The film is an adaptation of parts of comic book legend Frank Miller's (the director resigned from the Director's Guild when they refused to give Miller "co-director" credit) "Sin City" book (Rodriguez should adapt the recent video game "Max Payne 2: Fall of Max Payne", which I was reminded of a lot while watching "Sin City"), with the first tale starring Bruce Willis as cop Hartigan, who has to try and solve a kidnapping case while a bum ticker is the wall that he forces himself to get up and get past on his way to save Nancy (later played by Jessica Alba) from a very well-connected killer (Nick Stahl). Although he succeeds in getting her free, his freedom is taken away as a result.
In another story, a scarred brawler (Mickey Rourke) wakes up to find that the only woman who seemed to give a damn about him (Jamie King), a prostitute, has been killed. He vows brutal revenge, and goes forth into the night assaulting anyone who gets in his way of the truth. Finally, Dwight (Clive Owen, in a downright fantastic performance) goes on the trail of a man (Benecio Del Toro) who's been roughing up his girlfriend (Brittany Murphy) and finds himself on the side of town run by a gang of prostitutes, including his ex-girlfriend (Rosario Dawson), who defend their territory viciously. When something goes down and the girls are in trouble, Dwight comes up with a plan to either keep the trouble at bay, or get rid of it. Finally, we are brought back to the Hartigan story, as he gets out just in time to save Nancy (now played by Alba) again - or does he?
Again, the director has pulled off what I consider the best use of digital surroundings that I've seen yet. The world of "Sin City" is visually remarkable, with the mostly black and white (with bursts of color in otherwise B & W scenes) film taking on the look of a noir comic book in a way that's both fascinating and hauntingly, coldly beautiful. Although it's probably due to the darkness of the movie, the effects-driven backgrounds did seem more seamless here than they did in "Sky Captain".
Although the effects are marvelous and used superbly, Rodriguez, Miller and "guest director" Quentin Tarantino get fantastic performances from the cast. Owen is the real highlight, in my opinion, as the actor provides a razor-sharp performance that's one of the actor's best. Another of "Sin City"'s anti-heroes, Owen doesn't have a lot of time to define his character or get us involved, but he does in a performance that's quick-thinking and compelling. The actor has offered several great performances lately, and impressed me even in an otherwise mediocre movie ("King Arthur".) The real surprise in the film is Mickey Rourke, whose excellent performance gets sympathy for his hulk of a character. Willis, who was very good in the just average "Hostage", is the other real stand-out here. Fine supporting efforts include Rosario Dawson, Alexis Bledel and others.
Despite being broken up into different tales (although there are some ties between the stories), the film smoothly transitions throughout and the pacing is remarkably consistent and quick throughout. In a time where horror and action movies are routinely cut down to PG-13, "Sin City" sticks with the "R" rating, and a hard "R" at that - some may not take well to the violence portrayed within. That said, I thought it was one of the year's best so far: a dark, serious neo-noir that oozes mood and atmosphere, offers some very strong performances, boasts a surpremely well-realized universe of its own and never fails to surprise. A gripping, thrilling and bold feature from Rodriguez and company.
VIDEO: "Sin City" is presented by Miramax in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The stylish visuals are done justice by the fine effort here, which boasts very good sharpness and detail, despite the dark look of the picture. Problems are really not seen, as I didn't see any instances of edge enhancement, pixelation or other concerns. The bright colors that occasionally showed through during the film appeared bold, vivid and well-saturated, with no concerns. Overall, an outstanding effort.
SOUND: "Sin City" is presented in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1. The film's audio mix definitely takes advantage of all the opportunities presented, as the surrounds kick in often to deliver effects and ambience. Although the surrounds aren't always employed, they are often used in this enveloping and immersive sound presentation.
EXTRAS: All we get is a brief featurette and promos for other titles from the studio. A special edition is reportedly coming, but exact details have not been announced/finalized.
Final Thoughts: "Sin City" is a rough noir drama/thriller that may not be for everyone, but boasts an incredible, dark digital world and superb performances from many members of the cast. The DVD edition boasts little in the way of supplements, but excellent audio/video quality. Recommended for those who aren't interested in extras - those who are may want to wait until the upcoming special edition, which has not yet been announced.