A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sin City is an extremely violent movie with constant, intense, and exceptionally graphic battles and all-out butchery and slaughter. Body parts are sliced off (and eaten, off-camera). People are wounded and killed in just about every possible way, including being electrocuted, stabbed, impaled, shot, dumped into a tar pit, and sliced up. There are severed heads and other body parts. There are references to child rape and cannibalism. The film also includes female nudity, strippers, prostitutes, sexual references, and sexual situations as well as frequent profanity, including "s--t" and "d--k," and the use of homophobic slurs such as "fag" and "dyke." Characters drink and smoke and abuse prescription drugs. They also lie, cheat, steal, extort, and violate as many laws as can be packed into one movie.
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What's the story?
Two of today's greatest stylists join forces in an audacious synthesis of graphic novel and movie set in a world where the villains are unspeakably evil, the heroes are compromised and overmatched, and the city is filled with corruption but the country is even worse. SIN CITY's three stories about heroes battling overwhelming odds circle around each other, amplify each other, and ultimately intersect. Marv (Mickey Rourke) is a gigantic brute of a man who likes to fight. He has one perfect night of love with a golden-haired prostitute who says she wants him. But the next morning, he wakes up to find her murdered. The world always seems incomprehensible and dreamlike to Marv, especially when he thinks he sees his Goldie again. But this woman says she's her twin sister. Marv knows -- he thinks he knows -- that justice requires him to kill the people who murdered his angel, no matter what the cost. John (Bruce Willis) is a cop about to retire. But he can't go until he finds a way to rescue a little girl named Nancy from a man who molests and kills children but is protected by the forces that control Sin City. And Dwight (Clive Owen) is a man who has angered his girlfriend's predatory and abusive ex-boyfriend (Benicio Del Toro). Their dispute will shred the fragile compromise between the corrupt cops and the gang bosses that allows the prostitutes to control their own section of Sin City.
Is it any good?
Robert Rodriguez and codirector Frank Miller (the writer/artist of the Sin City graphic novels) create a faithful, shot-for-shot rendition of each stunning panel. Hard, resolute voice-overs accompany stark, inky images. There are brief flashes and flutters of color -- red for brake-lights, a heart-shaped bed, a lightning-streaked sky, a sleek getaway car, and blood. There's also yellow for the golden curls of a dead prostitute and the jaundiced skin of a cowardly villain, whose toxic perversions have turned him the color of bile. This is a masterpiece of technique, bravura filmmaking with sure and complete mastery of tone, setting, and mood. A lesser cast would be lost, even invisible, but Rourke, Willis, and especially Owen are every bit as arresting as the images around them. Most of the female characters are more props than characters, but Rosario Dawson and Jessica Alba make strong impressions.
The film is overwhelming at times, intentionally keeping viewers off-kilter by combining grand heroics, stunning beauty, hideous grotesquerie, outrageous butchery, toughness and innocence, tragedy and comedy. This is a movie where a man's hand is sliced off, and then he slips on it like a banana peel. It exists precisely on the edge between exploitation and artistic statement, ultimately saving itself from toppling over with the sincerity of its tone, the beauty of its images, and the honor of its heroes.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the enduring appeal of such dark stories and characters and the way that codirectors Miller and Rodriguez use the settings and the camera to create mood and character.
How is this movie rooted in traditions of the "noir" novels and films of the 1940s and '50s?
How is the dark side of humanity shown in this movie? What is the purpose in showing such extreme violence? What would be gained or lost had the movie been less violent?
- In theaters: March 31, 2005
- On DVD or streaming: August 16, 2005
- Cast: Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson
- Directors: Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez
- Studio: Dimension
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 126 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sustained strong stylized violence, nudity and sexual content including dialogue
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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