In this essay I will compare the similarities and contrast the differences between two crime film openings. I will be comparing ‘Sin City’ and ‘The Bone Collector’. I will analyse the two film openings and see how they establish their own crime film genre. Genre is a way of categorising a film. From genre, producers are able to market their films to a target audience. With some films it is difficult to categorise them as a certain genre as they may contain more than one genre. A hybrid genre is a film which contains more than one genre.
An example of a hybrid genre is ‘Spanglish’ the genres in this film are comedy, romance and also drama. Most films nowadays are hybrid genre as they appeal to a larger audience. Some films contain more than two genres and it is difficult decide their genre. Quentin Tarantino often mixes many genres in his films and because of this we are unable to fit it into a certain genre. Some genres are almost the same and share many similar conventions. Horror and Thriller films share the similar conventions, both films have the death element; both genres have suspense, there are some sort of violence, a villain and are generally very dark.
Crime films provide the audience with excitement as well as fear. We do not know the criminals next move and this provides suspense. All these conventions are also in Thrillers and this is why crime films can be categorised as to thrillers. ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ is a famous crime film which stars Eddie Murphy. Another famous crime film is ‘The Untouchables’, this is regarded as one of the best crime films. Most crime films involve solving a mystery. The audience enjoy unravelling these mysteries in their heads. Most crime films use chiaroscuro lighting.
This lighting that is very dark, this creates a mysterious and eerie atmosphere. Crime films are nearly always set in urban settings. Most of the time it is raining and there are reflection of light off the road. There is often a female character who is weak and vulnerable, she needs protection from the male protagonist who is often strong and brave. Iconography is the visual signs in a film. Crime film iconography is police cars, blue flashing lights, guns, weapons, injured or dead bodies, blood, crime scenes and others. These signs show us that it is a crime film. Mise-en-scene means to ‘put in the frame’.
A film’s mise-en-scene includes lighting, colour, costumes, props, settings, actors, their gestures and their composition. The mise-en-scene in crime films is police uniforms, dark lighting, shadows, urban settings, police officers and others. Sound is important because sound creates a specific mood at a specific moment of the film. From the music we are able to tell if a good thing or a bad thing is going to happen. Sound is also important because it gives a certain sound to a certain thing, for example if a door closed we would hear a noise that would indicate to us that a door has closed.
Diegetic sound is sound from within the world of the film, e. g. dialogue. Non-Diegetic sound is sound which does not occur within the world of the film, e. g. music added to make the audience feel a certain emotion. Low-beat music would make the audience feel upset and give the impression that something is bad to happen. Upbeat music would make the feel happier and give the impression that something good is about to happen. Slow, low beat music often occurs in crime films, this is because it builds suspense, and sets the desired atmosphere. Most crime films follow a similar storyline but are told in a different way.
A typical crime film story is that some sort of crime is committed by a criminal and throughout the film the detectives are trying to solve the mystery. The messages present in crime films are that there is no point in committing a crime because you end up harming people and by the end of it you will get caught. V for Vendetta’ is subversive to the conventional representation of criminals and the government because we are led believe that V is committing his crime for a legitimate reason. In crime films there is always a criminal. The story is based around his wrongdoings.
As well as the criminal there is also a detective of some kind who is trying to catch the criminal. V is a ant-hero because even though he is committing crimes we sympathise with him because we believe he is committing his crimes for a good reasons and thus we end up on the ‘criminals’ side, this is common in a crime film. Suspense is important because it excites the audience and they are eager to know what the outcome will be. It keeps the audience going and majority may want to predict the outcome. Plot twist is when we expect one thing to happen but then suddenly a totally different thing happens.
This stimulates the audience and keeps them on the edge of their seats. Many films follow Todorov’s theory. Todorov’s narrative theory is that a story always starts with an equilibrium (forces are in balance/things are normal) which is then followed by a disruption (a problem which upsets the balance or equilibrium) then a chain of events then finally a new equilibrium. The Bone Collector follows Todorov’s theory. We know this because Lincoln Rhymes is doing his daily job, this is the equilibrium, the disruption occurs when suddenly the metal object falls on him.
The chain of events are witnessed when the female police officer (Amelia Donaghy) is trying to find out the clues the killer has left for them. The new equilibrium is present when the killer is eventually caught. Crime films often start with a disruption or a short equilibrium so they can engage the audience from right from the beginning. ‘The Bone Collector’ is a typical example of a crime film. It was released on 5th November 1999. ‘The Bone Collector’ was directed by Phillip Noyce who also directed ‘The Quiet American’.
