Sin City (film)
theatrical release poster
|Based on||Sin City
by Frank Miller
|Editing by||Robert Rodriguez|
|Distributed by||Dimension Films|
|Running time||124 minutes|
Sin City, also known as Frank Miller's Sin City, is a 2005 American neo-noir crime action thriller film written, produced, and directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez. It is based on Miller's graphic novel series of the same name.
The film is primarily based on the first, third, and fourth books in Miller's original comic series. The Hard Goodbye: About a man who embarks on a brutal rampage in search of his one-time sweetheart's killer, killing anyone, even the police, that gets in his way of finding and killing her murderer; The Big Fat Kill: Focuses on a street war between a group of prostitutes and a group of mercenaries, the police, and the mob; and That Yellow Bastard: Follows an aging police officer who protects a young woman from a grotesquely disfigured serial killer. The intro and outro of the film are based on the short story "The Customer is Always Right", which is collected in Booze, Broads & Bullets, the fifth book in the comic series.
The film stars Jessica Alba, Benicio del Toro, Brittany Murphy, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis and Elijah Wood, and features Rosario Dawson, Carla Gugino, Rutger Hauer, Jaime King, Michael Madsen, and Nick Stahl, among others.
Sin City opened to wide critical and commercial success, gathering particular recognition for the film's unique color processing, which rendered most of the film in black and white but retained or added coloring for select objects. The film was screened at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival in-competition and won the Technical Grand Prize for the film's "visual shaping".
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast
- 3 Production
- 4 Reception
- 5 Home media
- 6 Sequel
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Prologue: "The Customer Is Always Right (Part I)"
The Salesman (Josh Hartnett) walks onto a luxury penthouse balcony where the Customer (Marley Shelton) looks out over Basin City, clearly waiting for him. He offers her a cigarette and says that she looks like someone who is tired of running and that he will save her. The two share a passionate kiss and he shoots her. She dies in his arms. He says he’ll never know what she was running from but that he’ll cash her check in the morning.
"That Yellow Bastard (Part I)"
Aging police officer John Hartigan (Bruce Willis) is on a manhunt in stopping a serial child-killer Roark Junior (Nick Stahl) from raping and killing his fourth known victim, eleven-year-old Nancy Callahan (Makenzie Vega). Junior is the son of Senator Roark (Powers Boothe), a corrupt politician and member of the infamous Roark family, who bribes the police to cover up his son's crimes. Hartigan's corrupt partner Bob (Michael Madsen), also one of the officers on Senator's payroll, tries to convince Hartigan to walk away, but Hartigan knocks him out.
Hartigan heads into the warehouse where Junior is holding Nancy, fighting off the pain caused by his bad heart, as well as several henchmen. Junior shoots Hartigan in the shoulder and tries to escape with Nancy. Hartigan catches up and shoots off Junior's ear, hand, and finally severing his genitals. Bob appears and shoots Hartigan in the back. As police backup approaches, Bob leaves the scene and Nancy lies down in Hartigan's lap. He passes out, reasoning his death is a fair trade for the girl's life.
"The Hard Goodbye"
After a one-night stand, Marv (Mickey Rourke) awakens to find Goldie (Jaime King) has been killed while he slept. He flees the frame-up as the police arrive, vowing to avenge her death. His parole officer, Lucille (Carla Gugino), warns him to give up on his mission, believing Marv may have imagined it all due to his "condition." Marv interrogates several informants, working up to a corrupt priest (Frank Miller), who reveals that the Roark family was behind the murder. He's attacked by a woman identical to Goldie, but dismisses it as a hallucination.
Marv goes to the Roark family farm and is subdued by Kevin (Elijah Wood), the silent stalker who killed Goldie. He awakens in the basement to find Lucille has also been captured, after looking into his story. She tells Marv that Kevin is a cannibal that eats prostitutes, and that Goldie was his next target. They manage to escape, only for Lucille to be gunned down by an arriving squad of corrupt cops. Marv takes them down and interrogates them till they reveal Cardinal Patrick Henry Roark (Rutger Hauer), Senator Roark's brother, arranged for Goldie's murder.
