The film is an adaptation of parts of comic book legend Frank Miller's (the director resigned from the Director's Guild when they refused to give Miller "co-director" credit) "Sin City" book (Rodriguez should adapt the recent video game "Max Payne 2: Fall of Max Payne", which I was reminded of a lot while watching "Sin City"), with the first tale starring Bruce Willis as cop Hartigan, who has to try and solve a kidnapping case while a bum ticker is the wall that he forces himself to get up and get past on his way to save Nancy (later played by Jessica Alba) from a very well-connected killer (Nick Stahl). Although he succeeds in getting her free, his freedom is taken away as a result.
In another story, a scarred brawler (Mickey Rourke) wakes up to find that the only woman who seemed to give a damn about him (Jamie King), a prostitute, has been killed. He vows brutal revenge, and goes forth into the night assaulting anyone who gets in his way of the truth. Finally, Dwight (Clive Owen, in a downright fantastic performance) goes on the trail of a man (Benecio Del Toro) who's been roughing up his girlfriend (Brittany Murphy) and finds himself on the side of town run by a gang of prostitutes, including his ex-girlfriend (Rosario Dawson), who defend their territory viciously. When something goes down and the girls are in trouble, Dwight comes up with a plan to either keep the trouble at bay, or get rid of it. Finally, we are brought back to the Hartigan story, as he gets out just in time to save Nancy (now played by Alba) again - or does he?
Again, the director has pulled off what I consider the best use of digital surroundings that I've seen yet. The world of "Sin City" is visually remarkable, with the mostly black and white (with bursts of color in otherwise B & W scenes) film taking on the look of a noir comic book in a way that's both fascinating and hauntingly, coldly beautiful. Although it's probably due to the darkness of the movie, the effects-driven backgrounds did seem more seamless here than they did in "Sky Captain".
Although the effects are marvelous and used superbly, Rodriguez, Miller and "guest director" Quentin Tarantino get fantastic performances from the cast. Owen is the real highlight, in my opinion, as the actor provides a razor-sharp performance that's one of the actor's best. Another of "Sin City"'s anti-heroes, Owen doesn't have a lot of time to define his character or get us involved, but he does in a performance that's quick-thinking and compelling. The actor has offered several great performances lately, and impressed me even in an otherwise mediocre movie ("King Arthur".) The real surprise in the film is Mickey Rourke, whose excellent performance gets sympathy for his hulk of a character. Willis, who was very good in the just average "Hostage", is the other real stand-out here. Fine supporting efforts include Rosario Dawson, Alexis Bledel and others.
Despite being broken up into different tales (although there are some ties between the stories), the film smoothly transitions throughout and the pacing is remarkably consistent and quick throughout. In a time where horror and action movies are routinely cut down to PG-13, "Sin City" sticks with the "R" rating, and a hard "R" at that - some may not take well to the violence portrayed within. That said, I thought it was one of the year's best so far: a dark, serious neo-noir that oozes mood and atmosphere, offers some very strong performances, boasts a surpremely well-realized universe of its own and never fails to surprise. A gripping, thrilling and bold feature from Rodriguez and company.
The first disc in this set includes the original theatrical cut. The second disc in this set offers the extended cuts of the four stories, adding an additional 23 minutes onto the running time. Instead of presented all together, the stories are separated here (complete with title cards and, in the case of the three main stories, end credits), as they were in Miller's stories. The introduction by Rodriguez does explain some of the details, but it's too bad that there's not exact details offered as to what's added here. The moments footage that stood out as new were interesting, but didn't seem entirely necessary to the film.
VIDEO: "Sin City" is presented on Blu-Ray in 2.35:1 (1080p/AVC) and the results are absolutely astonishing. This is a gorgeous presentation of the material (filmed with high-def cameras), as the image remains crystal clear, looking silky smooth at all times. Fine detail and depth to the image are also quite impressive at times.
This is a pristine, clean presentation - no pixelation, no edge enhancement, no nothing. The richness of the black and white images is - quite simply - stunning. The few colors that are seen look thrillingly bold, with superb saturation and no smearing or other faults. Beyond simply reference quality, this is one of the best presentations I've seen on the Blu-Ray format.
SOUND: The film is presented in DTS-HD 5.1. The film's audio mix definitely takes advantage of all the opportunities presented, as the surrounds kick in often to deliver effects and ambience. Although the surrounds aren't always employed, they are often used in this enveloping and immersive sound presentation. The DTS-HD presentation sounds terrific, with deep, rich bass and superb clarity.
Interestingly enough, an "audience track" in Dolby Digital 5.1 is also offered for the theatrical cut. Those who would like to feel like they're watching the movie with an audience can turn on this track and hear the reactions of the audience at the premiere in Austin, TX. It's probably not something viewers are going to put on more than once or twice, but it is kind of a unique extra.
EXTRAS: The first disc (theatrical cut) includes two audio commentaries: one with director Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller and the other with director Rodriguez and, later on, guest director Quentin Tarantino and Bruce Willis. The commentary with Miller and Rodriguez is interesting, as we learn more about how Miller felt about not only becoming involved with the project, but being on set and having to interact and direct a rather intimidating cast. The two also discuss the look of the movie, production issues and stories from the set. The second commentary mostly features Rodriguez, who elaborates on some of the topics from the commentary with Miller, and also offers a lot of technical discussion on creating the look of the film, visual effects and working with the cast. Tarantino comes in later on and the two are very entertaining bouncing ideas and stories off one another, so I wished Tarantino had sat in throughout the whole track.
The second disc also includes a series of short featurettes: "How It Went Down: Convincing Frank Miller To Make the Film", "Special Guest Director: Quentin Tarantino", "A Hard Top With a Decent Engine: Cars of Sin City", "Booze, Broads and Guns: Props of Sin City", "Making the Monsters: Special Effects/Make-Up", "Trench Coats and Fishnets: Costumes of Sin City", "Sin-Chroni-City" and both the teaser and theatrical trailers.
Also found on the second disc is "15 Minute Film School", where Rodriguez discusses the film's visuals, effects (how two characters could appear in the same scene without ever being in the scene together) and the tests that were done early on. The featurette shows a lot of green screen footage and other elements, while Rodriguez provides narration. "The Green Version" shows the entire movie sped up to a length of about 10 minutes, with no background effects - just the cast filming on green-screen sets. "The Long Take" is a closer look at Tarantino filming his sequence in the movie. "Ten Minute Cooking School" shows Rodriguez making a "Sin City Breakfast Taco." "Sin City: Live in Concert" is a live performance from Bruce Willis and his band performing live in Austin, TX.
The Blu-Ray also offers two exclusive features: Cine-Explore (which is an optional picture-in-picture supplement that can be played along with the film) and "Kill 'Em Good", which is a very neat interactive comic book experience. Additionally, the Blu-Ray is D-Box enabled.
Final Thoughts: Sin City" is a rough noir drama/thriller that may not be for everyone, but boasts an incredible, dark digital world and superb performances from many members of the cast. The Blu-Ray edition offers spectacular video quality, terrific audio quality and the same extras as the special edition DVD (along with a couple of new ones.) Highly recommended.
The Film A