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Sin City: recut’ ups ante on noir action

Tae Andrews | Tuesday, February 21, 2006

“Walk down the right back alley in Sin City, and you can find anything.”

So the film ends. Pick the right chapter of the “Sin City: Recut, Extended, Unrated” two-disc DVD set, and fans can find whatever dark delight their twisted hearts desire. For viewers who like their violence bloody and their fiction pulpy, the film absolutely delivers as an over-the-top romp through the muck and mire of Sin City’s criminal underworld.

Housing the original theatrical version of the film on the first disc, the second splits the film up into its three distinct storylines, which follow the exploits of Sin City’s three male protagonists, and also features the theatrical cut’s prologue and epilogue – “The Customer is Always Right,” featuring Josh Hartnett – spliced together.

“That Yellow Bastard” chronicles the adventures of Hartigan, played by Bruce Willis, an aging cop who rescues a child named Nancy Callahan from a fate worse than death at the hands of a vicious pedophile (Nick Stahl). After growing up and filling out, the now-stunning Nancy (Jessica Alba) is again threatened by the vile Yellow Bastard, now known for both his noxious odor and banana hue.

In “The Big Fat Kill,” Clive Owen plays Dwight, a gun-toting player who protects his girlfriend Shellie (Brittany Murphy) from the advances of the abusive Jackie Boy (Benicio del Toro). After an unfortunate and bloody misunderstanding in Old Town, Dwight finds himself on a covert ops mission to protect his old flame Gail (Rosario Dawson) and her fellow femme fatales.

During “The Hard Goodbye,” Mickey Rourke stars as Marv, a bar-brawling knuckle-dragger looking for bloody revenge after his one-night-stand lover Goldie (Jaime King) is murdered. Marv’s break-faces-first, ask-questions-later approach to getting answers eventually leads him into a confrontation with Kevin (played by Elijah Wood), a cannibal with creepy blue peepers.

Given that “Sin City” was originally a series of graphic novels created by Frank Miller, the true genius of the film “Sin City” lies in the ability of visionary director Robert Rodriguez (along with Miller as a co-director) to encapsulate the comic book aesthetic. Rodriguez doesn’t adapt the “Sin City” graphic novels to the big screen so much as bring the panels of the graphic novels to life.

He does an especially great job of capturing the comic-book feel in shooting the visual hyperbole of Sin City – appendages are blown off, fists smash through solid brick walls and bullet holes are mere flesh wounds which serve more to mildly inconvenience than to incapacitate.

Even the film’s color scheme perfectly mimics the experience of turning pages at the local comic book store. Shot mostly in black and white, Rodriguez dashes on splashes of color to great effect, such as Dwight’s bright-red throwback Converse sneakers or Kevin’s haunting blue-eyed stare.

Gritty voice-overs by the main characters round out the film noir experience, as the audience really gets the feel of “the big city” while traversing through the seedy bars and dark back alleys of Sin City. Rodriguez is in his element as he descends into the grimy underworld of Sin City.

The rest of the DVD box set comes complete with a pair of commentary tracks by Rodriguez and various members of the cast, in addition to 47 minutes of featurettes covering Frank Miller, guest director Quentin Tarantino and the film’s extensive use of special effects.

All in all, “Sin City: Recut, Extended, Unrated” contains enough sinful pleasure (and extra-feature goodies) to make even the most lapsed Catholic Notre Dame student contemplate confession.