Sin City (film)
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Theatrical release poster
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".
"The Customer Is Always Right (Part I)"Edit
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, implying she had paid him to kill her.
"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. When 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"Edit
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 killed 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"Edit
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, almost injured in the fight, escapes.
"That Yellow Bastard (Part II)"Edit
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 by emasculating him and beating him to death. 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)"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.
- 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
Proof of conceptEdit
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 Edit
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 Edit
"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.
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