Sin City (film)
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Theatrical release poster
|Edited by||Robert Rodriguez|
|Box office||$160 million|
Sin City (also known as Frank Miller's Sin City) is a 2005 American neo-noir crime anthology film written, produced, 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 an ex-convict who embarks on a rampage in search of his one-time sweetheart's killer. The Big Fat Kill follows a private investigator who gets caught in a street war between a group of prostitutes and a group of mercenaries, the police and the mob. That Yellow Bastard focuses on 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. 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".
"The Customer Is Always Right (Part I)"
The Salesman walks onto a penthouse balcony where The Customer looks out over Basin City. 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 kiss and he shoots her; she dies in his arms. He says he will never know what she was running from but that he will cash her check in the morning.
"That Yellow Bastard (Part I)"
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 corrupt partner, Bob tries to convince Hartigan to walk away; Hartigan knocks him out.
Hartigan, experiencing pain from a bad heart, heads into the warehouse where Roark Junior and several henchmen are holding Nancy. Junior shoots Hartigan in the shoulder and tries to escape. Hartigan catches up and shoots off Junior's ear, hand and genitals. Bob, now recovered, shoots Hartigan in the back. As the sirens approach, Bob leaves and Nancy lies down in Hartigan's lap. Hartigan passes out, reasoning his death is a fair trade for the girl's life.
"The Hard Goodbye"
After a one-night stand, Marv awakens to find Goldie has been killed while he slept. He flees the frame-up as the police arrive, vowing to avenge her death. 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. Marv kills the priest but is then attacked by a woman who looks like Goldie, which he dismisses as a hallucination.
Marv goes to the Roark family farm and is subdued by the silent stalker who killed Goldie. He awakens in the basement to find Lucille has been captured after looking into his story. She tells Marv that the killer is a cannibal and that Goldie was a prostitute. He learns that the killer's name is Kevin and escapes. Lucille is shot by the leader of a squad of corrupt cops. Marv kills the cops except for their leader, whom he interrogates. He learns 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, the attacker Marv previously dismissed as a hallucination. Once he convinces Wendy that he is not the killer, the two return to the farm where Marv kills Kevin. He confronts Cardinal Roark, who confesses his part in the murders. Kevin was the cardinal's ward; the two men ate the prostitutes to "consume their souls". Marv kills the cardinal but is then shot and captured by his guards.
Marv is taken to a hospital where cops threaten to kill his mother, to get him to confess to killing Roark, Kevin and their victims. He is sentenced to death in the electric chair. Wendy visits him on death row and thanks him for avenging her sister. Marv is then executed.
"The Big Fat Kill"
Shellie is being harassed by her abusive ex-boyfriend Jackie Boy and his cronies. Her boyfriend, Dwight violently warns him to leave Shellie alone. Jackie Boy and his cronies flee to Old Town. Dwight follows and sees them harass Becky, a young prostitute. Gail, the prostitutes' leader and Dwight's on-and-off lover, also witnesses the scene. When Jackie Boy threatens Becky with a gun, Miho, a martial arts expert, kills Jackie Boy and his friends. They realize Jackie Boy is actually Detective Lieutenant Jack Rafferty of the Basin City Police, considered a "hero cop" by the press. If the cops learn 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, where he is attacked by an ex-IRA mercenary hired by mob boss Wallenquist. He nearly drowns in the tar before Miho saves him. The mercenary flees to the sewer with Jackie Boy's severed head but Dwight and Miho retrieve it and return to Old Town. Meanwhile, mob enforcer Manute kidnaps Gail. Becky, threatened with the death of her mother by the mob, betrays the prostitutes. Manute prepares the mob's invasion of Old Town. Dwight trades Jackie Boy's head for Gail's freedom but the head is stuffed with explosives; Dwight detonates it, destroying the evidence and Gail's captors. The other prostitutes gun down the mercenaries while Becky, injured in the fight, escapes.
"That Yellow Bastard (Part II)"
Hartigan is recovering in a hospital when Senator Roark informs him that Junior is in a coma and the Roark legacy is in serious jeopardy. Hartigan will be framed for Junior's crimes; if he tells anyone the truth, they will die. A grateful Nancy promises to write letters every week while he is in prison. Hartigan goes to jail, though he refuses to confess. He receives a weekly letter from Nancy, as promised. After eight years, the letters stop and he receives a severed finger instead. Hartigan confesses to all charges, leading to his parole, and searches for an adult Nancy, not knowing he is being followed by a deformed, yellow man. He eventually finds her at Kadie's Bar, where she has become an exotic dancer.
He realizes he was set up to lead the yellow man to Nancy and the two escape in Nancy's car. Hiding in the trunk of Hartigan's car, the deformed man returns, revealing himself as Roark Junior, disfigured by years of surgery to regenerate his body parts. Junior attacks Hartigan and takes Nancy to the Roark farm to finish what he started eight years before. Hartigan follows and fakes a heart attack, giving him a chance to kill Junior. Knowing that Senator Roark will never stop hunting them, Hartigan commits suicide to ensure Nancy's safety. Again, he justifies his life for Nancy's as a fair trade.
"The Customer Is Always Right (Part II)"
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.
- Jessica Alba as Nancy Callahan
- Makenzie Vega as Nancy (age 11)
- Devon Aoki as Miho
- Alexis Bledel as Becky
- Powers Boothe as Senator Roark
- Rosario Dawson as Gail
- Benicio del Toro as Det. Lt. Jack "Jackie Boy" Rafferty
- Michael Clarke Duncan as Manute
- Rick Gomez as Douglas Klump
- Carla Gugino as Lucille
- Josh Hartnett as The Salesman
- Rutger Hauer as Cardinal Patrick Henry Roark
- Jaime King as Goldie and Wendy
- Michael Madsen as Bob
- Brittany Murphy as Shellie
- Nick Offerman as Burt Schlubb
- Clive Owen as Dwight McCarthy
- Mickey Rourke as Marv
- Marley Shelton as The Customer
- Nick Stahl as Roark Junior
- Bruce Willis as Det. John Hartigan
- Elijah Wood as Kevin
- Tommy Flanagan as Brian
- Lisa Marie Newmyer as Tammy
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 four separate stories.
The soundtrack was composed by Rodriguez, 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, and 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.
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.
The film was released on DVD on August 16, 2005.
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 251 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 4/4 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", the overwhelmingly dominant themes of violence against women, typically of an exploitative or sexualized nature. 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 50%. 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.
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 failure.
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. In November 2019, Deadline reports that Legendary Pictures bought the rights for the television series and are developing both a live action and animated series of Sin City with both Miller and Rodriguez in talks to work on the series as executive producers.
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