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SIN CITY
Blu-ray Edition

Film review by Gordon Justesen
Technical specs by Michael Jacobson

Stars: Jessica Alba, Devon Aoki, Alexis Bledel, Powers Boothe, Rosario Dawson, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Clarke Duncan, Carla Gugino, Josh Hartnett, Rutger Hauer, Jaime King, Michael Madsen, Brittany Murphy, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Nick Stahl, Bruce Willis, Elijah Wood
Directors: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller
Audio: DTS HD 5.1Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Dimension
Features: See Review
Length: 124 Minutes (Theatrical) 147 Minutes (Recut)
Release Date: April 21, 2009

“Where to fight counts for a lot...

...but there’s nothing like having your friends show up with lots of guns.”

Film ****

Rather than serving as just another comic book adapted for the cinema, Frank Miller’s Sin City is elements of filmmaking injected into the actual comic book source, and the result is nothing short of exhilarating. The ultra-talented, and very restless, Robert Rodriguez and Miller have blended their skills to create what is very much a genre-bending picture. Not only do the visuals grab the viewer, but the Tarantino-esque narrative makes the movie an all the more invigorating experience.

The movie marks in first in the realm of storyboards. Instead of creating original storyboards for the sake of the movie, Rodriguez went straight to the source and used Frank Miller’s graphic novels as the ideas for the very shots that would end up in the movie. Not only was Rodriguez’ directing keeping in spirit with the comic source, but the inspired casting resulted in actors very much resembling the original characters of the graphic novels.

Call this a comic book movie with a touch of Pulp Fiction, as the screenplay by Rodriguez and Miller mixes together three interconnecting stories centering on various characters in the town called Sin City. Some are lowlifes looking for vengeance; others are heroes looking for pure justice.  The film’s engrossing narrative style places it amongst the likes of Pulp Fiction and Memento.

The first story involves Marv (Mickey Rourke), a hulk-like hoodlum who is out for bloody revenge. After meeting a beauty named Goldie (Jaime King), who turns up dead beside him in his bed, Marv sets out to take out those responsible for the senseless murder of the one girl who treated him with any hint of respect. His trail leads to unexpected suspects, including a deadly figure with a certain taste for killing, played by Elijah Wood in a role that will make you forget anything having to do with Frodo Baggins and have you chilled to the bone.

The second story, and my favorite of the three, tells of good-hearted killer named Dwight (Clive Owen). After witnessing a tension filled run in with current flame Shellie (Brittany Murphy) and hothead Jack (Benicio Del Toro), Dwight follows the suspicious Jack to see that he doesn’t harm any of the working girls in the city. The events that following result in the breaking of a truce in Sin City, between the crooked cops and the working girls who defend their territory.

The third section of the movie concerns a burned out cop named Hartigan (Bruce Willis) vowing to find and protect someone that he tried to save years ago, and did, but with harsh consequences. That someone is now a full-grown woman named Nancy (Jessica Alba), who’s now an exotic dancer at a nightclub. The very people who were trying to harm her years before, in particular a newly deformed pedophile (Nick Stahl), seem to resurface just at the moment Hartigan is reunited with Nancy.

One element that distinguishes Sin City from the rest of the comic book movie batch is the notion that in every single shot, you get the feeling that you’re watching an actual comic book in cinematic motion. The way Rodriguez has shot the movie, this being digital, allows for elements of lighting and other fixtures which allow the simplest camera shots to resemble the very kind of picture you would see in a comic book. Rodriguez, who has come to embrace the art of digital filmmaking, has achieved nothing short of visual brilliance.

Each story section of Sin City mesmerizes and pulsates with pure excitement. Mickey Rourke is absolutely phenomenal in what can be considered a comeback role as the vengeful Marv. Bruce Willis is fantastic as always in the role of the justice-dispensing Hartigan. The film’s finest work, for me, comes from Clive Owen and Benicio Del Toro in the film’s second, most bizarre section of the film. Mr. Del Toro, in particular, should be given credit for being such a pro, and you’ll have to see the film to see what I mean.

In short, Sin City is an utter masterpiece. It’s rare to experience a film that mixes the absolute best of worlds. It’s a visual masterpiece, but it’s also a marvel in the realm of cinematic storytelling.

BONUS TRIVIA: The section directed by guest director Quentin Tarantino is the scene with Clive Owen and Benicio Del Toro riding together in the car.

ADD. TRIVIA: Frank Miller himself can be spotted as the priest threatened by Mickey Rourke in the confession booth.

Video ****

Wow.  WOW.  This is an amazing Blu-ray presentation.  I've seen a few black and white films in high definition before, but never anything approaching the sheer contrast and clarity of what this disc has to offer.  Yes, there are some splashes of color, which are suitably bright and well-contained, but as far as black and white goes, this is an apex.  There is a crispness to the images that is truly like a graphic novel come to life, and the blacks are deep and dark and the whites are pure and clean.  Outstanding!

Audio ****

The DTS HD soundtrack is as explosive and dynamic as they come, as the action and super-real quality of the audio brings front and rear stages into full play with plenty of boom for the subwoofer.  Spoken words are well rendered against the music and effects beds, but the playfulness, if I can call it that, of the surround channels kept a smile on my face all the way through.

Features ****

Disc One includes the Original Theatrical Release, which also features two commentary tracks; the first with Directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller, the second with Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. There’s also a third audio track featuring a recording of the Austin Premiere crowd, which makes you feel like you’re there amongst the first audience to ever see the movie.  And, exclusive to Blu-ray, you can watch the movie with Cine-Explore, which is outstanding...while listening to the Rodriguez/Miller commentary, you'll see picture in picture images showing the actors as they performed against blank green screens, or better yet, pages from Miller's graphic novel juxtaposed with the images on the screen, which will make you appreciate just how much attention to detail went into making this movie.

Disc Two includes the Recut and Extended version of the movie, which allows you the movie in whichever order you wish. The stories have been split up, and each segment has been extended as the title indicates. Also featured on this disc is a belly full of extras, including a 15 Minute Film School with Robert Rodriguez, The Long Take: 14 Uninterrupted Minutes of Tarantino's Segment, "Sin City Live" Night AT Antones - Filmmakers, Cast and Crew Party, a 10-Minute Cooking School with Robert Rodriguez, How It Went Down: Convincing Frank Miller To Make the Film, A Hard Top With a Decent Engine: The Cars of Sin City, Trench Coats & Fishnets: The Costumes Of Sin City, Making the Monsters: Special Effects Make-Up, Booze Broads & Guns: The Props of Sin City, The Movie in High-Speed Green Screen - All Green Screen Version, Booze, Broads & Guns: The Props Of Sin City, Special Guest Director: Quentin Tarantino Segment, Sin-Chroni-City Interactive Game, and Teaser and theatrical trailers.  

The second disc also includes a new Blu-ray exclusive, "Kill 'Em Good", an interactive comic experience.  It takes you through Marv's story in animated comic book form, with Mickey Rourke's original dialogue, but you get to step in and control the action.  Driving a getaway car, fighting, making it through alive...it's all up to you and how handy you are with the remote.  Blu-ray technology makes the game play seamless; on a DVD you'd have a pause after every move, but not here!

Summary:

This is the Blu-ray format at its finest and most fun.  It’s simply impossible to not be marveled by a movie like Sin City, even if you’re not too much a fan of comics. The cinematic vision of Robert Rodriguez combined with the brilliant graphic art of Frank Miller have combined to make a definitive genre film that will be remembered for years to come!

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