Sin City (film)
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Theatrical release poster
|Based on||Sin City|
by Frank Miller
|Edited by||Robert Rodriguez|
|Box office||$158.8 million|
Sin City (also known as Frank Miller's Sin City) is a 2005 American neo-noir crime anthology film written, produced, and directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller. It is based on Miller's graphic novel of the same name.
Much of the film is based on the first, third, and fourth books in Miller's original comic series. The Hard Goodbye is 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 an everyman getting caught in a street war between a group of prostitutes and a group of mercenaries, the police and the mob. 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 sixth book in the comic series.
The film stars an ensemble cast led by Jessica Alba, Benicio del Toro, Brittany Murphy, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, and Elijah Wood, and featuring Alexis Bledel, Michael Clarke Duncan, Rosario Dawson, Carla Gugino, Rutger Hauer, Jaime King, Michael Madsen, Nick Stahl, and Makenzie Vega 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 while retaining or adding color for selected 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 Release
- 5 Home media
- 6 Sequel
- 7 TV Series
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
The Customer Is Always Right
In a penthouse on the roof of a skyscraper overlooking Basin City, a fancy party is in progress. A woman (Marley Shelton), dressed in a red evening gown, is alone on the balcony. A man (Josh Hartnett), who is narrating, comes up behind her and offers her a cigarette. They exchange a little small talk, he tells her that he sees in her eyes a "crazy calm", of someone who is tired of running, but doesn't want to face her problems alone. He tells her that he will save her, and take her far away. They kiss, then he shoots her. She dies in his arms. He says that he does not know who she was running from, but will "cash her check in the morning."
In the DVD commentary, Frank Miller explains that the victim in this story (the Customer of the title) is actually committing suicide. The unnamed woman had dated a mobster, and when she tried to break it off, he said that he would kill her in the most terrible way possible. She then used her connections to hire a hitman (known as the Salesman) to provide her with a quick death.
That Yellow Bastard (Part 1)
On the docks of Sin City, aging police officer John Hartigan (Bruce Willis) is attempting to stop serial child murderer Roark Junior (Nick Stahl) from raping and killing 11-year-old Nancy Callahan (Makenzie Vega). Junior is the son of the powerful Senator Roark (Powers Boothe), who has paid off many police to cover up his son's crimes, including Hartigan's partner Bob (Michael Madsen). Bob tries to convince Hartigan to walk away, and appears to succeed, but Hartigan sucker-punches him, knocking him out cold. Hartigan then makes his way into a warehouse, knocking unconscious two local criminals. Junior is inside with the frightened Nancy and two armed henchmen, who are making sure that Junior and Nancy "get along" before leaving them alone. Hartigan shoots and kills the henchmen, but Junior shoots Hartigan in the shoulder, grabs Nancy and runs out to the docks. Hartigan catches up to Junior and shoots off his ear, causing him to drop Nancy. He then proceeds to shoot off Junior's arm and genitals, before being shot in the back several times by Bob, who has recovered. Bob tells Hartigan to stay down, but Hartigan knows he must buy time for backup to arrive (as Bob will kill Nancy if they are alone) so he tries to pull his reserve gun, causing Bob to shoot him several more times. As the sirens approach, Hartigan lapses into unconsciousness knowing that Nancy is safe, justifying himself with the words "An old man dies, a little girl lives; fair trade."
The Hard Goodbye
After a night of lovemaking, Marv (Mickey Rourke) awakens to find Goldie (Jaime King) murdered. The police arrive, and he flees the frame-up, vowing to avenge Goldie's death. He turns to Lucille (Carla Gugino), his lesbian parole officer, who patches his wounds and unsuccessfully warns him to give up on this mission. Marv heads to Kadie's Bar in search of information, where he interrogates and kills two hitmen sent after him. Marv then shakes down various informants, working his way up to a corrupt priest (Frank Miller), who reveals that a member of the Roark family was behind Goldie's murder. Marv kills the priest, but is then attacked and shot at by a woman with a strong resemblance to Goldie. Marv, recognizing that he has not taken his medication for his "condition" for a long time, considers her to be a hallucination.
Marv arrives at the Roark family farm, where he is subdued by the silent stalker who managed to kill Goldie without waking him. He awakens in the basement, with the heads of the stalker's past victims and Lucille, who was captured when she decided to look into Marv's story. She reveals to Marv that the killer is a cannibal. He manages to break out, and learns that the killer's name is Kevin (Elijah Wood), but Lucille surrenders to the corrupt police officers who show up and is shot to death. Marv kills them off, hearing from their leader that Cardinal Patrick Henry Roark (Rutger Hauer) arranged for Goldie's murder.