Marv goes to Old Town, Basin City's prostitute-run red-light district, to learn more about Goldie. He's captured by her twin sister, Wendy, who was under the impression Marv was Goldie's killer. When he convinces her of the truth, they return to the farm to kill Kevin. Marv then confronts Cardinal Roark, who confesses he and Kevin would eat the bodies to "consume their souls." Marv kills the cardinal before being captured by police. He's framed for all of Roark and Kevin's murders, even Lucille, and sentenced to death. Wendy visits him on death row and thanks him for avenging her sister. Marv is then executed in the electric chair.
"The Big Fat Kill"
Shellie's (Brittany Murphy) abusive ex-boyfriend Jackie Boy (Benicio del Toro) shows up at her apartment drunk to harass her, intending to take her back. Her current boyfriend, Dwight (Clive Owen) throws him out and, sensing Jackie will take out his rage on someone else, follows him to stop him from his madness.
He trails Jackie and his gang to Old Town, where they're harassing a young prostitute, Becky (Alexis Bledel), not realizing they'll all be killed if they don't back off. Sensing something's not right, Dwight tries to intervene, but is stopped by Gail (Rosario Dawson), the girls' leader and his on-off-again lover. Jackie pulls a gun on Becky, and the entire gang is immeditely killed by martial arts expert Miho (Devon Aoki). While rifling through his corpse, Dwight discovers Jackie Boy is actually a corrupt detective, named Jonathan "Iron Jack" Rafferty of the Basin City police. If the cops were to learn how he died, their truce with the prostitutes would end and the mob would be free to wage war on Old Town.
While trying to dispose of the bodies in a tar pit, Dwight is attacked by ex-IRA mercenaries and realizes someone in Old Town tipped off the mob. As they're escaping with Jackie Boy's severed head, Miho arrives to take them out and steal it back. Meanwhile, the head mercenary Manute (Michael Clarke Duncan) kidnaps Gail and makes plans for the invasion of Old Town. Becky reveals she told the mob and cut a deal with them. Dwight trades Jackie Boy’s head in exchange for Gail, then activates an explosive he placed inside, destroying it before it can be taken to the cops for evidence. The other prostitutes appear to gun down the mercenaries, while an injured Becky escapes.
"That Yellow Bastard (Part II)"
Hartigan survives the shooting. Senator Roark visits him in hospital and informs him that, as revenge for making his son a "dickless freak," he's being framed for all of Junior's crimes. Nancy promises to write to Hartigan under a fake name while he's in prison. He goes to jail, though he refuses to sign a confession, and receives a weekly letter from Nancy, as promised.
After eight years, the letters suddenly stop. A deformed yellow-skinned man visits Hartigan in his cell and knocks him out, and when he wakes he discovers a young woman's severed finger has been left for him. Afraid it's Nancy's, he confesses to all charges so he can get out on parole and search for her. He discovers Nancy (Jessica Alba) is now an exotic dancer at Kadie's Bar. Noticing he's being followed by the yellow man, Haritgan realizes the finger was a setup to trick him into leading Roark's men to her.
The yellow man attacks them and reveals he's Roark Junior, now deformed as a side-effect of all the surgery needed to regenerate his missing body parts. Leaving Hartigan to die via hanging, he takes Nancy away to finish what he started eight years ago. Hartigan narrowly manages to escape and follows them to the farm, where he kills Junior in a same fashion that he tried to kill him years ago. Knowing as long as he's alive, Nancy could be used as a tool in Senator Roark's revenge against him, Hartigan commits suicide. Again, he justifies his life for Nancy's as a fair trade.
Epilogue: "The Customer Is Always Right (Part II)"
As Becky is in a hospital elevator and talking on a cell phone with her mother, she encounters the Salesman, dressed as a doctor. Knowing he's been sent to kill her when he calls her by name, she says goodbye to her mother and hangs up.
