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Film / Chicago

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"In this town, murder's a form of entertainment."
Mama Morton

Chicago is a 2002 film directed by Rob Marshall based on a musical originally choreographed and directed by the legendary Bob Fosse in 1975. It is the story of Roxie Hart (Renée Zellweger), a wannabe cabaret star in 1920s Chicago. She sleeps around unbeknownst to her husband, Amos (John C. Reilly), but has a falling-out with one of her lovers, shoots him and is arrested for murder. In prison, she develops a rivalry with the star Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who allegedly killed her own husband and sister.

Roxie, through bribing the prison warden, Mama Morton (Queen Latifah), gets the best lawyer in town, Billy Flynn (Richard Gere). Billy is a smooth-talking trickster who has never lost a case. As tensions mount and the papers make Roxie a star, fame begins to go to Roxie's head. But the press will love her even more if she is found guilty...

It is a satire of celebrity trials, the press, and show business in general.

The film's cast also includes Christine Baranski as Mary Sunshine, Colm Feore as Martin Harrison, Taye Diggs as the Bandleader, and Lucy Liu as Kitty Baxter.

This film contains examples of:

  • '20s Bob Haircut: It's the Roaring Twenties after all. A lot of women sport this hair style, most prominently Velma and Roxie.
  • Accidental Misnaming: Part of the Batman Gambit is Flynn repeatedly calling Amos "Andy". He does get it right once or twice, during the "We Both Reached For The Gun" number and during the trial when Amos is in the witness box, much to the latter's delight — which ensures a positive testimony. He also does it to Roxie at one point.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: In the climax, the vaudeville's audience, including an amused Flynn, laughs when Velma and Roxie's sister act involves prop guns. Though it may turn back into disturbing for the viewers.
  • Adaptation Deviation: Mary Sunshine is played by a woman. In the stage musical, she is traditionally played by a man.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: In the film, Roxie is blonde and Velma is a brunette, the reverse hair colors of what most musical productions give the two characters. This is mostly because brunette Catherine Zeta Jones was approached to play Roxie, but wanted to be Velma instead.
  • Adaptational Badass: In the film, Amos isn't conned by Roxie into paying for Billy. He takes the initiative to do so, something that Billy lampshades: "Your devotion to your wife is very touching." The fact that this is badass shows how much of an Extreme Doormat Amos is.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy:
    • Played straight with the cops when they take Amos's statement. They're sympathetic on hearing that he shot a burglar that he assumed was assaulting his wife, and grab the Smart Ball when he admits that Roxie actually shot him.
    • Subverted with Roxie. She thought Fred really loved her and was heartbroken to learn he lied about having show business connections just to win a bet with a trombone player and tap her ass. Shortly after she shoots him, however, she shows no remorse about letting Amos take the fall for her murdering him and is more concerned about herself when the police reveal Fred had a wife and kids. With that said, she is much nicer to the Hunyak than she is in the play, showing sympathy for her situation especially when learning the other lady is innocent.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • In the stage show, Mary Sunshine is a naive reporter who misguidedly tries to see the good in everyone. In the film, it's implied she's a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing who is as corrupt as everyone else.
    • Fred Casely in the stage show was just a furniture salesman and a random one-night stand for Roxie. In the movie, he not only lies to Roxie about having connections in the entertainment industry to keep her interested, but is cheating on his wife and the mother of their five children. Not to mention that when she tries to cuddle him in disbelief, he slams her into the wall and says that if she touches him again, he'll kill her.
  • Age Insecurity: Implied in "We Both Reached For The Gun" — when a reporter asks Roxie how old she was when she arrived in Chicago, she glares at Billy in response and he makes her answer with "don't remember".
  • Alliterative Family: Velma and her sister Veronica, who she killed.
  • Alliterative Name: Matron “Mama” Morton, the Mistress of Murderess Row.
  • All Take and No Give: Amos and Roxie's marriage, with Amos as the Giver and Roxie as the Taker.