The target audience is the older audience, but this also attracts the younger audience. The target age group of this film may be between 14-45. The older audience would enjoy unraveling the mysteries whereas the younger would enjoy the thrill of this film. Some may also be attracted due to the violence and gore which is present in the film. This film attracts both the black and white audience, this is because the out of the two lead roles in the film one is black and the other is white. Also there are many black fans of Denzel Washington and because they enjoy his films they would want to watch this film.
The same can be said about Angelina Jolie, there are many white fans of hers, and the fans of Angelina Jolie would want to watch this film. ‘The Bone Collector’ attracts the male audience more because of thrilling elements of the film. There are a quite a few disturbing methods of death in the film which would attract the male audience. But the role of Amelia Donoghy could attract the female audience because some women may want to be heroic and brave, just like her. However, some women may not be attracted to the film because of the violence which is portrayed in the film.
This also invites the people who enjoy thrillers. At the start of the film a police officer (Lincoln Rhymes) is doing his regular job, he is at a possible crime scene then he is severely injured as a large metal object falls on him and he wakes up paralysed on a bed. The mise-en-scene of The Bone Collector shows that it is a crime film. In the opening scene we see police uniforms, dark lighting, shadows, an urban setting, police officers these all show that it is a crime film. The iconography seen in the opening shows that it is a crime film.
Blue flashing lights, injured bodies, police officers and others, these all show that a crime film is about to take place. There are often exaggerated sound effects at the start of crime films these tell us a crime film is occurring. The editing is very effective, when lift falls on him; quick cuts are used, just after the takes are long which makes it thrilling event. A variety of shots are used for different purposes. At the beginning there is a wide shot which is used to establish the setting, and then suddenly we have a close-up of the male protagonist. A range of mid shots are also used.
Other shots which are used in the opening of the film includes wide shots, point of view shots, extreme close-ups, low angle shots and high angle shots. These are used all used for different purposes. The opening scene attracts the audience because the equilibrium is short and the disruption is appealing. During the opening credits blurry images of the crimes are depicted and this gets the audience thinking about what will happen in the film. The film begins with a wide shot of New York, this tells the audience that the film is taking place in an urban setting.
The camera slowly tracks from the glamour of the city to the barbed wire, from good to bad . Then we see Lincoln Rhymes (Denzel Washington) walks into the picture and there is a close up of him. This tells the audience that he will play an important role in the film and that he may be the main character in the film. Half of the screen is covered with Lincoln’s face and the other half is still the wide shot of the city, this shows that there is a relationship between him and the city. The camera then tracks again as we follow Lincoln Rhymes doing his job, we get involved into his activities and we feel closer to the main character.
We then see a close up of Lincoln struggling as he is trying to get through a tunnel, from this we see him struggling and the effort he is putting in. A point of view shot follows, this is to see what he sees. There is then a shot of metal objects above, this is important because we can see his surroundings. An over the shoulder the shot is used next, this shows us the relationship between him and the person he is seeing (the reflection of himself). The following shot is an extreme close up of Lincoln we see he is worried and that the reflection is disturbing him, his face looks hot and he is sweating.
Suddenly shots of the falling metal object are shown; this shows us that this is the disruption. The next scene starts with an extreme close up of Lincoln which then slowly tracks out to a mid shot which shows us this condition. There is then a wide shot of him in a care unit. This shows he needs medical help and that he also needs treatment. The opening of The Bone Collector is thrilling and this is an audience pleasure. When Lincoln enters the tunnel we are unsure about what will happen, this keeps the audience on the edge of their seats.
When Lincoln sees the reflection of himself we are trying to work out what is happening and then when the quick shots are used and this gives the audience an adrenaline rush and many people like feeling adrenaline. In The Bone Collector it is very dark and like most crime films chiaroscuro lighting is used. The surrounding areas have poor lighting and it is difficult to see. The film opening is very quite, with few loud sudden loud sounds, like when the metal object falls on Lincoln. In the opening there isn’t much dialogue, and we understand most of the story from the visuals.
Not much is said in the opening scene Sin City was released on the 1st of April 2005. It was directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez. Frank Miller was involved in the screenplays of the famous ‘Robocop’ trilogy and Robert Rodriguez was the director of ‘Once Upon a Time in Mexico’. Sin City also has a special guest director who is Quentin Tarantino. He has many famous films one of which is ‘Kill Bill’. The target audience for this film is people who are fans of the Sin City comic books, an audience that enjoy thrillers and crime.
This targets both the younger and the older audience. ‘Sin City’ attracts the white audience more as most of the main characters in the film are white. At the start of the film we see a female character who seems to be the femme fatale overlooking the city from a balcony, she is dressed like a typical femme fatale character. She is at a party when a man approaches her. He claims that he loves her and after a bit of flirting, they kiss. Unexpectedly the man shoots the women, he appears to be assassin. From there the opening credits of the film take place.