- Jessica Alba as Nancy Callahan
- Devon Aoki as Miho
- Alexis Bledel as Becky
- Powers Boothe as Senator Roark
- Jude Ciccolella as Liebowitz
- Michael Clarke Duncan as Manute
- Rosario Dawson as Gail
- Benicio del Toro as Det. Lt. Jack "Jackie Boy" Rafferty
- Jason Douglas as Hitman
- Tommy Flanagan as Brian
- Rick Gomez as Klump
- Carla Gugino as Lucille
- Josh Hartnett as The Salesman, known in the screenplay as "The Man"
- Rutger Hauer as Cardinal Patrick Henry Roark
- Nicky Katt as Stuka
- Jaime King as Goldie and Wendy
- Michael Madsen as Bob
- Frank Miller as Priest
- Brittany Murphy as Shellie
- Nick Offerman as Schlubb
- Clive Owen as Dwight McCarthy
- Mickey Rourke as Marv
- Marley Shelton as The Customer
- Nick Stahl as Roark Junior/Yellow Bastard
- Makenzie Vega as young Nancy Callahan
- Patricia Vonne as Dallas
- Bruce Willis as John Hartigan
- Elijah Wood as Kevin
Proof of concept
After his negative personal experience working in Hollywood on RoboCop 2 and 3, Miller was reluctant to release the film rights to his comic books, fearing a similar result. Rodriguez, a long-time fan of the graphic novels, was eager to adapt Sin City for the screen. His plan was to make a fully faithful adaptation, follow the source material closely, and make a "translation, not an adaptation". In hopes of convincing Miller to give the project his blessing, Rodriguez shot a "proof of concept" adaptation of the Sin City story "The Customer is Always Right" (starring Josh Hartnett and Marley Shelton). Rodriguez flew Miller into Austin to be present at this test shooting, and Miller was very happy with the results. This footage was later used as the opening scene for the completed project, and (according to Rodriguez in the DVD extras) to recruit Bruce Willis and others to the project.
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This is one of the first films along with Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Casshern, and Immortel (Ad Vitam) to be shot primarily on a digital backlot. The film employed the Sony HDC-950 high-definition digital camera, having the actors work in front of a green screen, that allowed for the artificial backgrounds (as well as some major foreground elements, such as cars) to be added later during the post-production stage. Three sets were constructed by hand:
- Kadie's Bar, where all of the major characters make an appearance at least once and also the only location in which all objects are in color.
- Shellie's apartment. The front door and kitchen are real, while bathroom and corridors are artificial.
- The hospital corridor in the epilogue. Although the first shot of walking feet was done on green screen, the corridor in the next shot is real. The background becomes artificial again when the interior of the elevator is shown.
While the use of a green screen is standard for special effects filming, the use of high-definition digital cameras is quite noteworthy in this film's production. The combination of these two techniques made Sin City at the time (along with Sky Captain, which was produced the same way) one of the few fully digital, live-action films (since then, digital has grown in popularity). This technique also means that the whole film was initially shot in full color, and was converted to black-and-white.
Colorization is used on certain subjects in a scene, such as Devon Aoki's red-and-blue clothing; Alexis Bledel's blue eyes and red blood; Michael Clarke Duncan's golden eye; Rutger Hauer's green eyes; Jaime King's red dress and blonde hair; Clive Owen's red Converse shoes and Cadillac; Mickey Rourke's red blood and orange prescription pill container; Marley Shelton's green eyes, red dress, and red lips; Nick Stahl's yellow face and body; and Elijah Wood's white glasses. Much of the blood in the film also has a striking glow to it. The film was color-corrected digitally and, as in film noir tradition, treated for heightened contrast so as to more clearly separate blacks and whites. This was done not only to give a more film-noir look, but also to make it appear more like the original comic. This technique was used again on another Frank Miller adaptation, 300, which was shot on film.
