NOTE: This spoiler was sent in by Taller94 who calls it a... "High-octane, bloody, kick-ass affair. Visually stunning, with enough grit and hard-boiled dialogue to make Dashiell Hammett roll over in his grave. Since this film is split into three sub-stories, I'll go through each of them. "The Hard Goodbye" is easily the best, "Big Fat Kill" slows things down a bit, and "That Yellow Bastard" is tragic and satisfying.
The film opens upon a balcony overlooking Basin City (aka "Sin City") where we see a young blonde woman (Marley Shelton), wearing a red dress, step out and look over the edge. A young man in a tuxedo (Josh Hartnett) comes up behind her and his voiceover begins. (By the way, these two characters are known in the credits as "Customer" and "Salesman," the girl and the guy, respectively) Salesman describes the girl before asking her if she wants a cigarette. Customer takes a cigarette, Salesman lights it for her, and they engage in a conversation about why they're here. Salesman says he didn't come for the party, he came for her. They kiss, and during a close, tender embrace, Salesman shoots Customer with a silenced gun. He holds her until she dies, and then says he'll cash her check in the morning.
The credit sequence begins, and each cast member is represented by his or her comic counterpart, to give us a better idea about how close the filmmakers got to the cinematic representation of Frank Miller's work.
The film kicks back up again with Hartigan (Bruce Willis), driving his car down a road. He narrates about how he has one hour until he retires from the police force, and he's looking forward to the simple life. But he's got one last loose end to fix. He meets up with Bob (Michael Madsen), his partner, and we discover that Hartigan is after a kid named Junior (Nick Stahl), who's the son of Senator Roark, the most powerful man in Basin City. In fact, the Roark family basically owns the town, more of a sinister, blood-driven and power-hungry version of the Kennedys. Junior is a child molesting rapist/murderer and has taken an 11-year-old girl named Nancy Callahan hostage. Bob tells Hartigan to forget it, and even makes comment that Hartigan is pushing 60 (even though Bruce Willis is nowhere near that old) and has a heart condition called angina. When Bob threatens to stop Hartigan, Hartigan simply punches him out. "Hell of a way to end a partnership, hell of a way to start retirement," he quips.
We see young Nancy tied to a chair in a dark room in a warehouse, as Junior approaches and tells her to not worry, that they're just going to talk. Hartigan sneaks up behind two of Junior's thugs and knocks them out with a pipe, but all the excitement causes his heart to seize up. He falls to the ground, clutching his chest, but realizes he must save Nancy, so pulls out his firearm, regains his strength, and goes after Junior. When he enters the warehouse, Junior grabs Nancy and shoots Hartigan in the shoulder. Hartigan bleeds, but the bullet doesn't slow him down. He pursues Junior until they are on the edge of a pier. Hartigan tells Junior to let the girl go, and Junior replies that Hartigan can't do a thing, because his father is the senator. Hartigan replies by shooting Junior's left ear off. Junior screams, falls to the ground, and lets Nancy go. Hartigan tells Nancy to close her eyes, just as Junior shoots Hartigan again, in the other shoulder. Hartigan steps close and shoots off Junior's gun hand, followed by his other "weapon," his testicles. As Junior writhes in pain, Hartigan gets shot in the back four times. When he falls, the shooter reveals himself as Bob. He's planning to cover up the whole thing, and kill Nancy, but Hartigan works up the last bit of his strength, and tries to pull his gun up. He's actually just stalling, until the police arrive on the scene. Just as Hartigan pulls up his gun, Bob shoots him again. Then, Hartigan hears the police sirens, and realizes that Nancy is safe. Hartigan then passes out, and seemingly dies, but that's not to be...