  • Alternate Show Interpretation: Unlike the eponymous theatre play, the film sets all but two of the musical numbers as part of Roxie's imagination.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Is the last musical number really happening, or is it yet another Imagine Spot?
  • Ambiguously Gay: Word of God is that Mama Morton is "kind of dykish" and there's a memorable scene where she calls Roxie "a pretty one" and strokes her hair. She also slips a pack of cigarettes into the garter of an inmate and slaps her thigh. And in the final performance, she's seen dressed in a tuxedo rather than a dress.
  • Ambiguous Syntax: During "Roxie," Roxie sings about how she'll go "from some dumb mechanic's wife to ROXIE!" She means she's the wife of some dumb mechanic, but given that she's something of a Brainless Beauty, it becomes a Stealth Insult to herself since she inadvertently called herself some dumb mechanic's wife.
  • Amoral Attorney: Billy Flynn, who manages to acquit two murderers that we know of (for extra chutzpah points, getting Velma's charges dropped in exchange for her testifying against Roxie, his other client!) and likely dozens that we don't. It's made clear that he's Only in It for the Money, but he's also willing to aid and abet antics such as Roxie's fake pregnancy (after she seduces the doctor in exchange for backing it up) and come up with a completely fake backstory for her (a Southern Belle misled into sin by the big city) to court public sympathy.
  • Anti-Climax: Roxie decries this in-universe, when her trial verdict does not make big news or lead to a great show biz career afterwards, because the media has become distracted by a new young female killer.
  • Anti-Hero: So many good examples, even though you usually end up liking their personalities.
    • Roxie killed a man for lying about having connections and knocking her halfway across the room.
    • Velma killed her husband and sister when she "caught them in the kip together."
    • All Billy Flynn cares about is money.
    • Matron Mama Morton shows extreme corruption.
  • Anti-Love Song: "Funny Honey" starts off as a straight if hypocritical—given the adultery and all—love song, but then becomes this once Amos realizes Roxie lied to him and was sleeping with Fred.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    • According to Velma, Roxie steals her lawyer, her publicity, her trial date, and... her garter.
    • Also, the reaction to Roxie's diary being presented as a last minute piece of evidence at her trial:
      Billy: My client has never kept a diary, and if she did this would be an invasion of privacy, a violation of the Fourth Amendment and illegal search without a warrant!
      Roxie: And she broke the lock!
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Invoked; in "Cell Block Tango" the first proper lyric is "He had it comin'!" although at least some of them (especially the guy who received 'two warning shots' for popping gum) are extreme cases of Disproportionate Retribution.
    • You probably won't feel very sorry for Fred Casely (though Roxie is no better person than him) or Kitty Baxter's husband either.
  • Attention Whore: Roxie
    Roxie: I’m a star! And the audience loves me. And I love them… And they love me for loving them, and I love them for loving me. And we love each other. And that’s 'cause none of us got enough love in our childhoods... but that’s showbiz, kid.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Billy Flynn gets both Roxie and Velma acquitted in the end, though they're quickly pushed out of the news by another similar crime, and driven into poverty while Roxie can only fantasize about the two of them teaming up to be a success.
  • Bait-and-Switch: At the start of "All I Care About", you see the silhouette of a well-dressed man getting his shoes shined. At first, you would think that this man is Billy Flynn, until the lights come up to reveal that Billy's the shoe shiner.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Roxie is obsessed with being famous, but defines it as "somebody everyone knows." She gets just that — without anybody caring they recognize her.
  • Berserk Button: Apparent in "Cell Block Tango", especially with the woman who shot her husband for popping gum too loudly.
