Frank Miller’s Sin City (Blu-ray)
Directed by Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:11080pAVC codec
Running Time: 124/147 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, Portuguese
Subtitles: English, Spanish
MSRP: $ 35.99
Release Date: April 21, 2009
Review Date: April 12, 2009
A tongue-in-cheek film noir for the 21st Century, Frank Miller’s Sin City is one hell of a cool flick. Filled with the bodacious babes, fast cars, hard-boiled dialogue, and swift-paced action that distinguish the best of the crime drama genre, this super hip representation of Frank Miller’s graphic novels in cinematic terms not only stays faithful to their source material, but it presents a picture perfect cast in a triptych of storytelling that has few equals. Offering both the theatrical cut and the unrated, recut extended version in a pristine package with new bonus material amid more familiar ported-over special features from previous releases, Frank Miller’s Sin City is a can’t miss action release that should send fans of creative storytelling and super cool technical know-how into the stratosphere.
Three tales and a coda from Frank Miller’s graphic novel series Sin City make up the major menu of this feature. Bruce Willis’ story bookends the other two major tales. He plays honest cop Hartigan who finds himself rescuing kidnapped eleven year-old Nancy from the perverted clutches of local senator’s son Roark Jr. (Nick Stahl) though he gets a chest full of lead for his trouble. Years later, the senator (Powers Boothe) seeks revenge for the indignities suffered by his son, and he seeks out the grown-up Nancy (Jessica Alba) for his retribution. Elsewhere in Basin aka Sin City, a thug with a heart of gold Marv (Mickey Rourke) seeks to avenge the murder of the one girl in his life (Jaime King) who had ever shown him tenderness without an ulterior motive. He finds his hands full with a local cannibal (Elijah Wood) who despite his size packs a mean punch. Additionally, what begins as a seemingly simple love triangle between Dwight (Clive Owen), Shellie (Brittany Murphy), and Jackie Boy (Benicio Del Toro) actually devolves into a story of a pack of female vigilantes headed by Gail (Rosario Dawson) out to hold their turf against local corrupt police and the mob who are eager to rid themselves of these female warriors once and for all.
Though the audience must play along with the directors in their fascinatingly lurid but sometimes cartoonish take on the several stories on display, active submission to their mise en scène produces a boatload of thrills and fun. The actors are perfectly cast, and the use of computer drawn settings to evoke a time and place in this noir world constitutes a major advance on the process from its use in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow which preceded this film by a year. Additionally, the astounding addition of select color motifs to emphasize certain moods, bodily fluids, or personality traits simply dazzles, always accentuating the carefully achieved look of noir with bold splashes of primary color only at appropriate moments. When we enter a bar with some desaturated color for a few moments, it’s a distinct letdown, so eager are we to continue with the crisp, cutting look that black and white gives these characters and their world. Thankfully, the two sequences in that road house don’t last long. Otherwise, the directors don’t make a wrong move with the film keeping plot, characters, and settings constantly shifting and never allowing the audience to become complacent or secure with a preconceived notion of what might happen (that is, unless one has read the Miller books).
The three primary male protagonists - Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, and Clive Owen - seem born to play these roles and inhabit this netherworld of babes and bullets comfortably. Likewise, the vicious villains of the piece, particularly Benicio Del Toro, Nick Stahl and Elijah Wood, are menacingly evil, the perfect hissable villains, aided by other relatively minor lowlifes played with relish by Michael Madsen, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Powers Boothe. As for the women, Miller and Rodriguez have not fully fleshed out their characters’ personalities to the same degree as the men, but the directors have made sure that the costume designers left precious little of the ladies’ flesh covered in garbing them in the scantiest, most provocative costumes imaginable.
The film’s theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio is delivered in a bold, brassy 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. The picture was filmed with high definition cameras, so it’s no wonder that the image is a pristine and polished marvel. Grayscale is breathtaking with deep blacks and pure whites, and the splashes of primary color which have been meticulously added for emphasis simply astonish in their depth and richness. Fine details in skin and even in the computer-rendered backgrounds are astounding. The picture quality really is all one could ask, reference in every respect. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track makes terrific use of the entire soundstage with directionialzed dialogue where appropriate and a creative use of the surrounds for all manner of ambient sounds and music. I especially loved the depth of Mickey Rourke’s voiceover narration being given added emphasis in the subwoofer. There really isn’t a dull moment with this one, another near-reference level encode.