The Hard Goodbye
The first story is about an ugly street fighter named Marv (Mickey Rourke). When we first see him, he is thrilled as hell as a beautiful woman named Goldie (Jaime King) offers herself to him. They spend the night together, getting drunk and having sex. As they sleep, someone enters the apartment. When Marv awakens, he finds Goldie dead. She was killed while he slept next to her, drunk. Marv considers his next plan of action, just as he hears police sirens approaching. That's when he knows he's been set-up. It's too damn fast for anyone except Marv and the killer to know Goldie's dead. Marv puts on his jacket, and stands by the door. When the police arrive, they threaten to bust down the door, but Marv decides to take action into his own hands, and busts open his own door, sending cops flying in every which direction. Marv escapes from the cops, and jumps out of a high window and lands in an alley. When a squad car speeds down the alley, Marv jumps through the windshield, killing the two cops, then drives the car off a pier. He swims underwater, and into a large drainage pipe. He pulls himself out of the sewers, and breaks into an apartment. It belongs to Lucille (Carla Gugino), Marv's lesbian parole officer, who walks around topless, and gives Marv pills to call him down. Marv explains to her what happened, and tells her that he's out for blood, just like in the old days. He leaves, and heads to a sleazy bar, where an older Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) dances on the stage. Marv orders a drink from Shellie (Brittany Murphy), and calculates his next plan of action. He is suddenly accosted by two men, who point a gun in his back, and take him to the alley behind the bar. As they lead Marv outside, Marv gets the drop on them, killing one and seriously wounding the other. He keeps the wounded hitman alive, torturing him for answers. When the hitman finally reveals who employed him, Marv tells him thanks, and then shoots him in the head.
Marv continues his bloodhunt, drowning a man in his own toilet, and even dragging a man on the asphalt, face-down, as Marv speeds down a road. This leads him to a church, where he gets into a confessional. He talks with the priest (Frank Miller, the man himself), and tells the priest he knows he's behind Goldie's death and asks for a name. The priest finally reveals Cardinal Roark as the man behind it. As Marv leaves, the priest asks if all this bloodshed is worth spilling over a slut such as Goldie. Marv responds by shooting the priest three times from behind the screen of the confessional.
He steals the priest's car, but just as he is climbing inside, he is run over by a girl in a sporty convertible, who shoots at him as well. The girl is Goldie, or at least looks like her. She finally drives away, as Marv questions whether he's seeing things or not.
Marv makes his way to the "farm," an estate owned by the Roarks, where many bad, bad things happen. Marv comes upon a large dog, which attacks him, but Marv knocks the dog out. He sees that the dog was chewing on a bone, large enough to be a femur. Just then, he is attacked by Kevin (Elijah Wood), a silent kid who kicks Marv's ass all over the farm. Marv realizes that Kevin is the killer, because he was so quiet sneaking up on him just then; only someone that quiet could have gotten into Marv's apartment and offed Goldie. Kevin finally takes a sledgehammer and knocks Marv out cold.
Marv awakens inside some makeshift prison on the farm, where five female heads are mounted on the wall, like trophies. He turns around to find Lucille, naked, sitting in the corner, petrified. She explains that Kevin keeps the heads, but eats the rest. Marv goes over and puts his coat around the shivering Lucille, who reveals that Kevin has eaten off her left hand. She screams, but Marv calms her down by giving her a cigarette. While Marv tries to find a way out, Lucille reveals that Goldie was a hooker. Marv said he had no idea, but claims that it changes nothing; she deserves venegeance. He finally busts through the wall, allowing himself and Lucille to escape. Just then, a team of mercenaries arrives on the scene, armed to the teeth, searching for Marv. He plans to confront them, but Lucille knocks him out, and decides to reason with the mercs. She walks over to the head merc, and explains that they don't need to shoot Marv, he wasn't the one. The head merc responds by shooting Lucille numerous times with his machine gun. Marv finally reveals himself, and fights off the mercs and kills them with a hatchet (even striking one of the mercs in the testicles).
Marv arrives back in Basin City, and walks through the pouring rain. He considers the possibility that maybe he's imagining all of this, that he has a condition where he has problems distinguishing reality and imagination. He finally heads to Old Town, the red-light district of Basin City, going off of Lucille's tip. He asks the girls for information about Goldie, most importantly, what she was running from in the first place. Just then, Goldie confronts Marv and shoots him in the head.