  • Betty and Veronica: This could describe the relationship between Roxie and Velma towards Flynn's Archie.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: Matron "Mama" Morton provides the page image; her introductory song features her shaking her stuff in a burlesque-show sort of setting, flashing leg and bouncing her breasts to the approval of the audience and rattling off bawdy double entendres.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Hunyak, the Hungarian woman in prison, has a line during "Cell Block Tango" that is left untranslated. Considering that every other line is about women justifying murdering their loved ones because "he had it comin'!", you might be inclined to believe that her line is more of the same. In truth, she's innocent. Translated to English, what she says is:
    "What am I doing here? They say my famous lover held down my husband and I chopped his head off. But it's not true. I am innocent. I don't know why Uncle Sam says I did it. I tried to explain at the police station but they didn't understand."
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Mary Sunshine has hints of being this — she passes herself off as naive and optimistic, but she has a very shrewd expression a lot of the time, and, with the rest of the media, ditches Roxie when a hotter story comes along.
  • Black Comedy: Throughout.
    "And now, presenting Katalin Helinski with the famous Hungarian Disappearing Act!"
  • Black Vikings: Queen Latifah as Mama Morton. In 1920s America, there's no way that an African-American, no matter how smart and capable, would have been allowed to hold a position of authority over white people, no matter how dim-witted and degenerate. (Yes, even in Chicago: while conditions were far worse in the South—with Jim Crow and the KKK running rampant—it wasn't much better in the Northeast or Midwest.)
    • Not actually completely unbelievable. Those were the type of patronage jobs that political machines (usually Republican) in northern cities doled out to in return for African-American votes.
  • Blasphemous Boast: Billy Flynn has a nice one to Amos.
    Billy Flynn: I don't like to blow my own horn; but, believe me, if Jesus Christ had lived in Chicago today and he had five thousand dollars and he'd come to me things would have turned out differently.
  • Blatant Lies: Billy Flynn makes a career of getting defendants off by making up backstories for them and reinterpreting the evidence implicating them. And his motive? He's not in it for the money or glory; all he cares about is love.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: Flynn and Roxie both fire off a "The Reason You Suck" Speech to each other toward the end of the second act. Flynn calls Roxie out on being a dumb, common criminal who let her (temporary) fame get to her head and needs to wise up before she gets herself hanged, and Roxie retorts that he's just a sleazy lawyer who's Only in It for the Money. They are both right.
  • Bowdlerise: The soundtrack cover had the page picture... with the handguns digitally removed.
  • Cain and Abel: Velma kills her sister, because she finds her in bed with her husband.
  • The Cameo:
    • Lucy Liu as Kitty Baxter, an heiress who shoots her philandering husband.
    • Taye Diggs as the man who announces the songs in Roxie's heads.
    • Chita Rivera, the original Velma, is an inmate smoking a cigarette who Roxie has a brief conversation with when she first gets brought to prison.
  • Casting Couch: Roxie was sleeping with Fred Casely because he was lying about having connections in the show biz and finding her an act.
  • Character Tic: One of the women singing the Cell Block Tango lights matches and puts them out in rapid succession. She also murdered Bernie because he would pop his gum which got on her nerves.
  • The Chessmaster: Flynn turns out to be a man of his word, as he does get Roxie and Velma off for murder. Knowing that Velma's celebrity has faded for Roxie's, he exploits this by secretly creating fraudulent evidence to get Velma off, and uses the fraudulent evidence to instill even more doubt into the jury for Roxie's trial.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience:
    • All of the guilty inmates in "Cell Block Tango" are shown dancing under blood-red lights and brandishing cloth of the same color. The lone innocent inmate instead has a striking motif of white.
    • In "When You're Good to Mama," Mama Morton wears a shiny gold-colored dress with green silk stockings, symbolizing her greed and love of money. To make the connection even more explicit, there's a cut to the real world of the prison as Morton tucks a cash bribe into her bra. Her gesture of reaching down the front of her blouse slams back to the musical number, where the stage-Mama is drawing a bright green scarf from her cleavage.
  • Composite Character: While the musical (at least, in the revival) has members of the ensemble, and even named characters like Mama Morton, introduce each song, the film introduces the singular Bandleader for that purpose.
