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June 18, 2009
Frank Miller's Sin City (2 Disc Set)
Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
14/7/20059/6/2009Walt Disney StudiosFrank Miller
Robert Rodriguez
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1MA15+Bruce Willis

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Bruce Willis headlines Sin City.

Released as a 2-disc Blu-Ray set, it's fair to say right at the top of this review that Sin City is one of the most impressive releases on Blu-Ray to date. That's not just on a technical level, you see, this is one of the best comic book adaptations to film of all time, and the set contains not only the theatrical version of the movie, but also extended and remixed versions of each of the four stories.

Directed by Robert Rodriguez (Desperado) and Frank Miller (who wrote Sin City) and with a guest director in Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill Vol 1 & 2) this movie is filled with brilliant actors including Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Clive Owen, Brittany Murphy, Rosario Dawson, Benicio Del Toro, Devon Aoki, Michael Clarke Duncan, Josh Hartnett, Rutger Hauer, Elijah Wood and Nick Stahl. Now that's quite a line-up...

During the 124 minute runtime Sin City tells four different stories taken from, you guessed it, four of Frank Miller's short stories. These stories include "The Customer is Always Right", "That Yellow Bastard", "The Hard Goodbye" and "The Big Fat Kill". The first of these stories, "The Customer is Always Right" is actually a very short intro sequence to the movie which Rodriguez used to convince Frank Miller to make the movie, while the three other stories share the remaining 110-odd minutes between them. Which do I prefer? Well they are all brilliant and the lead actors in each story - Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis and Clive Owen - are equally superb. It must be said that there is indeed plenty of violence in this movie as the MA15+ rating suggests, so keep that in mind when watching with youngsters around.

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Note the very subtle colouring.
What makes this movie so unique is the visual style used. Sin City has been filmed with a final black and white product in mind. Contrast levels are near perfect as a result with lighting set up to provide some bold 'comic book' styled lines and edges around objects and people. In a stroke of brilliance the filmmakers have emphasised some elements with dashes of colour. Red blood, blue eyes, brilliant blonde hair on Goldie and so on. It's used fairly sparingly, but it certainly ensures you get a sense of what's important in the scenes. It was a bold move to film in such a manner, but it pays dividends on an artistic level.

I saw Sin City in the cinemas, I have the movie on DVD, I now have the Blu-Ray disc but no matter how many times I see this movie I still love it. The unique visual style is unmatched, the stories are very entertaining, and the production values superb. If you haven't seen this movie I highly recommend it. If you have, then I'm quite sure you're thoughts aren't too dissimilar to mine.

As we mentioned previously Sin City is a very stylised film with predominant black and white footage broken up with the occasional splash of vibrant colour - usually a brilliant red or yellow. Plenty of attention went into the production to retain the comic book style, and as we mentioned above it worked out remarkably well. There was always going to be a question mark over how well the Blu-Ray format could handle a Black and White Image - the same issues were raised with DVD's years ago. We can tell you that this transfer is simply superb with the darkest of blacks and brilliant, but not overbearing, whites. Transferred directly from a digital source the transfer is free of any film artifacts such as dirt or scratches.

This Blu-Ray release manages to bring this movie to life with razor sharp edges thanks to the glorious High Definition video encoded using the AVC MPEG-4 compression algorithm and the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. If there is one extremely small niggle it's that the film is quite dark and some of the detail is lost in the darkness, however given the comic book nature of the movie this is more likely an artistic choice. So with that in mind we have to put this down as a reference quality disc for video on the Blu-Ray format. Sensational.

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Sin City looks superb on Blu-Ray.
Not to be outdone the audio on this release is every bit as impressive as the video. That is, reference quality. The primary audio track on this release is a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track and it's reference quality all the way. Mickey Rouke's voice is deep and gruff, but always clear. Surround sound channels get a great workout with both ambient effects as well as more impactful moments such as cars zooming by, or objects being destroyed during fights and other action sequences.

It must be said that the bass in this movie is absolutely thumping. You'll feel the thud of a punch, the bang of a gunshot, and the shattering of bones. It's brutal, over the top, and absolutely perfect. Throw in some brilliant use of surround sound and this becomes one of the most aggressive, and impressive, audio tracks we've ever heard on a Blu-Ray disc to date. The only improvement that could have been made would have been to include 7.1 audio, but so few disc include the 2 extra channels at the moment it's hard to mark it down for not including it here.

