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Sin City
(Recut, Extended, Unrated Edition)

reviewed by Ian Dawe

December 19 , 2005 | I'm a sucker for movies that create a world - one with dimensions and shadows and light and everything in between. Even if the story is particularly compelling, I can be drawn in on the strength of a fully realized milieu. Sin City is one of those movies where the world is larger than the characters - larger, even, than the story. That's one of the reasons why I found it such a fascinating, beguiling piece of filmmaking and the best reason to get this new "Recut and Extended Edition" DVD.

Based on the famous comic book by the legendary Frank Miller, the film takes us through four stories from this dark city. Director Robert Rodriguez wisely employed Miller himself early on in pre-production and film has a patina that not only does justice to the book, it deepens and enriches an already deep and rich world. Sin City is a heightened, stylized mythic place, right out of American popular culture, combining elements of film noir and German expressionism with a daring, violent sexuality not seen since A Clockwork Orange. It's always raining or snowing in Sin City, always replete with long shadows and deep angles.

The characters that inhabit this world are no less dark and shadowy. Crime, violence, murder and corruption are the order of the day. No character in this world is good, although many are bad and ugly. Marv (Mickey Rourke at a career high) is a tough Frankenstein-esque monster, bent on avenging the death of a hooker who showed him a slice of heaven in the episode entitled "The Hard Goodbye". Hartigan (Bruce Willis) is an honest cop in a dishonest world, entangled in a violent, ugly web in "That Yellow Bastard". Dwight (Clive Owen) is a murderer with a new face hiding bodies in a tar pond while defending a city of whores in "The Big, Fat Kill".

If my description makes Sin City sound episodic, it is - Miller wrote it that way. Rodriguez's theatrical version of the film wove all three stories (plus a fourth vignette) together in two hours. The great thing about this DVD is that you have the choice of viewing the movie that way, or watching the four episodes separately, each re-cut with additional footage not in the theatrical release. While that may seem to run contrary to the notion of an "extended cut", it honours the spirit of the comics.

Honouring that comic book spirit is what the movie is all about. Rodriguez shot the film on digital video against mostly green screen and then added black and white backgrounds to his actors that perfectly re-creates the look and feel of Miller's stark vision. On DVD, the digital video looks flawless, making the experience all the more absorbing. A sequel is in the works, but of course that was always a given. These stories are only four of the many that can be told in this world. Let's hope Rodriguez and Miller get a chance to tell them all.

In addition to the re-thought story structure, the DVD has many other extras, such as two separate commentary track on the original theatrical release, one by Rodriguez and Miller and the other by Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino (who actually directed one of the scenes in "The Big Fat Kill"). Another unique audio option is an "audience track", which captures the sounds of a theatrical audience reacting to the film with you. It's an interesting approach, and cleverly simulates the theatrical experience. There's also a handful of featurettes, but the best special feature by far of the set is the inclusion of a trade paperback version of Frank Miller's "The Hard Goodbye" comic book, almost worth the price of admission on its own.

There's rarely been a better DVD set than this one - add it to your must have list.

A freelance writer and longtime film enthusiast, Ian Dawe is now completing a Master's Degree in Film History. He currently teaches at Selkirk College in Castlegar, British Columbia.

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