Marv survives though, and wakes up in a room with Goldie and other hookers, including Gail (Rosario Dawson). Goldie beats Marv, who's tied to a chair, as Gail tells "Wendy" to let him have it. Marv asks Goldie why Gail called her Wendy, and he discovers that Wendy is Goldie's twin sister, and she believes that Marv killed Goldie. Marv explains the whole situation to her, and tells her that he's going to avenge her sister, no matter what. Wendy finally believes him, just as Marv loosens the ropes and gets out of the chair. Wendy realizes that Marv could have escaped at anytime, and simply took the beating.
Marv and Wendy head back to the farm, but before they go, Marv gets a few supplies (i.e. handcuffs, rubber tubing, hacksaw, etc.) They finally arrive back at the farm, and Marv sees Kevin inside the farmhouse. He sets up his traps, and then throws a flaming gas can inside the farmhouse, causing it to explode. Kevin jumps out just in time, and pursues Marv. He oversteps all of Marv's traps, and gives him a beating. But Marv finally handcuffs himself to Kevin, immobilizing him, and allowing him to knock Kevin out cold. Wendy walks over to plug the unconscious Kevin, but Marv knocks her out as well. He takes her back to the car, and then goes back to work on Kevin. He talks to Kevin, who remains composed, relaxed, and still silent, and explains that he's going to loosen one of the tourniquets. The audience then sees that Marv has chopped off all of Kevin's appendages, and leans against a tree, the bloody stumps tied with tourniquets, so Kevin doesn't bleed to death. Marv calls over Kevin's dog, which starts to eat one of Kevin's severed stumps. Marv comments how Kevin didn't scream once, or show any type of emotion, even after he cut off his head.
Marv drives back to Basin City, and leaves the unconscious Wendy with Nancy, at her place. Marv then goes to Cardinal Roark's house, kills a few guards, and finally makes it into the Cardinal's bedroom. The Cardinal (Rutger Hauer) is horrified when Marv reveals Kevin's severed head. Roark goes on to explain how Kevin came to him originally, because he was tormented by his desire to eat (in other words, dealing with life as a cannibal). Roark even admits he participated as well. He tells Marv that they had already eaten five (the five heads on the wall in the prison), and that Goldie was next. He says that hookers were easy, because no one misses them. Roark then explains that Goldie only offered herself to Marv because she was on the run and felt that Marv could protect her. Marv kills Roark, just as more guards enter the room, and shoot Marv full of holes.
Miraculously, Marv survives, and goes on trial for Roark's murder. He has to endure beatings by police, trying to make him sign a confession, until finally, the judge sentences him to the chair. While in jail awaiting execution, Wendy arrives, and kisses Marv. Marv calls her Goldie by accident again, and apologizes, but Wendy says that it's all right, that he can call her Goldie if he wants. Finally, Marv is placed in the chair, and it takes many unsuccessful attempts, before Marv is finally electrocuted to death.
The Big Fat Kill
This story is about Dwight (Clive Owen), a career criminal with a new face. He's staying with Shellie, his new girlfriend, at her place, as one of Shellie's old boyfriends, Jackie Boy (Benicio Del Toro), comes over and demands to be let in. Dwight hides, as Shellie lets Jackie Boy and four of his "troops" enter the apartment. Jackie Boy and Shellie yell it out, until Jackie slaps her across the jaw. He then goes into the bathroom to pee, and as he is urinating, Dwight steps out of the shower, pulls back Jackie's hair, and holds a straight razor near his eye. He threatens Jackie Boy that if he ever touches Shellie again, he'll basically cut his dick off. To make sure the message was received, Dwight shoves Jackie Boy face-first into the toilet, and tries to drown him a bit. But Jackie Boy lives, pulls his head out of the toilet, vomits up what can only be his own urine, and looks around for Dwight. He finds nothing, then gathers the troops, and leave Shellie's. Shellie looks out the window, and sees Dwight standing on the edge. She apologizes to him, claiming she only slept with Jackie Boy once. Dwight tells her he's going to make sure Jack never hurts another girl again, and jumps off the edge. Shellie yells something to him, but since a helicopter was passing overhead, he hears what he thinks is "Stop!" (Important later)
Dwight follows Jackie Boy and his cronies, as they head to Old Town. Since Jack was driving so recklessly, he is followed by a cop, who turns around once they reach Old Town and drives back towards the city. We learn that the prostitutes, who are as armed and deadly as any army, run Old Town.
