Sin City Review
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Sin City is one tough movie about killers, prostitutes, priests, hit men, and cops. The characters are primal and emotionally raw. The settings are stark and shocking. The nudity makes you wonder why it only has an R rating. Add to that the violence, implied sex acts, overall grossness, and crude language, and you really wonder who took the pay-off to rate this movie at anything below NC-17. If you go see this movie, understand all of the above before you pay the price of admission.

Comic book fans have been waiting years to see this movie. Frank Miller wrote and drew the graphic novels that take place in Sin City, and he’s given the credit of being a co-director in the movie version. He (along with co-director Robert Rodriguez) lifted this movie panel-by-panel from the graphic novels. In other comics-turned-movies, fans of the comics have complained that the movie left out key parts of the story. That can’t be said of this movie, as even the dialog was taken word-for-word from the comic.

The movie is visually dazzling—with effects that have non-comic-lovers going to see it. Shot against a green-screen background, the sets and lighting effects have been added in post-production with computer animation and graphics. It’s a technological feat that gives this movie a film noir look like nothing shot since the introduction of Technicolor©. There are some splashes of color painted in to add impact or emphasis, but that’s it. The gore in this movie is taken to a new level by shooting it this way. Each scene is recreated exactly from the graphic novels, and the movement of the actors is simply to get them to the next panel from the comic.

There’s where the problem with this movie lies.

The comic book movies that have worked—like Spider-Man, the first Batman, and X-Men—are the ones that have taken the characters and tweaked them to fit a movie format—leaving in the parts that comic fans are so rabid about. But the heroes and villains in Sin City are the same black-and-white, two-dimensional characters that they were when Miller created them. They don’t have that something extra that makes them believable. The dialog that sounds so cool in the reader’s head comes out as corny and stale when delivered by living, breathing people. It comes off like a high school play—which is surprising, since it’s one of the biggest name ensembles in quite some time.

The plot is akin to Pulp Fiction, in that it’s really three different storylines and a vignette that are sort of wrapped together. Bruce Willis plays the hardheaded cop, Hartigan, out to wrap up one last case before he retires at the end of the day. Mickey Rourke, under all that latex, is Marv, an ugly beast who wakes up with a dead prostitute (Goldie/Wendy played by Jaime King) in his bed and sets out to avenge her. Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) is the cowgirl-themed stripper who’s still in love with Hartigan, eight years after he saved her. Clive Owen plays Dwight, a murderer with a good heart who’s had his face rebuilt so he can stay out of jail—but he ends up killing a crooked cop (Benicio Del Toro as Jackie Boy) over waitress/girlfriend, Shellie (campily portrayed by Brittany Murphy). The cast list goes on to include Alexis Bledell, Josh Hartnett, Nick Stahl, Powers Boothe, Rutger Hauer, Elijah Wood, Michael Clarke Duncan, and about a dozen others.

I liked the graphic novels when they first came out, and I liked this movie. Yet I can’t bring myself to recommend it for everyone else. It’s something that you’re either going to hate or love—all based on your ability to handle the rough parts and enjoy how good the gore looks in black and white.

Blu-ray Review (by Kristin Dreyer Kramer):
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my frequent perusal of DVD/Blu-ray special features, it’s that Robert Rodriguez and his pal, Quentin Tarantino, usually put together the most entertaining extras—and that’s once again the case on the new Blu-ray release of Rodriguez’s Sin City.

Like the collector’s edition DVD, this two-disc Blu-ray release comes loaded with extras. The first disc includes the theatrical version of the film, along with three extra audio tracks: a commentary with directors Rodriguez and Frank Miller, a commentary with Rodriguez and special guest director Tarantino, and an audience reaction track from a screening in Austin. I always enjoy those audience tracks—because there’s just nothing like the excitement of watching a highly-anticipated movie with the opening-night crowd. This way, you can experience that same excitement over and over again—in your own living room.

Disc two features a recut, extended, unrated edition of the film, which shows each of the film’s different stories (Hartigan’s, Marv’s, and Dwight’s stories, along with the small part featuring Josh Hartnett) separately, in chronological order. It’s an interesting way to watch the film—and it puts things in a whole new perspective.

Disc two is also overflowing with features. In addition to an interactive comic/game, there are features on both Frank Miller and Quentin Tarantino (who directed the car scene with Dwight and Jackie Boy), as well as behind-the-scenes extras on the cars, costumes, effects, and props. Each one offers new insights into the process—whether it’s the challenge of remaking specific weapons (or scrounging for them in Tarantino’s garage) or hunting down the exact vehicles that Miller used in his book.

Rodriguez also adds a few features of his own—on the special “Rodriguez Special Features” menu. There, you’ll find the 15-Minute Flic School, which shows some of Rodriguez’s filmmaking tricks. You can also watch the entire film—in color, and sped up by about 10 times—with the original green screen background, complete with wires, treadmills, and more. And (back by popular demand) there’s Rodriguez’s 10-Minute Cooking School, which features a lesson in making breakfast tacos (perfect for filmmakers’ all-nighters).

The extras on this new Blu-ray release are more than enough to keep you occupied (and entertained) for hours. Not only that, but the film itself is all the more stunning in hi-def—and that alone makes it a must-own for Sin City fans.

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