The theatrical cut of the film may be viewed in five different configurations. Along with the regulation lossless track and 1080p picture, the viewer may choose to engage the Cine-Explore technology which opens numerous pop-up windows showing the green screen filming of each scene along with pages from Frank Miller’s graphic novel which formed the basis for the film’s script while the commentary by directors Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez plays on the soundtrack.
The viewer may choose to watch the movie without the pop-up windows but with the Miller-Rodriguez commentary turned on. It’s a very full conversation between the two men with lots of mutual respect shown and quite a bit of useful information recounted.
Less interesting but more technical is the audio commentary between Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. Though enthusiastic about the film’s achievement, Tarantino’s tendency to chatter and punctuate his speech with “you know” every few words make this the lesser of the two commentaries. However, once Bruce Willis shows up during the final quarter of the movie's commentary, it becomes a track worthy of more attention.
Also ported over from the last DVD release of the movie is the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which features the lively reaction of an actual Austin, Texas, audience as the film runs.
Disc two in the set contains the extended, unrated edition of the movie in 1080p. It is split into four distinct chapters: “That Yellow Bastard,” “The Customer Is Always Right,” “The Hard Goodbye,” and “The Big Fat Kill,” and offers the viewer a “Play All” function or the ability to watch the individual sequences in random order. For all this convenience and the extra footage, I still prefer the theatrical cut, but mileage for others may vary. In addition, the disc contains another exclusive Blu-ray bonus feature and the remainder of the previous special features ported over from the last DVD issue of the film.
“Kill ‘em Good” interactive comic book offers a game using pages from the graphic novels and the viewer utilizing the remote to perform various tasks before being killed by the bad guys.
All of the remainder of the bonus features are in 480i.
“How It Went Down: Convincing Frank Miller to Make the Film” is exactly what the title suggests: Robert Rodriguez’s method of selling Miller on the idea of a Sin City movie with Miller as co-director. Miller himself calls it “a seduction,” and the trial run footage, of course, is now the opening scene in the movie. This lasts 5 ¾ minutes.
“Special Guest Director: Quentin Tarantino” is a 7 ¼-minute look at the sequence directed by Quentin Tarantino including the difficult arguments to get Quentin to agree to shoot digitally and a look at Quentin in action on the set.
“A Hard Top with a Decent Engine: The Cars of Sin City” discusses how the fourteen varying automobiles used in the movie were found, all but one in the Austin area. This runs 7 ½ minutes.
“Booze, Broads, and Guns: The Props of Sin City” introduces us to the movie’s Props Master Steve Joyner as he shows us how many of the props for the film were made based on illustrations in Miller’s original books. This featurette runs 11 minutes.
“Making the Monsters: Special Effects Make-up” is a 9-minute feature with head make-up artist Greg Nicotero discussing the elaborate make-up work needed for the movie especially for Mickey Rourke’s Marv.
“Trench Coats & Fishnets: The Costumes of Sin City” finds costume designer Nina Proctor describing the wardrobe for the movie, especially some of the very unusual buckle designs for some of the film’s scantily clad actresses. It lasts 7 ½ minutes.
A section of Robert Rodriguez special features begins with “15 Minute Film School,” a 12 ½-minute discussion comparing the graphic novels with their adaptation on film.
“All Green Screen Version” is the movie in its original green screen set-ups sped up 800% so that it can be watched in less than ten minutes. This entire featurette runs 12 ½ minutes. The green screen photography is also visible at normal speed in the Cine-Experience bonus on disc one.
“The Long Take” shows us one of the longest single takes in the movie (fourteen minutes) which happening during the Quentin Tarantino-directed sequence between Owen and Del Toro. The entire featurette runs 17 ¾ minutes.
“Sin City: Live in Concert” is a 9 ¼-minute performance by star Bruce Willis and his band the Accelerators performed at a party after a grueling day of shooting. The star sings “Devil Woman.”
“10-Minute Cooking School” finds director Robert Rodriguez in his kitchen instructing viewers on the way to make Sin City breakfast tacos. The feature actually runs 6 ½ minutes.
Two trailers for the film are offered: the teaser trailer and the theatrical trailer. Each runs 2 minutes.
Disc two also contains 1080p trailers for Miramax movies such as No Country for Old Men as well as for Lost, The Proposal, and Confessions of a Shopaholic.
An action fan’s wet dream of a movie, Frank Miller’s Sin City is another crown jewel in Blu-ray’s increasingly overloaded tiara featuring sterling video and audio and terrific bonus features both new to the set and ported over from previous releases. Highly recommended!