  • Coordinated Clothes: At the end, Velma and Roxie perform their singing and dancing routine in matching outfits. They start in a long white robes with fur and then strip it, each wearing a silver sexy dress. They have various props like hats or sticks shaped like guns. Their hair styles contrast wonderfully - both have a bob, but Velma has black and straight hair while Roxie's hair is curly and blond. See the video at YouTube.
  • Crapsack World: Chicago is a corrupt place where murderers become celebrities, the one innocent prison inmate is the only one to be hanged, and the most powerful lawyer in town can easily get criminals acquitted.
  • Crocodile Tears:
    • In "I Can't Do It Alone" Velma sings, "my sister is now, unfortunately, deceased. I know it's sad, of course..." with no signs whatsoever of sincere grief. Also, Velma is the one who killed her.
    • Roxie is trained to do this on the stand.
  • Damning With Faint Praise: Much of the song "Funny Honey" consists of this until it becomes a straight Anti-Love Song:
    He ain't no sheik
    That's no great physique
    And Lord knows he ain't got the smarts
    But look at that soul
    I tell you that whole
    Is a whole lot greater than the sum of his parts
  • A Deadly Affair: Most of the murders in the story happened because of this.
    • Roxie's murder victim was the man with whom she was cheating on her husband. In the play, he was breaking up with her.
    • The grounds for Velma, who walked in on her husband sleeping with her sister. She claims she did the deed in a fit of shock.
    • Annie found out the man she was dating was married with six wives.
    • Mona's homicide was learning her husband has several girlfriends and a boyfriend.
    • Kitty found her husband with two women in bed when she came home. She held them up with a pistol. Rather than calming her down or begging her to put the gun down, her husband asked if she was going to believe him or her own two eyes.
    • Inverted with June: Her homicide (self-defense, according to her) was spurred by her husband accusing her of Cheating with the Milkman.
    • Even the Hunyak, despite being innocent, is subjected to this, being accused of conspiring with her lover to kill her husband.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Roxie and Velma get their fair share of zingers in.
    Roxie: I was there that night you were arrested!
    Velma: Yeah? You and half of Chicago.
    Velma: [song: I Can't Do It Alone]
    Roxie: So... Where was the part where you blew her brains out?
  • Death by Irony: The Hunyak is the one woman on Murderess Row who is innocent of the crime she was convicted of, and the only one we see getting executed for it.
  • Death by Woman Scorned: A recurring theme in "Cell Block Tango" — Velma killed her husband and his lover (her own sister), Annie poisoned her boyfriend after finding out he was already married to six other women, and Mona killed her boyfriend after finding out he had three other girlfriends and a boyfriend.
  • Diegetic Music: One of the film's big innovations is that while every number is sung to an audience, none of them are sung to the audience: singers are either in a Show Within a Show, or the song is taking place as an Imagine Spot inside Roxie's head, making her the Surrogate Audience. Every number is diegetic music. By extension, this allows Chicago to have a Fourth Wall and adds to the credibility of the presentation.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: "So I fired two warning shots...into his head" for popping bubblegum too loudly.
  • The Dog Bites Back:
    • Velma is incredibly rude to Roxie when she first arrives in prison, so Roxie repays her in kind when she becomes the star.
    • Amos tries to do this to Roxie by testifying against her in court near the end, but Flynn manipulates him into forgiving her to gain sympathy for the jury. Though he does leave her after the trial is over, and got her arrested in the first place on learning she was cheating on him.
  • Domestic Abuse: Roxie is emotionally abusive to Amos; she belittles him constantly by calling him "stupid" and "dumb," and tried to get him to take the fall for Fred Casely's murder by saying he was a burglar and that Amos would be more likely to get off if he said he shot Fred. Unfortunately, Amos is smarter than she gives him credit for and tells the truth when he realizes Roxie cheated on him. By the end of the film, he has the sense to leave her, which at least means she can no longer hurt him.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: It's obvious that Amos is being emotionally abused and manipulated by Roxie all through the movie, even when they don't spend a lot of time together. The cops don't comment on it and focus on Roxie's angry confession.