Dwight meets up with Gail, and reveals he followed Jackie Boy to Old Town to make sure he didn't hurt any of the girls. But Gail explains that they can take care of themselves. Just then, Jackie Boy is trying to pick up Becky (Alexis Biedel), a young hooker, who explains that she works the dayshift and isn't for sale for the night. Above them, a hooker named Miho (the absolutely stunning Devon Aoki), who wields a pair of samurai swords, watches. When Jackie Boy finally gets fed up and pulls a gun on Becky, Miho responds by flinging a swastika-shaped throwing star, cutting off Jackie Boy's hand. She then leaps down on top of his car, and kills his four troops with her swords. Jackie Boy picks up his gun, and tries to shoot Miho. Dwight, for some reason, realizes something's not right, and goes over to try and tell Jackie Boy not to fight her, that she's too deadly. When Jackie Boy turns to Dwight, Miho throws a small, metal stopper into the barrel of his gun, so when Jackie Boy does take aim and fire, the gun blows back into his face, sending the barrel into his forehead, killing him. The girls and Dwight go through the dead men's pockets, and Dwight finds something truly devastating: a badge in Jackie Boy's coat.
We cut back to Shellie yelling something from the window, and we realize she didn't say "Stop!" but rather "He's a cop!" Gail goes on to explain that the girls of Old Town and the cops of Basin City have a truce, and it's currently a little shaky, but with Jackie Boy now dead, the truce will end. Dwight decides to clean up the mess, and asks for a car with a big trunk. The girls can only get a shaky car with a small trunk. So, Dwight has Miho use her swords and cut the bodies into pieces. Even with everyone dismembered, there's still not enough space in the trunk, so Dwight has to drive with the dead Jackie Boy in the front seat. Dwight decides to dispose the bodies in the local tar pits.
As Dwight drives to the pits, Jackie Boy suddenly comes back to life and talks to Dwight. He realizes that it's all in Dwight's head, and Jackie Boy keeps pushing Dwight's buttons. When they finally arrive at the tar pits, Dwight steps out of the car and is shot in the chest. He falls to the ground, dead...
Back in Old Town, Gail is apprehended by Manute (Michael Clarke Duncan), who holds her hostage until he and his associates get Jackie Boy's body back. She discovers that Becky ratted them out, because, as Becky claims, Manute was going to kill her mother. Gail is so angry, she takes a nasty bite out of Becky's neck, but doesn't kill her.
Back at the tarpits, a group of Irish soldiers find Jackie Boy's body, and go through Dwight's pockets. One of the men finds Jackie Boy's badge, with a bullet crushed against the metal. Dwight then suddenly comes back to life, and shoots the soldiers dead. One last soldier plants a bomb under the car, and sets it off. Dwight is blown into the tar pits. When he comes to, he finds more soldiers and the Irish bomb expert (I'll just call him "bomb guy" from here on out) hacksaws Jackie Boy's head from the rest of his body. Dwight slowly starts to sink in the tar, and realizes he's probably going to die, when an arm reaches down and pulls him free. It's Miho. She just arrived on the scene, with another hooker, and has killed the remaining soldiers with arrows.
Dwight, Miho and the other hooker, drive down the road looking for the bomb guy. They find his car on the other side of a hill, and drive straight into it, causing a severe wreck that sends Dwight through the windshield. Another fight, the other hooker (can't remember her name) gets killed, and Miho kills the Irishman who was driving. She confronts bomb guy, but he sets off another bomb, and blows Miho into the sky. Dwight shoots at him, but bomb guy escapes down a manhole, with Jackie Boy's head. Dwight follows, blazing his way to the bottom of the sewers, and confronts bomb guy, who sets off yet another bomb that sends Dwight flying to the other side of the sewer. Just when he's about to detonate one more bomb, Miho steps up behind bomb guy and sticks her sword through his chest, killing him. Dwight and Miho climb out of the sewer, and he explains what they are going to do. He contacts Manute, and offers a trade: Gail for Jackie Boy's head. Manute agrees.
