The Screening Room
sin city blu ray
Anyone remember the 1990 film, "Dick Tracy?" It was Disney's answer to "Batman," which came out the summer before. Visually stunning and eye-popping, the film was an outstanding achievement in visual effects. Yet the core of the movie didn't have much heart. "Sin City" (2005), based on Frank Miller's graphic novel, seems to borrow a bit from the visual ideas presented in "Dick Tracy," but adds a whole lotta violence. 

“Sin City” is now available on Blu-ray.

Maybe it's a case of envy that a movie brat of my age has gone onto a successful career in movies. I've never really been bowled over by the films of Robert Rodriguez, though it's hard not to admire the guy's ambition. He took a rather crude homemade movie, "El Mariachi," and convinced enough power brokers and audiences he could direct. He's since gone onto make the "Spy Kids" series, the dreadful "The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lava Girl 3-D," and started his own studio. Along the way, he made Frank Miller's "Sin City." Not a bad track record thus far.

The film takes the favored elements of a Robert Rodriguez production and puts them to good use; tough guy characters mixing with tough girls on virtual sets; cutting edge digital production techniques mixing with Rodriguez's penchant for plastering his name all over the credits (even though the production features a lot of behind-the-scenes artists.) No matter, because Rodriguez has built himself into a mini studio mogul. The results vary, as in the case of "Sin City," but like a fist fight, one cannot help looking...even for a few minutes.

Taking place in film noir world of high contrast graphic design, the film is visually impressive. Everything looks good, and the general look of the film immerses you into this strange world of darkness. Rodriguez and company have cleverly used black-and-white cinematography and mixed in occasional color to make certain elements standout. It's as if Frank Miller's art has come alive, and I'm sure that was the purpose. Shots of Benicio del Toro being dunked face first into a toilet, or wild scenes of cars racing down snow covered roads is indeed impressive.

Considering the film was made on a soundstage in front of green screens, the actors in this film have pulled off what George Lucas couldn't in his recent "Star Wars" prequels; acting. Nearly everyone in the cast does a good job in playing film noir characters with conviction. Even middle-of-the-road actors like Rosario Dawson and Brittany Murphy are credible. Bruce Willis plays essentially the same role he's played for years, but it works. The most impressive actor in the cast is Mickey Rourke who is unrecognizable as Marv.

Pretty visuals and mood are nice, but do they add up to a good film? "Sin City" is very much like "Dick Tracy." The style keeps your eyes glued to the screen. The story is good and keeps your interest until the end credits roll. Yet by the end of it, you feel a bit empty. The problem is there is no heart. That doesn't mean the script has to have sappy melodrama or a heart tugging ending. This world these characters live in is dark, even for the children. There is no light.

The visual style ultimately overwhelms the human element. The characters we grow to like aren't all that wonderful to begin with. Each is troubled and dark and flawed. But whose side are we on? Are we supposed to envy the villains, or the supposed good guys? Even the good guys don't illicit much empathy, as they're just as shady as the bad guys. I'm sure that was the intent, but that doesn't mean I like it.     

The Blu-ray shows off the visually stunning effects with a bang. The movie was shot digitally, Rodriguez's chosen format, so nearly everything on-screen appears very sharp and defined. "Film grain" was added in post production and it comes across a bit overboard, though not enough to detract from the hyperactive look of the movie. 

The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack pleases. The soundtrack is loud and filled with wall-to-wall effects and music, but I felt the sound was held back a bit. All Blu-ray discs reviewed here are done at the same audio level. Compared to another recent Blu-ray release, "The Wrestler," "Sin City" sounds almost as if the soundtrack was turned down in the final mix. "The Wrestler" soundtrack on Blu-ray is very clear. This could also be a case of how the final Blu-ray was mastered. I had this same issue with "Kill Bill" Volumes 1 & 2. Perhaps a different mastering facility was used for some Miramax releases. In any case, "Sin City" still sounds very good and should please most home theater listeners.

"Sin City" isn't everyone's cup of tea, yet as a Blu-ray demo, it's a real treat. As eye candy, it works in spades.

Bill Kallay

Special thanks to Click Communications

Photos: © BVHE. All rights reserved.
Blu-ray Quick Glimpse



Visually stunning, yet a bit cold at the core

Director: Frank Miller
Robert Rodriguez  

Cast: Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Benicio del Toro, Mickey Rourke

Recut, Extended, Unrated version, loads of features

R and Unrated

Picture: Excellent
Sound: Very Good

Visual effects dominate

Aspect Ratio (1.85:1)


April 21, 2009
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