    • The "Cell Block Tango" number. It's impossible to imagine six men being given a sexy/slightly humorous/empowering song-and-dance about how their wives/lovers deserved to die because of their infidelity.
  • Downer Ending: No-one in the audience gets what they want. Anyone supporting Roxie or Velma will be disappointed that they stay small-time. Anyone wanting them sent down will be sad they got off. Amos is still left with nothing apart from his regular mechanic job and a large debt to Flynn, and the only inmate who was innocent is the one who dies. The two most unsympathetic characters, Mama and Billy, get away scot-free. Billy Flynn's double-dealing destroys the career of the only non-corrupt ADA in the city.
  • Dream Sequence: Almost every song scene is actually Roxie's imagination. The difference between her daydreams and the reality are underlined a number of times.
  • Dripping Disturbance: A dripping tap is one of the noises Roxie hears as she tries to get to sleep on her first night in prison. It turns into part of the rhythmic accompaniment to "Cell Block Tango".
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: After Flynn gets Roxie off she immediately starts complaining about her lack of fame. He calls her out on her lack of gratitude for saving her life. She retorts that he got his $5,000 dollars. He concedes the point.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: Billy Flynn goes so far as to pay Mama to slip Roxie a bottle of peroxide to bleach her dark roots so he can present her to the press as an innocent flaxen-blonde victim.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Pretty much every character in the movie is some degree of evil or amoral, from the fame-hungry Roxie to the Woman Scorned Velma to the Amoral Attorney Billy Flynn to the greedy Mama Morton. The movie pits them all against each other for the spotlight and money that come with it. But the biggest indictment is of the public, whose sheep-like demeanor and love of scandal blinds them to the truth and makes them eager for blood and excitement instead of justice.
  • Extreme Doormat: Poor Amos just can't stand up for himself regardless of the situation. He's willing to take the fall for Roxie when she convinces him to do so, can barely get a word in edgewise with Billy when he goes to his office, and gets completely ignored by the press when Roxie announces her (fake) pregnancy. One of the film's more awesome moments is when Roxie's spotlight is stolen mere seconds after she's found not guilty; Amos, the one person who's been truly loyal to her the whole time, tries to comfort her, but she turns him away as she laments her lack of fame. Amos finally realizes Roxie is never going to change and walks out on her for good.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Amos has this reaction when he finds out that the dead man's name is Fred Casely at the beginning. He starts reasoning that a man who sold them their furniture wouldn't be a burglar. Amos then realizes that if Roxie lied to him about Fred being a burglar, then Roxie was seeing the man behind his back and murdered him.
  • Fake Faint: Roxie pretends to faint during her trial to play up her image as a tragic Broken Bird who was forced to kill in self-defense and drum up sympathy.
  • Fake Pregnancy: Roxie Hart fakes a pregnancy in order to gain public attention and sympathy leading up to her murder trial.
  • Feet-First Introduction: Velma. We first see her heels as she gets out of a taxi on her way to the Onyx. We don't see her face until she starts singing her "And All That Jazz" number over a minute later.
  • 15 Minutes of Fame: Velma Kelly's fame is almost immediately usurped by Roxie's. Roxie has to fake a pregnancy to stop the press from getting distracted by yet another murderess. And the second Roxie's trial is over, the media has already moved on to the next scandal.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: When Annie talks about meeting Ezekiel Young from Salt Lake City, his name and the location heavily hints he's a Mormon even before Annie reveals he had six wives.
  • Freudian Excuse: Discussed in Roxie's song. "I'm a star! And the audience loves me. And I love them. And they love me for loving them, and I love them for loving me. And we love each other. And that's because none of us got enough love in our childhood. And that's showbiz... kid."
  • Game Changer: In-universe, the Hunyak being executed is this. Despite the D.A. pushing for the death penalty for Roxie's case, almost no one takes it too seriously because no woman has ever been executed in Illinois. Even Roxie lets her fame get to her head and refuses to go along with Flynn's defense strategy. However, after the Hunyak swings, everyone at the prison becomes more subdued, and Roxie fearfully adheres to Billy's plan, since the stakes are now much higher.