Principal photography began on March 29, 2004. Several of the scenes were shot before every actor had signed on; as a result, several stand-ins were used before the actual actors were digitally added into the film during post-production. Rodriguez, an aficionado of cinematic technology, has used similar techniques in the past. In Roger Ebert's review of the film, he recalled Rodriguez's speech during production of Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams: "This is the future! You don't wait six hours for a scene to be lighted. You want a light over here, you grab a light and put it over here. You want a nuclear submarine, you make one out of thin air and put your characters into it."
The film was noted throughout production for Rodriguez's plan to stay faithful to the source material, unlike most other comic book adaptations. Rodriguez stated that he considered the film to be "less of an adaptation than a translation". As a result, there is no screenwriting in the credits; simply "Based on the graphic novels by Frank Miller". There were several minor changes, such as dialogue trimming, new colorized objects, removal of some nudity, slightly edited violence, and minor deleted scenes. These scenes were later added in the release of the Sin City Collectors DVD, which also split the books into the four separate stories.
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The soundtrack was composed by Rodriguez as well as John Debney and Graeme Revell. The film's three main stories ("The Hard Goodbye", "The Big Fat Kill", and "That Yellow Bastard") were each scored by an individual composer: Revell scored "Goodbye", Debney scored "Kill", and Rodriguez scored "Bastard". Additionally, Rodriguez co-scored with the other two composers on several tracks.
Another notable piece of music used was the instrumental version of the song "Cells" by the London-based alternative group The Servant. The song was heavily featured in the film's publicity, including the promotional trailers and television spots, as well as being featured on the film's DVD menus.
Three directors received credit for Sin City: Miller, Rodriguez, and Quentin Tarantino, the last for directing one scene in the film. Miller and Rodriguez worked as a team directing the rest of the film. Despite having no previous directorial background, Miller was substantially involved in the film's direction, providing direction to the actors on their motivations and what they needed to bring to each scene. Because of this (and the fact that Miller's original books were used as storyboards), Rodriguez felt that they should both be credited as directors on the film.
When the Directors Guild of America refused to allow two directors that were not an established team to be credited (especially since Miller had never directed before), Rodriguez first planned to give Miller full credit. Miller would not accept this, as he certainly could not have done it without Rodriguez. Rodriguez, also refusing to take full credit, decided to resign from the Guild so that the joint credit could remain.
Critical response 
The film opened on April 1, 2005, being acclaimed by reviews. Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 78% of critics gave the film a positive review based on 242 reviews with a "Certified Fresh" rating, with an average score of 7.4/10. The site's consensus states: "Visually groundbreaking and terrifically violent, Sin City brings the dark world of Frank Miller's graphic novel to vivid life." On Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 based on reviews from critics, the film has a score of 74 (citing "generally favorable reviews") based on 40 reviews.
Roger Ebert awarded the film four out of four stars, describing it as "a visualization of the pulp noir imagination, uncompromising and extreme. Yes, and brilliant." Online critical reaction was particularly strong: James Berardinelli placed the film on his list of the "Top Ten" films of 2005. Several critics including Ebert compared the film favorably to other comic book adaptations, particularly Batman and Hulk. Chauncey Mabe of the Sun-Sentinel wrote: "Really, there will be no reason for anyone to make a comic-book film ever again. Miller and Rodriguez have pushed the form as far as it can possibly go."
There were several reviews predominantly focused on the film's more graphic content, criticizing it for a lack of "humanity". William Arnold of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer described it as a celebration of "helpless people being tortured ... I kept thinking of those clean-cut young American guards at Abu Ghraib. That is exactly the mentality Rodriguez is celebrating here. Sin City is their movie." Other critics focused on especially negative elements: "scenes depicting castration, murder, torture, decapitation, rape, and misogyny."
The New York Times critic Manohla Dargis claimed that the directors' "commitment to absolute unreality and the absence of the human factor" made it "hard to get pulled into the story on any level other than the visceral". Credit is given for Rodriguez's "scrupulous care and obvious love for its genre influences" but Dargis notes "it's a shame the movie is kind of a bore" where the private experience of reading a graphic novel does not translate, stating that "the problem is, this is his private experience, not ours".
