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Blu-ray Review: Sin City

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Ahh, Sin City… a city with a name more perfect has never existed. The city is streaming with sin, with pestilence, and with irony. Sin City calls forth to the tough, the thugs, the corrupt, and the lonely. They surge into the city like fleas to a dog, their bites stinging and their bellies fat with blood. Even without the steady stream of new faces, Sin City plays host to thousands of other deadbeats and lowlifes. The police force is corrupt, strippers and hookers stand on every corner, and there is no end in sight. Sin City, the last place on God’s green earth that you would ever want to live.

Sin City tells three stories that are intertwined and run closely together. Though they are interwoven throughout the movie, we are led to believe that they are really just separate events throughout the course of a day in Sin City. We start off by meeting Hartigan (Bruce Willis), one of the few uncorrupt cops in the hell hole of a city, and, more importantly just a few days away from retirement. With his wife home making a juicy steak, Hartigan has just one more case to wrap up, that of Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba). Needless to say, this one last case doesn’t end the way he wants it.

Flash forward and we meet Marv (Mickey Rourke), a two-time felon who is always in trouble. He has a beat-up face, thousands of scars, and a penchant for coats. Oh, and he is obsessed with some dead hooker named Goldie (Jaime King). He travels through the underground of the city, searching for her killer, and finding all sorts of ‘fun’ in the process. On his hands there is blood, and I don’t mean that figuratively.

Jumping to the third and final story, we meet Dwight (Clive Owen), “a felon with a new face and just one fingerprint away from the gas chamber” — what a chirpy and energetic character. While he might sound bad, he is a vigilante with a passion for dames and a desire to see justice done. We follow Dwight as he and his hooker friends try to keep the mob from returning and ruining Old Town, a part of Sin City where the hookers rule and the cops know their place. Explosions, trickery, traitors, and a sexy little Asian named Miho (Devon Aoki) are all just elements of this story. Finally landing with the girl of his dreams, Dwight is the only one to have a happy ending (pun intended).

Joining these great actors are more well-known names. Benicio Del Toro shows up as Jackie Boy, the rival of Dwight. Josh Hartnett shows up as The Man, an unknown (personally I think that this is Dwight before surgery) hit man who is hired to kill those hiring him. The stunning Brittany Murphy plays Shellie, another lover of Dwight’s. Frank Miller himself even shows up, playing a bit role as a murdered priest. These actors all contribute to the look and feel of the movie, and they make it so much better.

Topping all of the other actors, however, is a character who doesn’t say a single thing. All we know is that Kevin smiles a lot, has really reflective glasses, is faster then Marv, and eats humans. Elijah Wood, in his first acting job since Lord of the Rings, plays Kevin remarkably well, and gives him an interesting personality. All we know of Kevin we learn from others, yet somehow we feel connected to him throughout the movie. Wood gives us the emotion we need simply from his face. It is amazing how far you get drawn into this character, and that is a credit to Wood.

Sin City, for those of you who do not know, is a movie directed by Richard Rodriguez and based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller. Similar to Miller’s other works, the graphic novel seems extremely well thought out and planned. All of the characters are real, there is proper growth, and they are all three-dimensional. To add to the feel, Miller hired great artists and colorists to get everything to jump off of the page at you.

To recreate this feel in a film is hard work, but Rodriguez is up to the task. Sin City is a series of five stories, though only three are usually talked about. The stories are told in an interesting manner, with characters linking them, and events in common, but they are really supposed to be separate; well, that at least is what the production team claims (I have my doubts). By keeping the stories unique, and by having different stories in one movie, Sin City is able to capture the actual feel of the graphic novels, and this is something that I enjoyed immensely.

Taking it even further, Rodriguez utilizes imagery and coloring to bring the graphic novels to life. When we look at the world, we normally see it in hues and pastels; only the important things (brake lights, eye color, stunning blonde hair, and pert pink nipples) capture our attention. Miller colored based on this, and Rodriguez translated it into the film. Things that would seem normal and mundane are in black or white, to symbolize how useless they are. Only the interesting, and intriguing, stuff are in color, and it symbolizes the importance to the story. This is a good method of engrossing viewers, and it helps to show what needs to be seen.

There is no better way to see this contrast, and to have the colors leap out at you, than by watching it on Blu-ray on your HDTV. Seriously folks, I have never seen a better transfer to HD in my entire movie-viewing life. Sin City raised the bar with their image quality, and they clearly are ready to set the new standard. Marv’s blood jumps at me, with the red glistening and reflecting just like it would in real life. The pert pink nipples of Goldie, well, let’s just say that they were very lifelike. Movements of fabrics, hair, and even bullets didn’t seem to cause any ghosting or blurring, which is very rare in a transfer. Everything in Sin City looked perfect, and it all looked absolutely jaw dropping.

Adding to the intensity of the coloring and quality of the movie, the sound that came out of my 5.1 system just shattered my perceptions of what was possible. The narration was front and foremost, the dialog was perfectly balanced, and the score streamed by my ears. I was fully immersed into the story, and I actually jumped in surprise when I heard sounds behind me. To give you an example of what it felt like, imagine being in a city and having somebody shoot at you: first the bullet whips by you (rush of wind), then you hear the gun (bang bang), followed by random ricocheting in the distance (for about 10 seconds). This is exactly how it sounded coming from my system, and this just amazed me.

When I see a movie with great image quality, I normally expect to see fewer  extras, as they need the room on the discs. Sin City is not the norm. The two-disc Blu-ray edition is jam-packed with extras and special additions. I really liked the extended and re-cut versions of the movie. We see far more interactions between the characters, more intertwining of the stories, and a better take on Miller’s novel. In reality, I really do not understand why these scenes were cut and believe that they should have been in the original version. The only downside here is that they are told story by story, and that really throws off the way you might have seen this in theaters.

My favorite extra, however, is “The Long Take”. This is a 14 minute look into a scene directed by the great Quentin Tarantino. In the scene, Dwight imagines that he is talking to the dead Jackie Boy. Hilarity ensues. I really liked the conversation, the actions, and the emotion that both actors put out here. As the actual film used less then 10 seconds of this clip, I am really glad that they added it into the film, and it is something that I recommend to everybody.

I simply can not praise Sin City enough. The movie is flawless, the imagery stunning, and the sound perfectly balanced. This is the perfect movie for any comic book guy, graphic novel reader, teen, or college kid. Heck, I am willing to bet that most adults would love Sin City. Even if you already have it on DVD (as I do, twice), I recommend that you get it on Blu-ray. Yeah, it is that much better.

Movie: Compelling story, good script, and great acting
Blu-ray Quality: Wow, just wow, the new standard of HD images
Sound Quality: Sounded like I was really being shot at
Extras: Loved the extras, and there were tons of good ones
Overall: Can not praise Sin City enough

Sin City is rated R for sustained strong stylized violence, nudity and sexual content including dialogue. I do not recommend that you let any kids younger then 15 view this movie as it is extremely violent.

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About Robert M. Barga

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