Sin City was made for Blu-ray Disc. There’s a group of people in the videogame world known as “graphics whores,” those who suffer from uncontrolled drooling when new screenshots are released, a desire to evaluate the merits of particle effects and normal mapping, and the unabashed defending of a videogame as being “best game EVAR” if it looks good, even if the gameplay is tedious. If Sin City were a video game, graphics whores everywhere would rejoice. Well, the art direction of Sin City, a film based on the Frank Miller comics, is drop-dead gorgeous and absolutely pops in its 1080p Blu-ray Disc presentation. The movie and bonus features aren’t half bad either.
Forgive this review for focusing so much on the Blu-ray graphical presentation, but that’s what really sets Sin City apart from most Blu-ray releases. What Sin City achieves in terms of reproducing the comic-book appearance is nothing short of mesmerizing, particularly when the deep blacks afforded by HDMI are presented against the high-contrast opening scenes. For a few moments Sin City has a distinctly Pleasantville feel, with its black-and-white imagery sprinkled with passionate accent colors. Then the automatic weapons, kitana blades and brass knuckles come out, and the scene is covered in red or green blood. There’s certainly nothing Pleasantville about that, but its creative use of color is augmented tenfold by the BD presentation.
From high-contrast shots and masterful use of shadows to thematic colors and a presentation that shows only a few instances of grain, Sin City is hard to top in the art-direction department. The DTS HD-Master Audio also holds its own, though it’s only presented in 5.1 channel rather than the 7.1 nuanced presentation that would have really helped wrap home Blu-ray viewers in the gunfights and rain-soaked scenes. Suffice it to say, the Sin City Blu-ray multimedia is quite solid. But it’s a little less than great in the action movie department.
Continuing the graphics whore analogy, that video game audience defends a sexy-looking game even if it’s missing in a few key areas. And Sin City, as gorgeous a film as it is, is lacking in a few key areas. Much ado was made of the film’s violence, so it’s certainly not lacking there. Yet while Sin City is definitely among the most violent films I’ve seen, it captures perfectly the content of its source material — the violent world of comic books — so I can’t hold its violence against it here. Sin City is violent…it’s supposed to be. Where it’s lacking is its story. In classic Pulp Fiction style, the story is actually a series of short vignettes bound together tangentially by a few key locations and characters. It’s not until the last scene, in fact, that you realize just how the stories all come together. Quite literally, this is one Blu-ray movie that requires a second viewing just to see how the stories play off one another. In some respects this has a certain “cool factor” to it, but I’m of the opinion that the movie had enough “cool factor” in its art direction, and the story itself should have been a bit less fringe. I’ll take one good story over four just-OK, loosely tied-together ones any day of the week.
For this Blu-ray release, Sin City’s producers went back to the drawing board on the bonus features, but almost out of necessity (the DVD version had only one).
The two-disc Blu-ray release includes several bonus features that should’ve been on the DVD version, plus a couple that are only possible on the Blu-ray format. The first disc includes the Restored Theatrical Version of the film, the BD-exclusive Cine-Explore, and two commentary tracks: one with Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller, and one with Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. There’s a third audio track, however, that’s unlike any you’ve seen: a recording of the Austin audience reaction that coincides with the on-screen action. It’s not exactly the most valuable bonus feature, but it certainly adds something to the experience for home viewers, since it tries to reproduce the audio of being in the theater with a bunch of Frank Miller fans.
Disc Two includes a host of bonus features, plus a Recut, Extended and Unrated version of the film itself. The bonuses are highlighted by a BD-exclusive interactive comic book called Kill ‘Em Good, which is a perfect bonus feature for this film and really seems like a “make good” on the producers’ part for stiffing DVD owners with Sin City’s original home release.
The second disc also includes a suite of five featurettes from Rodriguez, including 15-Minute Film School, a 10-Minute Cooking School, an All Green-Screen Version (something I called-out in my review of the DVD version), The Energy RC-Micro home theater system delivered the sound for this review.a feature called The Long Take and an audio expose called Sin City: Live in Concert. Several other bonus features on Disc Two are organized by theme: How it Went Down, a feature that discusses what it took to convince Frank Miller to make the film; A Hard Top with a Decent Engine, a featurette about the cars of Sin City; Booze, Broads and Guns, which explores the film’s props; Making the Monsters, the requisite special effects featurette; and Trench Coats and Fishnets, which interviews folks from the costume department.
Since Sin City was in part directed by Quentin Tarantino, it’s not surprising to see a small bonus feature devoted specifically to him called Special Guest Director. Personally, I’m not a huge Tarantino fan, because he largely seems like a one-trick violence pony, but I respect his credibility and reputation, and this feature makes total sense with Sin City on Blu-ray.
Rounding things out on the bonus feature list for Disc Two are the Teaser and Theatrical Trailer, which seem like minor additions but are actually quite valued by viewers who want to own the preeminent presentation of any movie they buy for home viewing.
And really, that’s how the Blu-ray release comes off for Sin City. The DVD release was quite lacking in the bonus feature department, but Dimension Films has completely made up for that here. With two versions of the film, two BD-exclusive features and a host of bonuses that should’ve made the original home release, Sin City on Blu-ray is the definitive edition to own at home. I’ve also got to admit that it’s hard to overlook Sin City’s sexy veneer and artistic creativity, which absolutely shines on Blu-ray Disc. True, the movie might not be your thing, but the pretty pictures will more than justify at least a rental, if not a purchase. Sin City, like Pulp Fiction and the Kill Bill movies, will certainly earn fans with its release on Blu-ray Disc. But if you’re a story aficionado, don’t necessarily plan to be among them.
- Score: 8.7
- The film’s visuals are perfect for the Blu-ray format, and although the audio didn’t get an upgrade from the DVD version, the bonus features certainly did.
— Jonas Allen