Sin City (film)

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Sin City
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Produced by
Written by
  • Frank Miller
  • Robert Rodriguez
Based on Sin City 
by Frank Miller
Music by
Cinematography Robert Rodriguez
Edited by Robert Rodriguez
Distributed by Miramax
Release dates
Running time
124 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $40 million[2]
Box office $158.8 million[2]

Sin City (also known as Frank Miller's Sin City)[3] is a 2005 American neo-noir crime thriller anthology film written, produced, and directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez. It is based on Miller's graphic novel Sin City.[4]

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 Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Clive Owen, Jessica Alba, Benicio Del Toro, Brittany Murphy and Elijah Wood, featuring Alexis Bledel, Michael Clarke Duncan, 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 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".[5][6]


"The Customer Is Always Right (Part I)"[edit]

The Salesman steps out of the elevator and walks onto a penthouse balcony overlooking Basin City, where The Customer awaits. He comforts her, the two briefly talks, share a kiss and he shoots her. As she dies in his arm, he ponders what she was running from.

"That Yellow Bastard (Part I)"[edit]

On the docks of Sin City, aging police officer John Hartigan tries to stop serial child-killer Roark Junior from raping and killing his fourth known victim, eleven-year-old Nancy Callahan. Junior is the son of Senator Roark, who has bribed the police to cover up his son's crimes. Hartigan's partner Bob tries to convince Hartigan to walk away, only to get knocked out.

Hartigan, fighting off the pain caused by his bad heart, confronts Roark Junior, shoots off his ear, right hand and genitals. Bob shoots Hartigan in the back, revealing himself to be on Senator Roark's payroll. As the sirens approach, Bob leaves and Nancy comforts him. Hartigan passes out, reasoning his death is a fair trade for the girl's life.

"The Hard Goodbye"[edit]

After a one-night stand, Marv awakens to find that Goldie, the woman he'd been with, was killed while he slept. He flees the frame-up as the police arrive, vowing to avenge her death to repay her kindness. His parole officer Lucille warns him to give up on this mission, believing Marv may have imagined it all due to his "condition". Marv interrogates several informants, working up to a corrupt priest who reveals that the Roark family was behind the murder. After killing the priest, Marv is attacked by a woman who looks like Goldie, which he dismisses as a hallucination caused by his "condition".

Marv goes to the Roark family farm and is subdued by the silent stalker, who is also Goldie's killer. He awakens to find Lucille has been captured after looking into his story. She tells Marv that the killer is a cannibal and that his victims, including Goldie, are prostitutes. He and Lucille escape their holding cell, but Lucille is shot by the leader of a squad of corrupt cops. Marv kills the squad, interrogates the leader and finds out that Cardinal Patrick Henry Roark arranged for Goldie's murder.

Marv goes to Old Town (Sin City's prostitute-run red-light district) to learn more about Goldie, and is captured by her twin sister, Wendy, who Marv previously dismissed as a hallucination. He eventually convinces her that he is not the killer and she resolves to help him avenge Goldie. The pair return to the farm, where Marv kills Kevin. He brings Kevin's head to Cardinal Roark, who confesses his part in the murders. Marv kills the cardinal but is then shot and captured by his guards.

After Marv's wound are treated, he is forced to confess to killing Cardinal Roark, Kevin and all their victims. He is sentenced to death in the electric chair. Wendy visits him on death row and thanks him for avenging her sister.

"The Big Fat Kill"[edit]

Shellie is harassed by her drunken and abusive ex-boyfriend Jackie Boy. When Jackie goes to the bathroom to urinate, her new lover Dwight McCarthy, dunks his face into the toilet, threatening to kill him if he doesn't leave her alone. Angry and embarrassed, Jackie Boy leaves Shellie's flat, and Dwight follows him to make sure he doesn't take out his anger on another girl.

Jackie Boy and his crew arrive in Old Town, where they harass Becky, a young prostitute. Dwight runs into Gail, Old Town's leader and Dwight's on-and-off lover, and the two watch the scene. When Jackie Boy threatens Becky with a gun, Miho, Old Town's enforcer, kills the whole group. As Dwight and the prostitutes check the corpses' personal effects, they realize Jackie Boy is actually Detective Lieutenant Jack Rafferty of Basin City Police. If the police learned how he died, their truce with the prostitutes would end and the mob would be free to wage war on Old Town.

Dwight takes the bodies to a tar pit to hide them from the police. There he is attacked mercenaries who retrieves Jackie's head to bring back as proof of his death. Dwight nearly drowns in the tar before Miho saves him. The two kill the remaining mercenaries, retrieve the head and return to Old Town. Meanwhile, Manute, an enforcer for mob boss Wallenquist, kidnaps Gail to force Old Town to surrender without a fight. It is revealed that Becky is the one who tells the mob of Jackie's death. Dwight offers to trade Jackie Boy’s head for Gail's life, and meet Manute's group in a narrow alley. As he detonates the grenade stuffed in the head, all the prostitutes, who have been waiting on top of the buildings on both sides of the alley, gun down the mob gang and kill Manute, leaving no witnesses. Becky escapes the onslaught.

"That Yellow Bastard (Part II)"[edit]

As Hartigan recovers in a hospital, he learns that Roark, Jr. is in a coma, the Roark legacy is in serious jeopardy and he will be framed for Junior's crimes. A grateful Nancy, who was denied the right to testify and vindicate Hartigan, promises to write Hartigan every week while he is in prison. Hartigan goes to jail, though he refuses to confess. He receives weekly letters from Nancy for eight years. One day, the letters stop arriving and he receives a severed finger instead. Worried that the Roarks somehow tracked down Nancy, Hartigan confesses to all charges, leading to his parole. He searches for Nancy and finds her at Kadie's Bar, where she has become an exotic dancer. As Hartigan realizes everything was a ruse just for him to lead Roark to Nancy, she recognizes him, runs off the stage and leaps onto him.