Other audio tracks on this disc include German, Italian and Spanish DTS 5.1 tracks encoded at 1.5Mbps. Each of these sound absolutely sensational from the brief samples we took and we don't think anyone will be disappointed. An English Descriptive Audio track is also included, although it is only Dolby Digital 2 channel at 192kbps, and it certainly isn't as clear as the primary audio track. Subtitles on this disc include English (which from samples was accurate to the dialogue on screen), English for the Hearing Impaired, Italian, German and Spanish.

Sin City has come to Blu-Ray as a two disc set. The first disc contains the Theatrical version of the movie and the audio commentaries while the second disc contains the re-cut and extended version of the film and numerous video extras. Let's get to the details...

Cine-Explore with Audio Commentary by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez: We've seen the Cine-Explore in some other Disney Blu-Ray releases and yet again this is a superb extra. While listening to the audio commentary with Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez the movie is played with still images from the story boards, green screen footage and other production still shown on screen at the same time. The audio commentary, which we must add is choc-full of great comments about the story, filming and end product, is also playable without the picture-in-picture images and footage.

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Benicio Del Toro is brilliant in Sin City.
Audio Commentary by Robert Rodriguez: This second audio commentary includes plenty of detail as well, and while some of it is recycled from the Miller/Rodriguez track it is also worth a listen.

Austin Audience Reaction Track: While playing the movie this 448kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 track includes the audience reaction from a screening at Austin. It takes a while for them to get into the movie, but when they do their reactions to the on-screen situations are priceless. I love these tracks.

Now we get onto the second disc which contains the bulk of the extras...

Re-cut Stories (HD): Now this is the big extra on the second disc on this set. Each of the four stories has been re-cut and extended and then presented here as four separate stories. The audio and video quality is up there with the main feature movie, but there are no commentaries or audience reaction tracks. The four stories, with their runtimes, are: "That Yellow Bastard" (47:26), "The Customer is Always Right" (8:25), "The Hard Goodbye" (40:57) and "The Big Fat Kill" (44:55). My only disappointment is that there is no way to watch these edited back into a longer, extended cut, of the movie. Still, brilliant.

Kill 'Em Good Interactive Comic Book (HD): This is a brilliant interactive comic book which includes moments of interaction with your Blu-Ray remote - steer the car, shoot at enemies and so on. It's not overly long, but so brilliantly put together that this is a feature well worth checking out.

How It Went Down: Convincing Frank Miller To Make The Film (5:41): Too brief, but this featurette includes interviews with Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez about adapting the book into a film, and convincing Frank Miller to make the film following test footage.

Special Guest Director: Quentin Tarantino (7:41): The superstar director is good friends with Robert Rodriguez, and was convinced to shoot one of the scenes in the movies so he could play with the digital filming techniques.

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Bruce Willis and Jessica Alba.
A Hard Top With A Decent Engine: The Cars Of Sin City (7:34): As the title suggest this featurette looks at the cars used throughout the film with plenty of 1950's cars used in the production.

Booze, Broads, and Guns: The Props of Sin City (10:57): This featurette looks and creating the numerous props used throughout the movie.

Making The Monsters: Special Effects Make-up (9:04): There is plenty of make-up used throughout this movie and this interesting featurette looks at how the make-up was created with a focus on Mickey Rourke as Marv.

Trench Coats & Fishnets: The Costumes of Sin City (7:34): This featurette looks at the costume design for this movie which was quite complex for this film due to the unique lighting and outlining required.

Teaser & Theatrical Trailer (4:01): The title says it all really... It's a shame these are only in Standard Definition as they are great trailers.

Rodriguez Film School: This section contains five additional Rodriguez produced extras. 15 Minute Flic School (12:24) looks at converting the unique visual style of the comic books to the silver screen, and creating the effects for a low budget movie. All Green Screen Version (12:27) contains the entire film sped up 800% so you can watch the movie with its raw footage. The Long Take (17:45) which is a fascinating look at one very long take where Quentin Tarantino directs a scene. It's fascinating to see how he interacts with the actors, and how they keep the cameras rolling. Sin City: Live In Concert (9:15) is a live performance of Bruce Willis and the Accelerators which was shot during the production of the movie for charity. Finally we have 10 Minute Cooking School (6:24) where Robert Rodriguez shows you how to make "Breakfast Tacos". Might try it one day...

As a brilliant, stylish, brutal, and engrossing comic book movie Sin City is as good as they get. The video and audio transfer on this Blu-Ray disc is superb, and the extras as just as impressive. If you're a fan, and even if you own the Sin City DVD, you should certainly upgrade to this Blu-Ray. Newcomers should also have a blast and consider purchasing this superb release.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Walt Disney Studios. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.