In a more lighthearted piece focusing on the progression of films and the origins of Sin City, fellow Times critic A. O. Scott, identifying Who Framed Roger Rabbit as its chief cinematic predecessor, argued that "Something is missing – something human. Don't let the movies fool you: Roger Rabbit was guilty," with regard to the increasing use of digitisation within films to replace the human elements. He applauds the fact Rodriguez "has rendered a gorgeous world of silvery shadows that updates the expressionist cinematography of postwar noir" but bemoans that several elements of "old film noirs has been digitally broomed away", resulting instead in a film that "offers sensation without feeling, death without grief, sin without guilt, and, ultimately, novelty without surprise".
Sin City grossed $29.1 million on its opening weekend, defeating fellow opener Beauty Shop by more than twice its opening take. The film saw a sharp decline in its second weekend, dropping over fifty percent. Ultimately, the film ended its North American run with a gross of $74.1 million against its $40 million negative cost. Overseas, the film grossed $84.6 million, for a worldwide total from theater receipts of $158.7 million.
Mickey Rourke won a Saturn Award, an Online Film Critics Society Award, a Chicago Film Critics Association Award, and an Irish Film & Television Award for his performance. The film was in competition for the Palme d'Or at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival, and Rodriguez won the Technical Grand Prize for the film's visual shaping. Graeme Revell's work in the film was honored with a Best Film Music Award at the BMI Film & TV Awards.
Sin City was nominated at the 2006 MTV Movie Awards in three categories: Best Movie, Best Kiss for Clive Owen and Rosario Dawson, and Sexiest Performance for Jessica Alba, winning the latter. The film also received three nominations at the 2005 Teen Choice Awards: Choice Movie: Action/Adventure, Choice Movie Actress: Action/Adventure/Thriller for Jessica Alba and Choice Movie Bad Guy for Elijah Wood.
Home media 
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The Region 1 DVD was released on August 16, 2005. The single-disc edition was released with four different slipcovers to choose from and featured a "behind-the-scenes" documentary. Then, on December 13, 2005, the special edition DVD was released, known as the "recut, unrated, extended" edition. On October 21, 2008, a Blu-ray edition, which is region free, was released by Alliance in Canada. On January 29, 2009 a United States Blu-ray release was confirmed for April 23, 2009. It is a 2-disc edition featuring both the film's "theatrical" and "recut, unrated, extended" versions.
The special edition was a two-disc set, featuring both the 124-minute theatrical release, along with the 142-minute "recut, unrated, extended" edition (this edition restored edited and deleted scenes that were missing from the theatrical edition). Bonus material included an audio commentary with director Rodriguez and Miller, a commentary with Rodriguez and Tarantino, and a third commentary featuring the recorded audience reaction at the Austin, Texas Premiere. Also included were various "behind-the-scenes" documentaries and features, as well as a pocket-sized version of the graphic novel The Hard Goodbye. Shortly after, the same DVD/book package was released in a limited edition giftbox with a set of Sin City playing cards and a small stack of Sin City poker chips not available anywhere else.
The initial Region 2 release only features a 7-minute featurette on the film. HMV stores had limited quantities of the four slipcases. Amazon.co.uk released another limited edition which housed the film, and the three books it is based on, in a hard case. In October 2007, the "recut, unrated, extended" edition was finally released in the United Kingdom. Although it does not feature the reproduction of "The Hard Goodbye" book, it does come in Steelbook packaging. This version of the film was initially exclusive to HMV stores, but is now available at most retailers in the United Kingdom.
Production for a sequel, entitled Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, began in October 2012 with Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller directing a script co-written by them and William Monahan. Although the film will be mainly based on the second book in the Sin City series by Miller, it will have an open storyline. The film was scheduled to be released on October 4, 2013, but has been pushed back to August 22, 2014.
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