The two leave the bar in Nancy's car, pursued by a disfigured yellow man. Hartigan wounds him and the two stay in a small motel outside of town. Nancy confesses his love for Hartigan, who rebuffs her advances citing their significant age difference. The yellow man, who turns out to be Roark Jr., overpowers Hartigan and takes Nancy to the Roark farm. Hartigan gets to the farm, kills Junior and saves Nancy. Knowing that Senator Roark will never stop hunting him, Hartigan commits suicide to ensure Nancy's safety.

"The Customer Is Always Right (Part II)"[edit]

An injured Becky departs from a hospital, talking on a cell phone with her mother. In the elevator she encounters The Salesman, dressed as a doctor. He offers her a cigarette, calling her by name, and she abruptly ends the call with her mother, realizing that The Salesman is preparing to kill her.


Frank Miller makes a cameo appearance as a priest, while Robert Rodriguez makes a cameo appearance as a member of the SWAT team.


Proof of concept[edit]

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".[7] 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)[citation needed] to recruit Bruce Willis and others to the project.

Digital backlot[edit]

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.
Becky (Alexis Bledel) walking down a street. An example of the film's neo-noir atmosphere.

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.


See also: Shot-for-shot

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.[7] 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."[8]

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".[7] 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.[9]


Main article: Sin City (soundtrack)

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.

"Sensemayá" by Silvestre Revueltas is also used on the end sequence of "That Yellow Bastard". Fluke's track "Absurd" is also used when Hartigan first enters Kadie's.


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 Jackie Boy (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.[citation needed]

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.[10]


Critical reception [edit]

The film opened on April 1, 2005 to generally positive 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."[11] 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.[12]

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."[8] Online critical reaction was particularly strong: James Berardinelli placed the film on his list of the "Top Ten" films of 2005.[13] Several critics including Ebert compared the film favorably to other comic book adaptations, particularly Batman[14] and Hulk.[15] 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."[16]

Several reviews focused predominately 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."[17] Other critics focused on especially negative elements: "scenes depicting castration, murder, torture, decapitation, rape, and misogyny."[18]

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".[19]

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".[20]

Box office[edit]

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.[2]


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.[5] Graeme Revell's work in the film was honored with a Best Film Music Award at the BMI Film & TV Awards.[21]

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.[22] The film also received three nominations at the 2005 Teen Choice Awards:[23] Choice Movie: Action/Adventure, Choice Movie Actress: Action/Adventure/Thriller for Jessica Alba and Choice Movie Bad Guy for Elijah Wood.

Home media [edit]

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. 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,[24] 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.[25] 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mandell, Andrea (May 5, 2014). "GTY premiere of "Sin City" - Arrivals". USA Today. Retrieved July 18, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c "Sin City (2005)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved September 2, 2012. 
  3. ^ McDonagh, Maitland. "Frank Miller's 'Sin City'". TV Guide. Retrieved February 9, 2011. 
  4. ^ J.C. Maçek III (August 2, 2012). "'American Pop'... Matters: Ron Thompson, the Illustrated Man Unsung". 
  5. ^ a b "Festival de Cannes: Sin City". Retrieved December 6, 2009. 
  6. ^ "Cannes Film Festival (2005)". IMDb. Retrieved February 9, 2011. 
  7. ^ a b c "'Sin City' – Trivia". IMDb. Retrieved February 9, 2011. 
  8. ^ a b Ebert, Roger (March 31, 2005). "'Sin City' Review". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved February 9, 2011. 
  9. ^ Miller III, Randy. "Frank Miller's Sin City: Recut, Extended, Unrated". Retrieved September 23, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Rodriguez Quits DGA". Retrieved November 28, 2011. 
  11. ^ "Sin City". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 19, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Sin City Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved September 19, 2013. 
  13. ^ Berardinelli, James. "Review: Sin City". 
  14. ^ "'Batman' Review author=Ebert, Roger". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved February 9, 2011. 
  15. ^ "'Hulk' Review". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved February 9, 2011. 
  16. ^ "'Sin City' Review".[dead link]
  17. ^ Arnold, William (April 1, 2005). "Comic-book world of 'Sin City' gleefully revels in a disturbing gorefest". Retrieved February 9, 2011. 
  18. ^ "Teen's nose bitten off in row over 'Sin City'". The Sydney Morning Herald. July 18, 2005. Retrieved July 4, 2010. 
  19. ^ Dargis, Manohla (April 1, 2005). "A Savage and Sexy City of Pulp Fiction Regulars". Retrieved September 2, 2012.
  20. ^ Scott, A. O. (April 24, 2005). "The Unreal Road From Toontown to 'Sin City'". Retrieved September 2, 2012. 
  21. ^ "BMI Honors Composers of Top Movies, TV Shows and Cable Programs at 2005 Film/TV Awards". May 18, 2005. Retrieved January 11, 2013. 
  22. ^ "2006 MTV Movie Awards". MTV. Retrieved January 11, 2013. 
  23. ^ "FOX Announces Nominees for "The 2005 Teen Choice Awards"". The June 1, 2005. Retrieved January 11, 2013. 
  24. ^ Brew, Simon (April 13, 2012). "Sin City 2 has a title and a start date". Den of Geek. Retrieved May 21, 2012. 
  25. ^ "'Sin City 2' Adds Jaime King and Jamie Chung". Hollywood Reporter. November 17, 2011. Retrieved November 1, 2012. 

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