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SIN CITY ($36) is a marvelous graphic novel brought to cinematic life by co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller. Based upon Miller’s own comic book tribute to film noir of the same name, SIN CITY tells a series of interconnected stories, which have been beautifully visualized and realized via synthetic filmmaking. Like a number of the more stylized films produced in recent years, SIN CITY utilized the "digital back-lot" technique, in which the actors were shot with hi-def cameras, in front of green screens, and then the CGI backgrounds were added in postproduction. Only small portions of sets or objects the actors’ interact with are real, everything else up on the screen was created digitally. The end result of this production technique is stunning, making SIN CITY one of the most visually arresting "films" of the last decade. In this neo-noir, splashes of color are utilized to augment the largely black and white canvas of the movie’s landscape. The use of black and white sets the tone for the dark, seedy world in which the characters inhabit, while the use of color makes for a startling contrast and draws the viewer’s eye to things the films creators feel are significant to a given moment.

As I stated above, SIN CITY tells a series of loosely interconnected stories, each taking place in the same corrupt locale- Basin City. The Customer Is Always Right is the shortest of the tales and involves a beautiful woman (Marley Shelton) standing out on a balcony overlooking the city, while a party can be heard off in the background. A man (Josh Hartnett) soon joins her. He offers her a cigarette, they exchange some small talk and then he promises to save her- taking her away from those things troubling her… That Yellow Bastard finds Bruce Willis in the role of aging police officer John Hartigan, who is on the trail of a child molester/murderer (Nick Stahl). Said child molester is being politically shielded from prosecution by his corrupt, but powerful, father Senator Roark (Powers Boothe). Hartigan manages to save eleven-year-old Nancy from child molester clutches, but at the cost of his own freedom. Years pass, Hartigan is released from jail, but finds himself repeating the same cycle when a now grown up (Jessica Alba) is threatened by That Yellow Bastard…

The Hard Goodbye tells the story of a somewhat grotesque palooka named Marv (Mickey Rourke), who awakens from a night of lovemaking with a beautiful prostitute named Goldie (Jaime King), only to find her murdered and himself set up to take the fall for the crime. Marv is able to escape the frame job, but the police are still on his tail. Vowing to avenge the angel of mercy, who showed him his only night of true happiness, Marv sets off to find Goldie’s killer. Marv’s search leads him down a strange road involving cardinals, cannibals and other unsavory types… The Big Fat Kill starts with an abusive ex-lover named Jackie Boy (Benicio del Toro) showing up on the doorstep of Shellie (Brittany Murphy), while her new boyfriend Dwight (Clive Owen) is paying a call. Dwight manages to run off Jackie Boy and follows him and his crew into Old Town, where Jackie Boy begins harassing a young prostitute named Becky (Alexis Bledel). Gail (Rosario Dawson) and the rest of the prostitutes aren’t about to take the abuse lying down; soon the situation spins out of control and Dwight finds himself lending aid to the ladies of the evening, thus preventing an all out mob war from erupting all over Old Town. The cast of SIN CITY also features Rutger Hauer, Michael Clarke Duncan, Carla Gugino, Michael Madsen, Elijah Wood, Devon Aoki, and Frank Miller.

Miramax Home Entertainment has made SIN CITY available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. The 1080p is nothing short of extraordinary. As I stated above, SIN CITY was shot with hi-def cameras, so it is being presented here in its native format- thus the image quality is as near perfect as 1080p can muster. There is astonishing clarity, dimensionality and fine image detail throughout the presentation. Every fine tiny and nuance of the actors’ faces is up there on the screen to marvel at. Textures and other details also impress. Even the CGI elements look great. Colors look good in their limited use. Blacks are pitch perfect, while the whites are rock solid. Contrast and grayscale are impeccable. Shot digitally, there is an absence of film based flaws. Grain/video noise is minimal.

SIN CITY is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. While the nature of the material sometimes limits the "gee whiz" factor that one associates with of an over-the-top action movie, the SIN CITY soundtrack is excellent in its own right. Film noir characteristics have been applied to modern sound design technique to great effect. I love how the sound immerses one in the world that the filmmakers are bringing to life. Atmospherics play a big role in the sound design, while there are also plenty of localized sound effects being fed into the outlying channels. Robert Rodriguez’s score is a heavily emphasized component of the soundtrack and is superbly reproduced by the lossless encode. The bass channel packs a punch that one can feel as well as hear. Additionally, voices are cleanly and distinctly reproduced; especially voiceover narrations (a staple of the noir genre), which have tremendous character, plus the rest of the film’s dialogue is easy to understand. A Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel track is also encoded onto the disc. Subtitles are available in English and Spanish.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, which have been spread across both discs of this set. On disc one is the Theatrical Cut of the movie, which offers a number of viewing options. The Cine-Explore mode offers pop-up windows showing green screen on set footage versus the completed movie, as well as original graphic novel panels, along with a running Audio Commentary with Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller (requires a Profile 1.1 player). This commentary can also be heard outside Cine-Explore mode, as can a second Audio Commentary with Robert Rodriguez and Special Guest Director Quentin Tarantino. A third isolated Audio Track offers the audience reactions to the film at an actual Austin, Texas screening.

Moving on to disc two, one will find the remainder of the supplemental programming. The primary feature of this second disc is a Recut-Extended-Unrated Version of the movie. In this version each of the stories play out in their entirety, without any inter-cutting and adds back footage removed from the Theatrical Cut. Next is the "Kill 'em Good" Interactive Comic Book, which is fairly self-explanetory. Featurettes include: How It Went Down: Convincing Frank Miller To Make The Film (six minutes), Special Guest Director: Quentin Tarantino (seven minutes), A Hard Top With A Decent Engine: The Cars Of Sin City (seven minutes), Booze, Broads, And Guns: The Props Of Sin City (eleven minutes), Making The Monsters: Special Effects Make-Up (nine minutes), Trench Coats & Fishnets: The Costumes Of Sin City (seven minutes), All Green Screen Version (minutes), The Long Take (eighteen minutes), Sin City: Live In Concert (nine minutes). Installments of 15-Minute Film School and 10-Minute Cooking School, plus two Theatrical Trailers close out the supplements.

Definitely one of the most anticipated Blu-ray releases of 2009, SIN CITY also rates as one of the year’s best releases… thus far. With its stunning presentation, SIN CITY is absolutely, positively recommended.



Sin City [Blu-ray] (2005)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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