Sin City: Recut, Extended, Unrated (DVD)
Directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller
Originally released in August as a frills-free DVD, Sin City is back with a vengeance in this mostly excellent double-disc set. But it's not all it's advertised to be and no matter how the principals involved try to cut it or sell it, the movie is still a triumph of style over substance.
Immersive 101: Sin City
The biggest disappointment with the new set is the "Recut, Extended, Unrated" version itself, touted as 147 minutes long and, quoting the package sleeve, featuring "over 20 minutes of additional footage."
Well, the rationale behind the "recut" is that each of the film's four stories (including the short tone-setting piece with Josh Hartnett, entitled The Customer Is Always Right) is presented separately. Fine. But now that each story is treated as its own short film, an entire 4+ minutes of credits are presented at the end of each one. That means more than 16 minutes are spent on credit rolls. Putting it another way, the segment with Hartnett is slightly more than 8 minutes long and a full half of those minutes are credits.
Compounding the disappointment, somebody's clock seems to be running a bit fast. The total running time (being generous) clocks in at 142 minutes for the four short films combined, lengthy end credits and company logos inclusive. So, when all is said and done, there's very little new material here, but no doubt the marketing folks will be sure to remind the world that all it takes is a couple seconds of new footage to warrant tacking on the "Extended" and "Unrated" adjectives.
Cuts Both Ways
Depending on whose calculator you use, there might be 5 or 6 minutes of actual additional material spread amidst the mayhem. A good portion of those precious new 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.
The original Sin City single-disc DVD was released August 16, 2005. The only supplemental feature was a behind-the-scenes featurette. A scant four months later, those who bought it (at an embarrassingly high $29.99 SRP) now get the opportunity to spend another $39.99, which is a pretty good deal for this highly comprehensive set. No matter how you cut it, this extended package should've been the only release to begin with, or the single disc should have been released at the same time, in the name of choice. Greed is the only explanation for the premature single-disc release.
Disc 1 contains the original theatrical release and Disc 2 has the recut edition. Extra materials are spread across both discs. One can only imagine some poor, confused, working-for-free intern at the marketing department piecing together this package's details. The back page of a promotional insert indicates the "Original Theatrical Release" is on Disc 1 and the "Recut and Extended Theatrical Release" is on Disc 2. Ummm... The version presented on Disc 2 is not by any definition the theatrical release. Mislabeling, misinformation, and misrepresentation seem to be running rampant at Dimension Home Video, at least on this release.
Now let's get back to the good stuff. Astoundingly immersive is the feature called Sin-Chroni-City. It's quite an endeavor that maps out the movie's characters, interactions, and locations. The really cool part is that it's narrated by Miller himself and nobody knows Sin City better than Miller.
There are two running commentaries and one "running curiosity." More noticeably than on previous releases, the movie's soundtrack plays in the background throughout the running commentaries. What the heck? The soundtrack and commentaries wind up competing with each other and it can be highly annoying.
Nonetheless, 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. 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.
School of Schlock
This set definitely has a "film school" feel about it. In addition to the commentaries, there's a 15-Minute Flic School (or Flick School, depending on which title card you read). Unfortunately, they used the same fast clock; it's actually 12.5 minutes. But, regardless, 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 of the material, the most interesting material is found in the segment regarding the film's makeup.
The Rest of the Riff-Raff
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.
Also included is a complete paperback of Frank Miller's The Hard Goodbye graphic novel, mimicking the packaging of Warner's Constantine and Batman Begins deluxe editions, but the DVD extras here are definitely a cut above.
Overall, it's a well-done, worthwhile package for fans of the film and its participants. But rather than playing up that disappointingly misrepresented recut version, it might best have been marketed as Sin City: The Robert Rodriguez School of Schlock.
Picture and Sound
The picture is gloriously presented in a black-and-white-and-red transfer with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, enhanced for 16:9 TVs. The picture works well in the darkness of home and the sound on the theatrical cut captures all the gunfire and decapitations with flair in both 5.1 DTS and 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround. (Note: The extended cut on Disc 2 does not include a DTS track.)
Subtitles are available in Spanish plus English captions.
• Originally published at MovieHabit.com.