  • Gaslighting: A really lame attempt was made by the husband of Kitty Baxter, Billy's newest client and a Hawaiian plantation heiress. Billy mentions that Kitty caught her husband in bed with two women, and she brandished a gun on them. As Kitty angrily confronted her husband, he told her he was not cheating on her, and when she screamed that he was in bed with two women right in front of her, he replies "what are you going to believe? What you see or what I tell you?" It doesn't work and she unloads her revolver on the three of them.
  • Gender Flip: In the stage musical, Mary Sunshine is eventually revealed to be a man dressed in drag. The film omits this gag and rewrites the character as an actual woman.
  • Gilligan Cut: When Mama Morton suggests that Velma suck up to Roxie due to the former's dwindling and the latter's thriving fame, she adamantly refuses... cut to the opening of "I Can't Do It Alone", where she does exactly that.
  • Girls Behind Bars: In "Cell Block Tango," the female inmates literally dance behind bars dressed in nothing more than bras, hot pants, fishnets, and a few artfully arranged black straps.
  • Got Me Doing It: When listening to Velma sing "I Can't Do It Alone," and performing it, film Roxie at first is bobbing along to the music. When Velma asks for her opinion, however, Roxie blows a raspberry.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: Ekaterina Chtchelkanova, a Russian, plays Hunyak, a Hungarian who speaks very little English other than "not guilty". Her lines are in Hungarian, but her pronunciation is terrible.
  • Groin Attack: Kitty Baxter to a reporter trying to question her.
  • Guilt by Association Gag: The one innocent person in "Cell Block Tango" is the one who gets killed. It's implied that the only reason she got blamed/killed in the first place is because no one understands her Hungarian, and it's said that she's the first woman in the area to get executed at all.
  • Gun Struggle: Roxie and Billy's version of the shooting.
    Billy/Roxie: He had strength, and she had none! And yet we both reached for the gun.
  • Hollywood Law: It's implied that one of the major reasons Hunyak is found guilty and executed is because nobody can understand her. In real life, it's mandatory that a non English speaking suspect has a translator during their trial.
  • Humble Pie: Roxie is acquitted, but moments later, a new heinous crime is committed and all the reporters rush out of the courtroom, leaving her all alone and without the fame and adoration she had been seeking.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • During the Cell Block Tango, the first singer opens with, "You know how people have these little habits that really get you down?" She shot her husband because he wouldn't stop poppin' gum. When we see her in the real world, she can't stop compulsively lighting matches.
    • The deleted song "Class" is a duet between Velma and Mama Morton wherein they complain about the state of the world and long for the politeness and formality of the past, framing everyone in society but themselves as "pigs and whores." They sing the number while half-undressed, smoking heavily, swearing like sailors, and generally acting as unclassy as possible—to say nothing of the fact that one of them is a murderess and the other a Dirty Cop who takes bribes from her inmates.
  • Imagine Spot: The songs, when they aren't performed on stage, are supposed to be figments of Roxie's imagination.
  • Implausible Deniability:
    • Two of the murderesses in "Cell Block Tango" deny things this way:
      "And then he ran into my knife. He ran into my knife ten times."
      "I was in such a state of shock, I completely blacked out. I can't remember a thing. It wasn't until later, that I was washing the blood off my hands, that I even knew they were dead."
      • Though to be fair to Velma, there is a decent argument that she was in a state of shock, and a manslaughter argument could be easily made. But most scenes surrounding Velma make it explicit that she was not.
    • The denial is made by a cheating husband while he's still in bed with two other women: "Who you gonna believe, your own eyes or me?"
  • Irony:
    • The only prisoner on Murderess Row to be executed throughout the course of the film is the only one who is innocent of the homicide she's alleged to have committed.
    • Velma Kelly sings a song about how she cannot do her double-act alone - while doing both her and her sister's part.
