The Screening Room
THE STUDIO GATE
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.
Special thanks to Click Communications
Photos: © BVHE. All
Blu-ray Quick Glimpse
Visually stunning, yet a bit cold at the
Director: Frank Miller
Cast: Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Benicio del
Toro, Mickey Rourke
Recut, Extended, Unrated version, loads of
R and Unrated
Sound: Very Good
Visual effects dominate
Aspect Ratio (1.85:1)
DTS-HD MA 5.1
BLU-RAY RELEASE DATE
April 21, 2009