Value of violent moviesLast night I saw Sin City, lured by Bruce Willis and Clive Owen in the preview, but the movie really disturbed me. It's visually stunning with live actors rendered in noir graphic-novel CG, but the extent of the violence really ruined my enjoyment of the aesthetics. Characters lost limbs and lives in sanguine splashes that weren't necessarily gratuitous given that it was an extreme parody of noir crime comics, but were somehow so disconcerting that I didn't care about the visual achievement, I just wanted to get the images out of my head.
So what makes a violent movie enjoyable? Requiem for a Dream and American History X were equally disturbing but had relevant and compelling themes about addiction and racism, respectively. American Psycho, Fargo, and Pulp Fiction were downright hysterical at times. Mulholland Drive was engaging, mysterious, and sultry.
On the other hand, A History of Violence was gratuitous. The impalements did nothing to forward the plot or embellish the scene, as did Fargo's woodchipper and American History X's jaw-on-pavement. If the violence is going to be salient years later, it should be attached to some greater meaning that's equally salient.