Sin City (Blu-ray)
Directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller (and Quentin Tarantino)
Rated R and Unrated Versions
While the presentation quality of Sin City on Blu-ray is superb, the clumsy handling of the Blu-ray exclusives and the omission of one of the better standard-def features make this a disappointing release.
Gratuitous photo of super-sexy Jessica Alba
Sin City: Black and Blu
For some reason honesty ain't to be found in Sin City. The packaging of the standard DVD 2-disc set made outrageously misleading claims about the extent and breadth of the set's content. Now the Blu-ray's menu offers a glaring guffaw that hints at what shoulda been instead of what is.
Overall, it's a botched Blu-ray. Those with the deluxe box set DVD are probably better off staying put until another iteration comes around, probably when the oft-rumored Sin City 2 finally makes it to the big screen.
Basically, what was disappointing then is still disappointing now. For starters, the Blu-ray jacket still claims the "Recut, Extended, Unrated" version is 147 minutes long. But, as explained in painful detail in the DVD review, it's really 142 minutes (a detail that has actually correctly reflected on the Blu-ray's Disc 2 menu).
Let's do some math, shall we?
Extended cut: 142 minutes
Original cut: 124 minutes
Time difference: 18 minutes.
Stripping out the end credits for three of the four shorts in the name of parity, that means roughly 6 minutes of extra footage is sliced and diced among the four stories. Woo-hoo.
Cuts Both Ways
A good portion of those precious "extended" moments is in the movie's most entertaining storyline, The Hard Goodbye, featuring Mickey Rourke as Marv, one tough dude seeking revenge for the murder of a prostitute with whom he was in love.
While there's another stylized bar fight, believe it or not the best extra footage involves Marv and his mother – and it's played for laughs. More surprisingly, they're really good laughs. There's also some extra footage in That Yellow Bastard, the movie's nastiest storyline, involving a yellow-skinned pedophile who looks like a reject from a cheesy Star Trek episode. Here again, the new stuff is mostly played for (dark) humor as several visitors come to see the hospitalized Hartigan (Bruce Willis), a detective seeking to protect Nancy (who grows up to be played by Jessica Alba) from a sex fiend.
For those with bloodlust, there are grisly seconds added to the climactic confrontation in The Big Fat Kill, the schlockiest story in the set, involving mean ex-boyfriends, the Mob, and prostitutes with machine guns. Now viewers get to see Michael Clarke Duncan get sliced in half from head to... crotch. It's cinematic overkill in every sense of the word.
Schlock and Guffaw
At its core, Sin City is a black comedy, black as pitch, and a stunningly over-the-top salute to pulp fiction. But the action wears down to the borderline sleazy exploitation and cheese director Rodriguez capitalized on with his "special guest director" Tarantino in From Dusk Till Dawn.
In all of the stories, heads roll, bodiless hands keep a cold grip on weaponry, and revenge is the motivation behind every single plot point and action. It's a simple concept told in eye-popping fashion, but there's virtually no redeeming value.
Nonetheless, Sin City does manage to create a giddy sense of sick, twisted fun as the unflappable good guys battle the Hell-bound bad guys. With that in mind, as far as schlock goes, Sin City is pretty good stuff. As an added bonus, there are plenty of quotable lines ("Kill him for me, Marv. Kill him good.") and it is satisfying to see the bad guys get their comeuppance.
The end result, then, is nirvana for fans of bloody mayhem and something of a non-event for almost all others. Sin City is a world of pedophiles, prostitutes, chauvinist pigs, and pistol whippers. Make no mistake, this one's not for the kids.
After two hours of black-and-white-and-red maulings, decapitations, shootings, choppings, croppings, and flying limbs, it's nice to step back into a Technicolor reality. Sin City is an interesting place to visit, but a helluva place to live.
As with the 2-disc DVD, Disc 1 of the Blu-ray contains the original theatrical release and Disc 2 has the recut edition. Extra materials on disc one are limited to the audio commentaries and Cine-Explore (a Blu exclusive that'll be discussed more later). Disc 2 has all the other features.
There are two running commentaries and one "running curiosity" associated with the theatrical cut.
The Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller commentary offers good stuff as first-time movie director Miller talks about his experience on the set as well as provides additional insights into the characters and story material. Frank's most memorable commentary line, regarding Elijah Wood's role, "You ain't no Goddamn Hobbit anymore."
Less delightful, at least for those of us who find Quentin Tarantino's voice as grating as fingernails on a chalkboard, is the Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino commentary. Well, it is good, albeit a bit repetitive amidst the other features. But Tarantino? At least the nerd's contribution is brief and limited mainly to the scene he directed.