Marv goes to Old Town, Sin City's red light district seeking confirmation of the killer's identity. He is captured and allows Goldie's look-alike (her twin sister Wendy) to beat him, to convince her that he didn't kill Goldie. Convinced, she and Marv arm themselves and return to the farm. Marv kills Kevin brutally, then taking the head to Cardinal Roark, who confesses: Kevin had begun killing and eating prostitutes to swallow their souls, and the cardinal joined in; when Goldie began investigating, she was killed. Marv kills the cardinal but is shot by his guards.
With great difficulty, the police force Marv to confess to killing not only Roark and Kevin, but their victims as well. He is sentenced to death. He is visited on death row by Wendy, who thanks him for avenging her sister and spends the night with him, telling him he can call her Goldie. They sleep together in his cell. Marv is executed the next day, with it taking two electrocutions in the chair.
The Big Fat Kill
Shellie (Brittany Murphy), a barmaid from Kadie's, is being harassed by her abusive ex-boyfriend Jackie Boy (Benicio del Toro). Her current boyfriend Dwight (Clive Owen) is disgusted with his brutish rival, and shoves Jackie Boy's head into a urine-filled toilet bowl, warning him to leave Shellie alone. Jackie Boy flees with his friends, heading to Old Town to cause further trouble. Dwight follows them and watches them harass young prostitute Becky (Alexis Bledel). Also watching is Gail (Rosario Dawson), one of the head prostitutes and Dwight's on-and-off lover.
When Jackie Boy threatens Becky with a gun, martial arts expert Miho (Devon Aoki) sweeps down, severely injuring Jackie Boy. As it becomes apparent Jackie Boy will not die quickly, Dwight asks Miho to finish him. Miho nearly severs his head, making "a Pez dispenser out of him". As the prostitutes collect the dead men's money, they realize that Jackie Boy is actually well-respected police officer Lt Jack Rafferty; his death spells a certain end to the truce between the police and the prostitutes, and war against Old Town will be inevitable.
Dwight agrees to take the corpses to the local tar pit, while a traumatized Becky returns home. On the way, he has a hallucinatory conversation with Jackie Boy's corpse, who taunts him as he is chased by a police officer. Dwight talks his way out of the situation and arrives at the tar pit, but is suddenly shot by mercenaries. Meanwhile, head mercenary Manute (Michael Clarke Duncan) arrives in Old Town and kidnaps Gail, explaining that an informant has revealed everything and that other mercenaries are currently invading Old Town.
Dwight kills several mercenaries but is knocked into the tar by a grenade; he sinks into the tar and nearly drowns before Miho arrives and saves him. However, the other mercenaries have escaped and have taken Jackie Boy's severed head with them. They chase after the mercenaries and have a car accident, followed by a violent shoot-out that ends with the death of both mercenaries and the retrieval of Jackie Boy's head. Dwight devises a plan and he and Miho return to Old Town.
As Gail is being tortured, she learns that Becky was the traitor, informing the mercenaries out of fear and greed. Manute receives a letter from Dwight via an arrow from Miho, offering Jackie Boy's head in exchange for Gail. They meet in the back-alley, where the trade is made, though the mercenaries plan to kill them anyway. Dwight suddenly activates a grenade he had placed in Jackie Boy's Head, completely destroying it and any evidence that could have been taken to the cops. The other prostitutes of Old Town then reveal themselves on the roof tops surrounding the alley and gun down the mercenaries. Amidst the gunfire, an injured Becky escapes while Dwight and Gail kiss passionately.
That Yellow Bastard (Part 2)
Hartigan, who survived his wounds, is recovering in a hospital. Senator Roark (Boothe), Junior's father, arrives and informs him that Junior is in a coma and all plans for the Roark legacy are now in serious jeopardy. Senator Roark reveals that Hartigan will survive, will be framed for Junior's crimes and serve the resultant jail term. Additionally, if Hartigan tells anyone the truth, the informed people will be killed. A grateful Nancy visits and thanks him. She promises to write letters to Hartigan every week while he is in prison and departs.
Hartigan complies and goes to jail, knowing it is the only way to protect Nancy and his loved ones, though he refuses to officially confess to the crimes, preventing any possibility of parole. He receives the weekly letter from Nancy as promised. After eight years, however, the letters stop arriving, and then Hartigan receives a severed finger instead. Realizing she could have been kidnapped by the Roarks, Hartigan finally confesses to all charges, knowing this will lead to his release and being able to help Nancy. Outside the jail, he reunites with his old partner, Bob, who has come to regret his actions. Bob drives Hartigan to the city, telling him that Hartigan's wife has remarried and has children. Unknowingly being stalked by a deformed, yellow-skinned man, Hartigan searches for Nancy, eventually finding her at Kadie's Bar, where she has become a 19-year-old erotic dancer (Jessica Alba).
