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Sin City (2005)

Miramax Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 4/21/2009

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/22/2009

Throughout the middle and late 20th century, comic book fans would read the four-color adventures of their favorite heroes and think, "This would make a good movie." In the 21st century, the converse is true, as someone now reads a comic and thinks, "I wonder when this movie is coming out." Yes, we live in an era where Hollywood has finally realized that there are many great stories in comic books and they seem determined to adapt them all, from familiar names such as Spider-Man and Batman to titles which are less well-known to the general public, so as Frank Miller's gritty series, Sin City. A group of comics from this famed artist have been made into a movie by filmmakers Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, and their Sin City film gives the term "comic book come to life" a whole new meaning.

Sin City could be described as the ultimate film noir, as it takes place in a place called Basin City, but is better known by its more wicked nickname. The film follows three loosely (very loosely) connected stories which take place in the city and demonstrate how even the most twisted soul can aspire to do the right thing. In the first tale, Marv (Mickey Rourke), a man with a monstrously scarred face, is framed for the murder of a beautiful woman named Goldie (Jaime King). To clear his name, Marv tears a swath of violence across Sin City until he learns that her murder was no random crime and that it's part of something much larger. In the second story, we meet Dwight (Clive Owen), who we learn is a wanted killer who has a new face. When Jack (Benicio Del Toro) roughs up Dwight's girlfriend Shellie (Brittany Murphy), Dwight assaults Jack. Fearing that Jack may take his anger out on an innocent person, follows Jack and his cronies into "Oldtown", a part of Sin City, which is controlled by prostitutes, all of whom are armed and dangerous. There, a case of mistaken identity and a quick temper lead Dwight on a mad chase to keep Oldtown from being taken over by the mob. In the final tale, honest cop Hartigan (Bruce Willis) has been falsely accused of raping a young girl. But, even when he's being punished for this crime that he didn't commit, Hartigan knows that the girl's safety is his number one priority. But, while trying to protect her, a villain from the past emerges, seeking his revenge on Hartigan.

In interviews, Robert Rodriguez has said that his goal was not to adapt Miller's Sin City for the screen, but rather to simply film the comic, and he has succeeded in his goal. Miller's comics were drawn mostly in black and white, allowing him to use shadows and shading to create mood. Whereas filmmakers in the past has attempted to re-create the colorful nature of comic books, Rodriguez has brought Sin City to the screen with the black and white intact, creating a very dark world where only occasional objects or people are in color. Rodriguez has always been a cinematic visionary, giving his films a unique look and finding new ways to tell the story visually. More recently, with his Spy Kids films, he has been pushing the envelope of digital filmmaking technology. Sin City was shot in a fashion similar to that of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow or Spy Kids 3-D , where live actors were filmed using a few props, but otherwise the sets and backgrounds are all computer creations. Using this approach, Rodriguez, along with co-directors Frank Miller and Quentin Tarantino (who directed one scene), was able to have complete control over this cinematic world and make it look almost exactly like a Sin City comic book come to life. Save for a few shots where moving cars look like something out of a video game, the look of the film is quite effective, as it creates a very unique environment to set the film's twisted stories.

But, it's these stories which are the film's flaw. Unlike Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, the episodic nature of Sin City hurts the film. Despite the fact that nearly 40 minutes is devoted to each tale, they all seem to lack a great deal of detail. By the time you begin to figure out who everyone and what they are doing, the story ends. And, the character's motivations for their actions aren't always clear, save for survival. My biggest problem with the film was the characters themselves. Sin City is almost bereft of any likable characters. Nearly everyone in the film is a cold-blooded killer and even if their actions seem morally correct, they are still hard to cheer for. Voice-over narration is a staple of film noir, but it's used to such an extent in this film that it borders on ludicrous. I realize that Rodriguez did a direct adaptation of Miller's stories, so I'm basically criticizing Frank Miller here, but I make no apologies for that -- the stories in this film deserve the kind of depth which the visuals contains.

Sin City represents a great experiment in making a visual comic book, and Frank Miller fans should eat this up. The look of the film is quite impressive, as is the all-star cast. But, many may find the film's narrative structure annoying and the plots could use more detail. Also, be warned that this is an incredibly violent movie and, white blood or not, one must wondered how the MPAA dozed through the carnage in this film. Whatever the case, Sin City is a visual feast and is definitely worth a rental for the stunning pictures at least.

Sin City oddly shows no blue on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Miramax Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. Rodriguez shot the whole film on HD and the transfer shows off that digital quality, as there are no overt defects here. The black & white look of the film is very crisp and the dark tones are very realistic. Despite this look, the image is never too dark and the splashes of red look great. The image has nice depth and the level of detail is good. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.2 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a very good track, as the stereo effects are highly detailed and effective. The surround sound effects come quite often and really add to the action sequences. Some the gunshots and punches caused my subwoofer to beg for mercy.

Disc 1 contains a few extras. We get an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Robert Rodriguez and Sin City creator Frank Miller. There is a second COMMENTARY with Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. The viewer can choose an alternate audio track which allows them to hear a recording of a live audience watching the film.

Disc 2 contains an alternate cut of the film which runs 142 minutes where the stories run in chronological order. The technical specs for the transfer are about the same as Disc 1. This Disc contains several extras. "Kill 'Em Good" Interactive Comic Book" is a partially animated version of Miller's The Hard Goodbye. This has great sound. "How It Went Down: Convincing Frank Miller to Make the Film" (6 minutes) is an interview with Miller and Rodriguez. "Special Guest Director: Quentin Tarantino" (7 minutes) has the hyperactive one and Rodriguez discussing how Tarantino got involved. "A Hard Top with a Decent Engine: The Cars of Sin City" (8 minutes) looks at the challenge of bringing together cars for a movie which has no period. "Booze, Broads and Guns: The Props of Sin City" (11 minutes) is an interview with propmaster Steve Joyner, who shows us how certain items were made. In "Making the Monsters: Special Effects Make Up" (9 minutes) Greg Nicotero discusses how the effects, such as Mickey Rourke's face, were done for the film. "Trench Coats & Fishnets: The Costumes of Sin City" (8 minutes) has comments from Nina Proctor, costume supervisor, who talks about fitting a movie with this style. The film's TEASER and THEATRICAL TRAILER are included. The extras are rounded out by an assortment of segments from Robert Rodriguez, such as his film school, cooking school, and a look at shooting with green screen.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long