    • If the film finale is real, Roxie and Velma, who hate each other, are now bound to each other lest they fall from the spotlight. Additionally, Roxie has to rely on Velma despite Velma murdering her husband and sister despite needing them alive, and Velma must rely on Roxie despite Roxie viewing murder as a good way to get attention.
    • The duet "Class" from a deleted scene is a murderess and a corrupt prison officer sitting in jail, smoking and complaining about how nobody has any class anymore. They're also swearing liberally, and Mama has her sizable chest rather, uh, exposed, along with Velma's leg. In short, they're not acting classily for today, much less the 20s.
  • It's All About Me: Roxie, Roxie, Roxie. Case in point, when she learns that the man she murdered had a family, she feels more offense about being Fred's Other Woman than remorse on depriving children of their father. Her eponymous musical number features her basking in her own mirrored reflection when she's not surrounded by gorgeous men purring her name.
  • Jerkass: Nearly everybody, but the most prominent examples are unusual in that they're the ones you'd expect to be sympathetic: the murder victim, the detective who arrests Roxie, and the incorrupt assistant D.A.
    • Roxie's victim is a married man with kids in a relationship with a married woman, stringing her along by pretending to have connections, and then abruptly dumps (and hits) her when he's bored of her.
    • The detective refers to Amos as "Goofy" while he's present, acts rudely to everyone, and flouts the fact that Roxie will be hanged.
    • The assistant D.A. seems to push the death penalty for everyone, gets the innocent Hunyak hanged, and drops all charges on Velma Kelly, murderer of two, in exchange for testimony against Roxie Hart, murderer of one, just because the publicity's better.
  • Karma Houdini: In the end, Billy Flynn gets both Roxie and Velma acquitted of murders and receives no comeuppance for being an Amoral Attorney.
  • Kick the Dog: Roxie to Amos at the end. "What do you take me for? There ain't no baby."
  • Knitting Pregnancy Announcement: Invoked when Roxie is made to knit during her public trial to play up the claim of her being pregnant.
  • Lack of Empathy:
    • Mama Morton shows this during her song "When You're Good To Mama":
      So if there's something that upsets you, makes you unhappy in anyway... don't shut your fatass mouth off to me, because I don't give a shit. NOW MOVE IT OUT!
    • Billy Flynn also shows this toward Roxie during the trial, which can also double as a sort of Foreshadowing:
      You are a phony celebrity. You're a flash in the pan. In a couple of weeks, no one's gonna give a shit about you. That's Chicago.
    • Velma to Roxie, when they first meet. Roxie completely idolizes her, volunteers to do her laundry to get her approval, and admits she's terrified because the D.A. is pushing for the death penalty for her case. Velma offers this word of advice: "keep your paws off my underwear," and struts out.
  • Language Barrier: Katalin Halinski doesn't speak English, and it has tragic consequences. She's unable to testify about her husband's murder, is accused of it, found guilty and executed, even though she's innocent.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Velma dismisses Roxie when the latter shows admiration for her. Later on, when Roxie eclipses her fame, Velma asks Roxie to be part of her sister act, and Roxie turns her down.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Aesthetically, Roxie is the light feminine to Velma's dark feminine. Billy is even Genre Savvy enough to use their aesthetic to win sympathy with the public by playing up the trope, painting dark, sultry Velma as the tough broad who snapped and committed a crime of passion while passing off pale, delicate Roxie as a repentant Southern Belle who got in over her pretty little head and made a terrible mistake.
  • Lousy Lovers Are Losers: Kind-hearted but painfully meek Amos Hart is described as a "zero" in the bed department by his wife Roxie. Their marriage soon turns into a Sexless Marriage, with her constantly cheating on him.
    Roxie: He made love to me like he was fixing a carburetor or something.
  • Lovable Rogue: Roxie's a lying, scheming, glory-seeking, Jerkass murderess but still manages to be endearing at several points. Ditto for Velma (and Billy).
