a document of faith—it is a dismayingly simplistic, obvious, overbearing waste remarkable only for the quantities of blood it spills.

As close to a museum-quality work of visual art as Hollywood as ever seen.


“The Passion” gives us the bloodiest, goriest, flesh-rippingest film your churchgoing grandma will ever want to see. Gibson focuses on every lashing, every punch, every stumble with the attention of a faithful Catholic. Jesus fell three times? We see all three. The trouble with the film, however, isn’t about the existence or nonexistence of anti-Semitism. It’s about story gaps. As much as I loved the lush production values, it simply does not work plotwise.

Sin City quenched the taste of blood I hadn’t had in a long time. Not a quarter of an hour could tick away on the hands of time before someone was shot, stabbed, electrocuted, exploded, emasculated, decapitated or eaten. It was beautiful. True artists merge their inspirations and bring us out of one hell into a completely different one only to hear us mutter “Thank you.”

Angela Baldassarre, Sympatico.CA

Emotional, violent, extreme and very gory; a difficult and grotesque experience for most viewers.

Violent, filthy, sexist and nasty; mesmerizing, inventive and awe-inspiring; absolutely riveting. Raymond Chandler would’ve been proud.

Jules Brenner (FC), Variagate.Com

If Gibson imagined that this extended detailing of sadism would somehow be inspirational, he needs to be taken off his biblical steroids.

Prepare your own mind to accept extreme super violence as kid’s play, nothing more. If you’re repelled, you’re just not getting the creative intention. Fear of influence on impressionable minds should be the least of your worries.

Ty Burr, Boston Globe

Brutal almost beyond powers of description, yes. More obsessed with capturing every holy drop of martyr’s blood and sacred gobbet of flesh than with any message of Christian love. In the film’s present-tense scenes, Christ has already had his face smashed in, but that’s just an entr’acte. This is scriptural fidelity as fetishism. But how can it be otherwise? To Gibson, each drop is holy, so the more of it the better. Each chunk of flesh dug out by the lash is Christ’s sacrifice in all its beauty, so bring it on. As filmmaking it’s somewhat silly. It’s not your Unitarian grandma’s tea-cosy religion; for one thing, Christian forgiveness seems in short supply...the naked, risen Jesus who strides forth from the tomb in the last shot of the film, to the solemn thrum of martial music, does not seem very interested in love. Why should he be? He’s off to war.

It’s been a long three months, but the dry season is over: “Sin City” is the first great Hollywood joy ride of the year. Hyperstylized and ultra-ultra-violent, this adaptation of Frank Miller’s two-fisted cult comic book series barrels through a black-and-white moral landscape like a runaway bullet train, and it makes no stops for those with delicate constitutions to stagger off. The film is a stunning, visceral piece of work—cheap thrills polished to the level of high art. Rodriguez and Miller’s digital world feels more hyper-real, more urgent, than the mundane one waiting outside the multiplex.

Rick Groen, Toronto Globe And Mail

So obsessively and so graphically bloody-minded that it comes perilously close to the pornography of violence.

Sin City gives sin a great name—it’s never looked so gorgeous.

And...if this were a Letterman top-10 list...the Number 1 idiot-critic. and shining exemplar of the worthlessness of a liberal-arts education...

MaryAnn Johanson, Flick Filosopher

Lisa: “The mound builders worshipped turtles as well as badgers, snakes, and other animals.”
Bart: “Thank God we’ve come to our senses and worship a carpenter who lived 2,000 years ago.”

That bit of snarkiness, courtesy of the always profane The Simpsons, highlights why we cannot talk about Mel Gibson’s piece of cinematic insanity as “just a movie.” We have not, as a culture, come to our senses. There is nothing “just a movie” about this self-flagellating exercise in inciting mass religious frenzy. This isn’t a movie: it’s a theme-park ride for Jesus freaks. “SEE the hunks of flesh ripped from Jesus’ side! EXPERIENCE the stations of the cross like never before!” There’s no reason or logic to it. But I guess once you start talking to an invisible superhero who lives in the sky and can see you all the time—even in the bathroom—reason and logic kinda go out the window. And that’s the worst thing about the circus surrounding this film, and the real reason why it cannot be seen as “just a movie.” The people who in all seriousness buy into this stuff have an influence way out of proportion with the sense they make, which is little, and get a free pass on their fairy stories—I’ve seen not one suggestion anywhere, in all the media’s fawning delirium over this film, that perhaps Jesus never existed or, if he did, was nothing but a crazy guy who roamed the desert, got his brain a little too sunbaked, and merely thought he was God. And there’s been not one scrap of discussion about whether his legacy has been something we could have done without.

This is a vile place, oozing corruption from every orifice, where integrity and honesty in the institutions of authority have long since fled. This is a place where a man or a woman wielding a gun or a knife (and they all do) makes no threats—he or she just proceeds instantly to inflicting the worst. This is a place where there is no time for threats: you hesitate, you die. This is no place you want to be. And yet, when the U.S. attorney general condones and justifies torture, and vigilantes are patrolling the border with Mexico, and neo-Nazi kids are shooting up high schools, is there any doubt that we’re all living in Sin City right now? It’s one of the most disgusting, most sickening things I think I’ve ever seen in a movie. It’s depressing, and it’s miserable. And it’s thoroughly exhilarating to see a film like this one not prettying up the nastiness of the world, just acknowledging it head-on.

Thus far, re: Sin City at least, we have yet to hear from David Denby (“The movie Gibson has made from his personal obsessions is a sickening death trip, a grimly unilluminating procession of treachery, beatings, blood, and agony”), Owen Gleiberman (“Blood-soaked pop theology for a doom-laden time, its effect that of a gripping yet reductive paradox: it lifts us downward”) or the Boston Herald’s James Verniere (“Gibson...seems determined to prove that Jesus suffered more than anyone who has ever lived, a tiresomely literal argument at best, an exercise in sadomasochistic bullying at worst”). Somehow, I think they’re gonna write themselves, don’t you?