In the opening scene of the film we are lead to believe that the film is indeed a romantic film because the two characters are flirting and the male character tells the female character that he loves her, they kiss as well and also the atmosphere that surrounds the characters seems to be a romantic one. These signs indicate to us that a romantic film is about to take place. The shots are effectively used and they help the audience to understand the story better. The first shot of the film is a high angle long shot which allows the audience to realise that this is an urban setting, and making them see the dark, street style city.
In this shot a female character enters the shot; she seems too weak and attractive like typical femme fatale characters. A mid shot is used next and the male character joins the female character on the balcony. An over the shoulder shot is then used to show the relationship between the male character and female character. The male character then offers the female character a cigarette and there is a close up of her taking the cigarette which connotes bad health. There is then a close up of the male characters face, we should notice that chiaroscuro lights are used here, and his face is in half shadow which shows he has a dark or evil side.
The slow tracking on the two characters, as he lights her cigarette, indicates that something is going to happen; this makes the audience feel closer to the characters and makes us more interested about their relationship. The pair then kiss and a comic book style shot is used here, this shot is long shot. This shot is effective because it makes them seem isolated from everything else and that these two characters are the only important thing in the whole city. After the comic book style shot a close up of the two characters occurs, this shows the closeness between them.
The shots here are brilliantly used, a close up is used to make us think that the couple are in love but then a we here a gunshot sound and we are unsure what it is, the female character rests her head against the male characters head. We are unsure about what has happened. Then the male characters gun slowly moves into the picture and there is a close up of it. We then realise the he has shot her. A high angle shot follows the murder. This makes the female character look weak vulnerable in her death. The camera then tracks out in a spirally way, and the buildings turns into the words ‘Sin City’, it then gets covered in blood.
From this scene we should understand that we should expect the unexpected. In the next scene we see a main character, Hartigan. The scene starts with a mid shot of Hartigan driving his car; we see that and his surroundings. The surroundings are very dark and chiaroscuro lighting is used, it shows it as urban setting. A close up of his badge, to show us that he works for he police. While Hartigan is talking the camera is slowly tracking in, the camera gets closer to him and as an audience we feel closer to him. Hartigan then steps out of the car and there is a long shot of the two police officers, this shows the relationship between them.
In this shot we should also notice the background; it is an urban, industrialised city. There is then an over the shoulder shot of Hartigan and his partner in the background, the camera again slowly tracks into Hartigan’s face, the camera might be tracking in to emphasise his expression, we can tell from his face that he is extremely angry and that his partner is really frustrating him. In a rush of blood, Hartigan punches his partner and when he does that, a mid shot is used, this is used to show the impact of the punch. We see how both Hartigan and his partner react when this shot is used.
After the punch a high angle over the shoulder shot is used. We see the effect of Hartigan’s punch as his partner is lying on the floor unconscious in the background. We also see the determination on Hartigan’s face, we can see from his face he desperately wants to save Nancy Callaghan In the next scene we see Nancy Callaghan tied to a chair, the door then opens and we from a low angle shot we see the shadow of the villain. The shadow is large and it looms over Nancy, making him look superior. We then move to a close up Nancy’s face.
From the close up we can see how scared she is, and she is showing a lot of fear. Next, we see a high angle shot of Hartigan, showing he has a lot to do, he moves from the light to the darkness, which shows something bad may happen. We next see a close up of Hartigan when he says he has a “wicked spot of indigestion”, this shows us the pain he is in. A high angle shot of two criminals, this makes them look vulnerable and may hint out something bad will happen next. A wide shot is used and Hartigan’s shadows is made to look large making the two criminals look inferior to him.
He then hits them with a metal pole. Hartigan is struggling, lying on the floor, he pulls out his gun and as he struggles to get up a low angle shot is used, this makes him look powerful for one last time, showing that he may be victorious. The mise-en-scene shows a dark setting with the colour red sticking out and playing a fundamental role in the opening. The female characters has a red dress and she is wearing red lipstick, the brightness of this red is exaggerated which shows that the connotations of the red must be important. The connotations could be the, love or the bad thing blood.
We would suspect that this red connotes love; this would make us believe that it is a romantic film. We see the male character dressed in a suit and the female character is dressed in a dress. These icons are normally shown at the start of romantic films not crime films; this would lead us to believe that this is a romance. Before anything happens we hear romantic music which are common signs of a romance. The editing is cleverly use; we have a comic book style moment. Everything is black and white and it’s in graphics, during the moment of intimacy between the pair which shows its importance.