They meet back in Old Town, and Manute and a small army carrying machine guns, confront Dwight, who holds up Jackie Boy's head, with tape now covering the mouth. Manute hands over Gail, as Dwight tosses him the head. Becky looks at the head, and yells to Manute that something is not right. Manute looks at the head, and realizes that Dwight stuffed it full of the bomb guy's remaining bombs. The head explodes, sending Manute and his army back a bit, but not stopping them. They aim their guns at Dwight and Gail, and are about to fire, when the girls of Old Town finally reveal themselves, atop the buildings overhead, and a firefight ensues. Manute and his army is killed, Becky is shot in the arm, but manages to escape. Dwight stands next to Gail, triumphant, as they kiss ferociously.
That Yellow Bastard
This is the rest of Hartigan's story, introduced in the prologue. As it turns out, Hartigan didn't die after all. He awakens in a hospital bed, and sees Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) standing at the end of his bed. Roark goes on about how Junior is in a coma, and might never come out of it. He's also pissed that Hartigan shot off any chance of Junior giving his dad grandchildren. Roark explains his reach of power, that he could shoot Hartigan right there and right then, and the entire hospital, filled with 500 people, would confess they never saw Roark near Hartigan's room. Roark tells Hartigan that he is paying all his medical expenses, including fixing his angina condition, so that Hartigan can spend a lifetime in prison. He will have Hartigan sign a confession, claiming that it was he who in fact raped Nancy.
Days pass by, and little Nancy finally shows up at the room. She expresses her gratitude to Hartigan for saving her from Junior, and tells him that no one will let her testify, or even check to see that she's still a virgin. Hartigan tells her that she can't see him anymore, that it's too dangerous. But Nancy is persistent, and says she will write to him, but address the letters as "Cordelia." Hartigan accepts the offer, and tells her to leave. Before she steps out the door, Nancy turns back to him and says, "I love you."
Hartigan finally gets out of the hospital, and is beaten into signing a confession, but refuses to sign. He then spends the next eight years in solitary confinement. But he finally receives a letter from "Cordelia," and at first, Hartigan thinks it will just last another two or three more letters before she forgets about him, but they keep coming, every Thursday, like clockwork. Until they stop. Hartigan starts to worry, going crazy, thinking that Roark finally got to Nancy. Then, one day, he is visited by a stinky, yellow man, who walks into Hartigan's cell and punches him out. When Hartigan comes to, he finds Nancy's letter, open, with a severed finger inside. Hartigan breaks down, and finally agrees to confess.
He is set free, and meets up with Bob, who insists that bygones be bygones (I didn't like this part; if I was Hartigan, I would have killed Bob right then and there). Here we learn that Hartigan's wife got remarried, and now has two kids. Hartigan goes to Nancy's house, but finds it empty, the doors open, everything scattered. He then goes to a bar, and asks Shellie the waitress where he can find Nancy Callahan. She tells him to look to the stage, Nancy's just warming up. Hartigan looks up and sees Nancy dancing a sexy dance, wearing next to nothing. He sees Marv sitting at the bar, watching Nancy as well. Hartigan then smells something awful, and turns around to see the yellow man, sitting in a booth, with a gun. Hartigan then realizes that it was all a bluff, the finger, and the forgotten letter. They drove him mad to sign the confession, to get out, and to look for Nancy. And when he found Nancy, they would find her too. Hartigan decides to leave, but turns back one last time to look at Nancy, and, in that moment, their eyes meet, and Nancy realizes who it is. She jumps off the stage, and immediately embraces Hartigan, and kisses him. Hartigan tells her that it was dangerous for him to come there, that he inadvertently put her in danger, and they have to leave. Nancy says she will throw on some clothes and they will leave. When Hartigan turns back around, he sees the yellow man is missing.
They head out of town in Nancy's car, and Nancy gives Hartigan a gun from under her seat. She tells him that there's so much she wants to say to him, but is cut off when a bullet tears through her back window, and through the windshield. It's the yellow man, following them, and shooting. Hartigan tells Nancy to keep the car straight, and stretches outside the door. The yellow man keeps firing, but Hartigan takes careful aim and shoots once, hitting the yellow man and forcing his car to flip over. Hartigan tells Nancy to stop the car, that he has to confirm the kill. He tells her to wait in the car, but Nancy says she's coming with him, that she feels safer when he's around. They inspect the wreckage, but find no body. Hartigan does notice yellow blood, which stinks and is splattered everywhere.