Realizing that the severed finger was a fake and that he was set up to lead the Roarks to Nancy, he tries to leave unnoticed but is seen by her, leading her to jump into his arms and kiss him passionately. Knowing they have been "made", they quickly escape in Nancy's car. The yellow-skinned man follows in his own car and shoots at them, but Hartigan shoots back, hitting the yellow-skinned man. When Hartigan and Nancy turn back to confirm the kill, the yellow-skinned man hides in the back of Nancy's car. Arriving at a hotel, Nancy reveals that she is in love with Hartigan and tries to seduce him, much to his discomfort. The deformed man then attacks them again, revealing himself as Junior Roark, though Hartigan now refers to him as the Yellow Bastard.
The Yellow Bastard, having been disfigured by the years of surgery necessary to regenerate his missing pieces, leaves Hartigan for dead, having hanged him, and takes Nancy to the Roark farm to finally rape and kill her. Hartigan escapes, however, and tracks the Yellow Bastard to the farm, where he is whipping and torturing Nancy. Hartigan kills the guards and then corners the Yellow Bastard and fakes a heart attack to fool him into letting go of Nancy, giving Hartigan the chance to stab him before castrating him (with his bare hands) and beating him to death.
Hartigan tells Nancy his plans to reveal Senator Roark's corruption to the police and finally bring down organized crime in Sin City, in order to convince her to leave him. After Nancy departs, Hartigan, knowing that this would be impossible, and Roark will never stop hunting them as long as Hartigan lives, then commits suicide in order to ensure Nancy's safety once and for all. He reminds himself "An old man dies, a young woman lives; fair trade", before shooting himself in the head.
An injured Becky departs from a hospital, talking on a cell phone with her mother. While riding in the elevator, she is met by the Salesman, who offers her a cigarette. Realizing who he is, and knowing he is there to deal with her, she tells her mother she loves her and hangs up.
Notable Roles: (Organized by the story in which they primarily appear)
- Mickey Rourke as Marv
- Jaime King as Goldie/Wendy
- Carla Gugino as Lucille
- Elijah Wood as Kevin
- Rutger Hauer as Cardinal Patrick Henry Roark
- Jason Douglas as Hitman
- Frank Miller as Priest
- Clive Owen as Dwight McCarthy
- Benicio del Toro as Jack Rafferty
- Rosario Dawson as Gail
- Michael Clarke Duncan as Manute
- Alexis Bledel as Becky
- Devon Aoki as Miho
- Brittany Murphy as Shellie
- Patricia Vonne as Dallas
- Nicky Katt as Stuka (Cameo)
- Bruce Willis as John Hartigan
- Jessica Alba as Nancy Callahan
- Nick Stahl as Roark Junior/Yellow Bastard
- Powers Boothe as Senator Roark
- Michael Madsen as Bob
- Makenzie Vega as Young Nancy Callahan
- Jude Ciccolella as Liebowitz
- Rick Gomez as Klump
- Nick Offerman as Shlubb
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.
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.
The soundtrack was composed by Rodriguez as well as John Debney and Graeme Revell. The film's three main stories were each scored by an individual composer: Revell scored "The Hard Goodbye", Debney scored "The Big Fat Kill", and Rodriguez scored "That Yellow 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 the drive to the pits scene in which Dwight talks with a dead Jack Rafferty (Benicio del Toro). 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. Rodriguez, also refusing to take full credit, decided to resign from the Guild so that the joint credit could remain.
Critical reception 
The film opened on April 1, 2005 to generally positive reviews. Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 77% of critics gave the film a positive review based on 249 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 the film has a score of 74 (citing "generally favorable reviews") based on 40 reviews. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.
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. 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."
Several reviews focused predominantly 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."
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, Choice Movie: Action Actress for Jessica Alba and Choice Movie: Villain for Elijah Wood.
Home media 
"Sin City" was released on VHS and DVD 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 featured 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.
A sequel, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, was released on August 22, 2014. Production for the sequel began in October 2012 with Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller directing a script co-written by them and William Monahan. The film was based mainly on A Dame to Kill For, the second book in the Sin City series by Miller, and also included the short story "Just Another Saturday Night" from the Booze, Broads, & Bullets collection, as well as two original stories written by Miller for the film, titled "The Long Bad Night" and "Nancy's Last Dance". Actors Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Rosario Dawson and Jessica Alba all reprised their roles in the sequel, amongst others. Unlike the 2005 original, the sequel was a critical and financial disappointment.
Dimension Films is developing a soft reboot of the series for television, Stephen L’Heureux who produced the second film will oversee the series with Sin City creator Frank Miller. This will be with new characters and timelines and be more like the comics rather than the films.
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