When the assassin shoots the female character we begin to wonder what is going on. But when the camera tracks out and the city turns into the words ‘Sin City’ and then it is covered in blood red we then realise this could be a crime film. Also the music during this happening would indicate that a crime film is occurring. The directors have chosen to ‘fool’ the audience because it makes the film more exciting. We don’t know what will happen next happen and this keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. It keeps the audience going and it keeps them entertained.
The directors have used a plot twist here. An unexpected thing happens and this is an appeal of the film. During the film the audience will now not be fooled as easily and they should expect the unexpected. This could be a warning for the audience given by the directors, to say that not everything is at seems. ‘Sin City’ is a very dark film, chiaroscuro lighting is used, and the theme of darkness is used in the opening. Only a few colours are used in the film. Most of the film is in black and white, this is related to film noir.
There are many shadows in the film. In the film there is often a narrator who is telling the audience what is going on. The narrator is the male protagonist of that scene. This helps the audience understand the story better. Film Noir isn’t regarded as a genre; it is more of a style of dark film which usually ends with an unhappy ending. Film Noir refers to the French term ‘Black Film’. This was identified French critics in the 1940s. Film Noir is a murky and gloomy style of film which reflected this style of film of fear within drama.
The film noir conventions present in the opening of Sin City are chiaroscuro lighting, dirty and gritty urban setting, rain, unhappy events, male protagonist narrates, femme fatale, and a weak willed male character. These indicate that Sin City resembles Film Noir. The comic book genre is represented in the film’s mise-en-scene when the two characters are kissing in the opening scene; a comic book style is reveled when the female and male are kissing. The whole shot changes to a comic book style drawing and this is really a great shot and you have to admire it.
Also in the opening credits it is shown in a comic book style. In the opening scene there is a lot to appreciate. The way the scene is shot the lighting used, the colours used (used to represent different things). Some people in the audience would appreciate and thus provide them with admiration for the film. But other things like the plot twists provide the audience with pleasure. When the male character shoots the female the audience is dumbfounded, we hear a noise but we do not know what it is, until we get the close up of his gun.
This is gets the audience on the edge of their seats and many people enjoy this aspect of a film. The pleasures gained from the opening of Sin City is the plot twist. This attracts the audience and keeps them guessing about what will happen next. Also the violence in the opening scene, when Hartigan is fighting off the enemies. There is usage of guns and this is pleasure which some of the audience may enjoy. Also the chase when the police officer is chasing the villain who is running of with the girl, this would keep the audience excited.
The similarities of the openings of The Bone Collector and Sin City is that they both have short equilibriums, and after the equilibrium both films have a disruption which hooks the attention of the audience. A variety of camera shots are used and both films share this. Both films are very dark and this creates a scary and an eerie atmosphere, both films use chiaroscuro lighting. They both establish their settings at the very beginning. The first shot of ‘The Bone Collector’ is a wide shot of New York, this tells the audience that this is an urban setting.
Urban settings often indicate a crime film is taking place. This also happens in ‘Sin City’ the film starts with a high angle wide shot of the city. While watching the woman walk into the picture, the audience also notices the dirty gritty urban city. The main differences are the colour, Sin City is black and white with few other colours and The Bone Collector is in colour. In Sin City a plot twist is used whereas in The Bone Collector a regular introduction is used. The Bone Collector has the typical conventional opening it has not got anything extra which makes it unique.
A crime film audience would defiantly find the Sin City opening more satisfying. It captures the direct attention of the audience and immediately hooks them into the film. The plot twist is used very well and is very effective. I think Sin City is more effective. The plot twist is used very well and it captures the attention of the audience due to the sudden unexpected event. But with The Bone Collector it’s all too simple and too conventional there is nothing that captures the direct attention of the audience.
The metal object falling on the police officer cannot be compared to the assassination. Also the shots that are used in ‘Sin City’ are more effective and the shots chosen tell the story better. There is a wider shot range in ‘Sin City’ and certain shots are used for certain reasons to help the audience understand the story. For example, in ‘Sin City’ there is slow tracking into characters, although this isn’t obvious, this still makes us feel closer to the characters. Also quite a few over the shoulder shots are used; this represents the relationship between two characters.
In ‘The Bone Collector’ everything is all too conventional; there is no originality to the opening. Furthermore, from the opening of ‘Sin City’, I find the opening storyline much more interesting and the narrative hook in the film is much more useful, it is like ‘Sin City’ fits in its own crime film genre. The audience would also find the opening of ‘Sin City’ more attracting because it is unique and something different. Many crime films follow Todorov’s theory and this is becoming to common this is why I find ‘The Bone Collector’ less effective.