Hartigan and Nancy go to a motel, and relax. From outside in the car, we can see the yellow man hiding in the backseat. Nancy confesses her love for Hartigan, and asks him to sleep with her. Hartigan says no, he's old enough to be her grandfather, but Nancy persists, and tries to kiss him, but he pulls away. But he finally lets his feelings come over him and they engage in a long, romantic kiss, before Hartigan comes to his senses. She tells him she loves him, and he replies the same thing. Hartigan goes to take a shower, and hears what he thinks is Nancy come in, but the curtain pulls back and its the yellow man, who punches Hartigan to the ground. The yellow man asks if Hartigan can recognize his voice, since he looks different now. Hartigan replies that yes, he recognizes his voice. It's Junior.
Hartigan hangs from a noose tied to the ceiling fan, as his toes hang off a coffee table. Junior has Nancy tied up, and explains that since Hartigan blew off his balls so long ago, Junior's father went far and wide to get the best medical procedures available, since he wants grandchildren. But there were some side effects, namely the stench and the yellow skin and blood. Junior calls his cronies to come and finish off Hartigan, and set up for a "party." Hartigan tells Nancy that whatever she does, don't scream. That's the only way Junior can get off. Junior then kicks the table out from under Hartigan's feet, causing Hartigan to dangle from the noose. Junior takes Nancy and they leave. Hartigan tries to break free, but it's no use. He decides to just die. Then, snaps back into it, and swings and kicks out the window. He grabs some shards of glass and begins cutting away. The cronies arrive, but don't find Hartigan hanging from the ceiling. He suddenly jumps out of the shadows, knocks one of them out, and grabs the other, and makes him confess to where Junior is headed. The crony tells him the farm.
Hartigan arrives to the farm, and carries two guns and a switchblade, since he knows that he'll have to be quiet at first. As he heads towards the house, his chest suddenly seizes up on him again. He then coughs up some blood. He knows that this will be his last assignment.
Hartigan easily kills two guards, as he can hear whipping from within the house. Junior has Nancy tied up and whips her senseless, but she refuses to scream. Junior promises that he will make her scream, but is distracted when a gunshot rings out. Hartigan gets shot in the shoulder and falls to the ground, and is about to be killed by two guards, when he suddenly rolls over and shoots both guards dead. He then regains his strength, and makes it to the farmhouse. But his weakness returns, and he falls to his knees. Junior holds Nancy at knifepoint, and tells her that Hartigan is too weak to even raise the gun and shoot him. Hartigan says he can, but tries and fails. He apologizes to Nancy, just as Junior pushes her out of the way and goes to stab Hartigan. But before he can cut him, Hartigan pulls out the switchblade and shoves it in Junior's yellow stomach. Junior screams, as Hartigan knocks him to the ground. He then grabs Junior's balls and rips them off with his hand (very gruesome scene, lots of shrieks in the theater). Hartigan finishes the job by pounding Junior's head into the ground until there is nothing left. He then grabs Nancy and they leave. They get to the car, and Hartigan tells her to go, that he has friends on the way, and they are going to take Roark and the whole dynasty down. She says she can't lose him again, and he promises her she won't. They kiss again, another passionate, heartfelt embrace, and Nancy drives away. Hartigan narrates that he hates having to lie to her, and that there is no way he can take Roark down. When the senator finds out that his only son is dead, the vengeance will be swift and unmerciful. And Hartigan knows that they will try to get to him through Nancy. So, there is only one thing left to do. He puts the gun to his head and fires, killing himself.
We find Becky from "The Big Fat Kill" at the hospital, her arm in a sling. She is talking on a cell phone to her mother, and explaining that she is all right. She gets on an elevator, and stands next to a doctor, who is revealed as The Salesman from the beginning. He is now disguised, with glasses and a mustache. He turns to Becky, calls her by name, and asks if she wants a cigarette. Becky looks to him in horror, and tells her mother good-bye. She closes the phone, and the film cuts to black.
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