The aforementioned "running curiosity" gives viewers the opportunity to watch the movie while accompanied by the audience reactions recorded at a screening in Austin, Texas (Rodriguez Country). This is strictly for those who have a hard time judging on their own what is funny or scary. Remember: Diff'rent Strokes also had a laugh track.
School of Schlock
Moving over to Disc 2, this Blu-ray edition retains the "film school" feel of the standard-def version, including the very standard-def presentation of the ported materials.
How It Went Down: Convincing Frank Miller to Make the Film is a one-minute story told in six. Curiously enough, considering the extremely comprehensive nature of the set, it's unfortunate the "legendary" short footage shown to Miller on a laptop in a New York City bar is not included in full, although bits are shown in the 15-Minute Flic School segment.
As for the Flic School, it's a good bit displaying Rodriguez' enthusiasm for film work that also indicates any ol' Joe can go out there and make a Sin City-style movie on their own laptop. Good luck with that.
Among the best extra features is the "All Green Version," which presents the entire movie in 10 minutes, sped up 800%, sans all special effects just to show how much effort still had to go into the final product after the actors were done saying their lines. It's an interesting thing to witness. Working somewhat hand-in-hand with this feature is a 17-minute chunk of raw green screen footage from the Tarantino-directed scene. It's informative in a film school sort of way as to how things get done down on the floor.
Also on tap are the typical segments regarding props and costumes, plus entire segments devoted to the cars of Sin City and Quentin Tarantino. In this section, the most interesting material is found in the segment regarding the film's makeup.
The rest of the riff-raff includes a couple Sin City trailers and another curiosity, Sin City Live. This one presents Bruce Willis and the Accelerators singing Devil Woman at a charity event/cast party held one night after filming.
Oh. And don't miss the 10-Minute Cooking School segment. It's actually a little more than six minutes, but you learn how to make breakfast tacos for those early morning editing sessions under the tutelage of Chef Rodriguez.
First off, there are a couple things missing from the standard DVD edition. There's no paperback and the Sin-Chroni-City interactive tour isn't here. No biggie on the former, but the lack of the latter is a real shame since it's a standout feature of the standard DVD release.
Robert Rodriguez (left) and Frank Miller on the set
In their place are two new items. One is Cine-Explore on the theatrical version and the other is Kill 'em Good, an interactive comic book on Disc 2.
Cine-Explore is a great feature that's been botched. Here's the problem: The menu says, "Cine-Explore allows you to seamlessly branch out to bonus features and commentaries while watching the movie." Um. No. Not exactly. This is a pre-packaged feature that incorporates frames from the graphic novel and green screen footage set alongside the theatrical version with the Rodriguez/Miller commentary. There's no branching out to the other commentary track, Austin track, or even more preferable, simply the original theatrical audio track.
But it is a neat feature, artfully done as images move across the screen and transitions are made between the various film elements. The best is when the movie goes to green screen, full color footage - full screen. Even so, not even being able to go to the standard film soundtrack's a definite mark against this feature. Selecting "Total Menus" during this feature goes right out of the movie to the main menu. During the standard presentation, selecting "Total Menus" does what is normally expected: The various commentary tracks are made available, along with all the other menu options while the movie plays in the background.
The other feature, Kill 'em Good, is an interactive game offering extremely rudimentary gameplay dressed up as a Sin City graphic novel. It's stylish, but stilted. It's also designed with a standard Blu-ray remote in mind. While the game can be played using the PS3 remote, it can be a real chore. Then again, given the play mechanics, even on a standard remote the gameplay is awkward. The time and energy put into this new feature would've been better spent elsewhere – like in making Cine-Explore work correctly.
Picture and Sound
The picture is gloriously presented in a "black-and-Blu" with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The picture works well in the darkness of home and the sound on the theatrical cut captures all the gunfire and decapitations with extra flair in 5.1 DEHT. That stands for "Disney Enhanced Home Theater" mix (remember when The Black Hole was greeted with so much controversy because it was a PG Disney movie?) Also available are Spanish and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks).
Note: The extended cut on Disc 2 is presented in 5.1 DTS-HD along with the Spanish and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital options.
The audio and video presentations are superb but probably aren't enough to justify an upgrade given the slightly better package available on standard DVD.
Subtitles for both versions are available in English for the hearing impaired, Chinese, Spanish and Portuguese.
Also available is the D-Box Motion Code for those who have invested in the home theater technology.
How to Use This Disc
Check out the theatrical cut in magnificent 5.1 DEHT and take a gander at Cine-Explore for a look at what is and what might have been. After that, scooch over to Disc 2 and check out the "uncut" version of The Hard Goodbye.
• Originally published at MovieHabit.com.