Sin City
directed by Frank Miller,
Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino
(Miramax, 2005)

It's always a thrill to see a movie get the DVD treatment it deserves, and Frank Miller's Sin City: Recut, Extended, Unrated is a really fantastic package loaded to the gills with all kinds of good stuff. If you're a Sin City fan, you'll want to just take a day off and indulge yourself in this ultimate Sin City experience -- and it will take you the better part of a day to watch and go through everything this little box holds. Even if you bought the regular DVD when it came out, I really think you'll want to upgrade to this special edition.

I was unfamiliar with Frank Miller and his series of Sin City graphic novels. When I first saw trailers for the film, all I knew was that Jessica Alba was in it, and that was reason enough for me to want to see it. When you don't know Miller's work, the trailers for the film are hard to get your head around. You're intrigued by the unique look of the film, with all the dark, gritty backgrounds and the selective use of color in certain scenes, but it isn't easy to figure out what the film is about, exactly. When you do sit down and watch the film, you're just blown away: the whole look of the film is absolutely mesmerizing, unlike anything you've seen before; the cast is just full of one huge star after another turning in dazzling performances; the stories are dark and haunted and just draw you right in; but it's the characters most of all that captivate you.

The film is really four stories assembled into one finished product. "The Customer is Always Right" is a short introduction for what is to come -- and then Marv takes over. Marv is one of the most fascinating characters to come along in years. He's a huge, ugly guy, a thug and killer you can't help but like and respect -- and Mickey Rourke is simply amazing in the role. Marv has the night of his life with a gorgeous woman named Goldie (Jaime King), then wakes up to find her dead. Framed for the crime, Marv swears to find Goldie's killer, and he lets nothing stand in his way. Even if it means dying, he's not going to back out -- just because Goldie was nice to him. There's plenty of violent action in this story, and Elijah Wood is surprisingly good as Kevin, an almost superhuman killer who eats his victims. Then we're off to "The Big Fat Kill," where Clive Owen and Benecio Del Toro steal the show, along with Devon Aoki as the beautifully lethal Miho. She dishes out a lot of graphic violence, including a most excellent beheading. Alexis Bledel lights up the screen with eyes you could dive right in to. There's a fair bit of dark comedy in this one, including one incredibly funny bit you won't want to miss. Finally, there's the story of Hardigan and little Nancy Callahan, a girl that good cop Hardigan saved from a brutal rapist/murderer before having the tables turned completely over on him. Skinny little Nancy grew up strong and drop-dead gorgeous (like I said, I would buy the movie just for Alba), but she's still in danger -- and only Hardigan can save her from "That Yellow Bastard" (basically a yellow Ferengi thanks to the damage Hardigan did to him eight years earlier -- it's not easy regrowing a set of family jewels, you know -- those side effects are brutal). Bruce Willis is masterful as the tough and gritty yet sensitive Hardigan.

It's impossible to truly describe these stories -- you just have to see them for yourself. The performances are so darn good that this movie actually gets better every time you watch it -- and this special edition DVD gives you plenty of chances to do just that. Along with the original theatrical release, you get the uncut version of the movie, split up into four separate, independent chapters; there's some 23 minutes of extra footage -- including a couple of scenes that really help embellish the storylines. You get two commentaries (one with co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Miller, the other with Rodriguez, Quentin Tarentino and Willis). My favorite version features a recording of the Austin premier audience reaction; the depth of the dark comedy in these stories didn't really hit me full force until I was able to join in with that live audience atmosphere.

As if all that isn't enough, though, you also get a series of great featurettes. Herein is where you truly learn to appreciate the film. The vast majority of the actual filming was done in front of a green screen, and many of the actors who performed in the same scenes never even met. And it was all filmed very quickly -- all those great backdrops and that unique atmosphere made with CGI. It's incredible to see just how this movie was shot and put together.

There's nothing else out there remotely like Sin City. It truly makes Frank Miller's comic come to life -- for the most part, the movie mirrors the graphic novels themselves almost frame by frame. Rodriguez calls this an anti-movie; in a sense, Miller actually drew his comics in such a way that they could never be filmed. Rather than adapt the graphic novels to film, Rodriguez went the other way -- he adapted the film format to the graphic novels. When you look at the movie in comparison to the books (and you get a copy of The Hard Goodbye with this DVD package), you'll see exactly what he means. Sin City is truly an unparalleled, 100 percent complete success. I just can't get enough of it.

by Daniel Jolley
21 January 2006

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