  • Love Cannot Overcome: For what little it's worth, Amos finally does leave Roxie to her fate after she gets acquitted. Not that she cares, except she no longer has the financial support he was providing.
  • Love Makes You Evil: We see eleven murders described and ten revolve around sexual jealousy (the other was just Ax-Crazy).
  • Madness Mantra: Pop, six, squish, uh-uh, Cicero, Lipschitz...
  • The Makeover: Roxie goes from dowdy housewife to "sweetest little jazz killer in town".
  • Male Gaze: Used intentionally in "All I Care About Is Love": Billy Flynn is singing about how all he cares about is love, and wants a girl with long hair and big eyes who needs him, while the camera is full of gyrating besequined butts.
  • Malicious Misnaming: Billy Flynn always calls Amos "Andy," except when it helps win Roxie sympathy for the jury. He also absent-mindedly calls Roxie "Trixie" when he's about to abandon her for a more juicy client.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Played with. Roxie pretends to be pregnant to gain the press and jury's sympathy. Her husband Amos is excited until it turns out that he couldn't possibly be the father of the child and gets very upset about Roxie being pregnant with another man's baby. It's Roxie's disclosure to him that she was never pregnant that prompts him to divorce her.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Roxie tries, though she's not as smart as most of the people she's trying to fool. She does manage to string her husband along through most of the film until he finally has enough at the end, and manages to hold the press's attention by pretending to be pregnant.
  • Mind-Control Music: “The Press Conference Rag” ends up having this effect on the journalists.
    Journalists: Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes they both, oh yes they both reached for the gun, the gun …
  • Miscarriage of Justice: Hunyak, the only innocent inmate, loses her last appeal and is hanged.
  • Mood Whiplash: "Funny Honey" goes from a sweet ballad about how Roxie feels about her husband, as he lies to the police to save her from going to jail, to a scathing tirade as he realizes the truth and rats her out. Of course, even the "sweet" part of the song has some Lyrical Dissonance.
  • Morality Ballad: "Press Conference Rag" poses as—and satirizes—this to sell Roxie's image as reformed sinner.
  • Moral Myopia: When all of the attention is pulled away from Roxie when another scandal overshadows her and she's no longer an "It" girl, she complains, but Billy says the one sincere thing he's said in the entire musical: "You're alive, aren't you?"
  • Musical World Hypothesis: The songs are either performed on stage or are supposed to be just figments of Roxie's imagination.
  • Never Trust a Trailer:
    • Most of the TV promos for the movie made Roxie look like a more sympathetic character whose actions really were in self defense.
    • In the trailer, Velma tells Roxie "keep your paws off of my lawyer," when in fact the real line in the film is "keep your paws off my underwear."
  • Not Helping Your Case: Roxie is prone to this.
    • The reason why Billy forbids her to talk to the reporters.
      Roxie: I bet you all wanna know why I shot the bastard.
    • And later during the song "We both reached for the gun":
      Reporters: How're you feeling?
      Billy (voicing the Dummy!Roxie): Very frightened!
      Mary Sunshine: Are you sorry?
      Roxie (herself): Are you kidding?!
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • The MC announcer at the beginning when he introduces "The Kelly Sisters" while playing piano, and only Velma shows up onstage.
    • Likewise, Velma has this reaction when two cops show up at her performance. She keeps it together to finish the song, however.
    • Roxie when Amos reveals that she shot Fred Casely, and when the police say she'll probably be hanged.
    • Billy when Roxie tries to talk at her press conference, and tells her, "Sit down, dummy."
    • Roxie when Velma tells her Katalin has lost her last appeal and is going to be hanged.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Credit to the police in the opening. It's implied Velma murdered her husband and sister, before running off in a cab to do the sister act at the club where she and Veronica were supposed to bring down the house. Somehow the police tracked her down in the short amount of time she performed "All That Jazz".
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Mama at the beginning does tell Roxie that every man who's been murdered had it coming, and comforts her when the police bring Roxie to prison. She also immediately connects her to Billy, for a price.
    • Velma plays cards with Annie and looks sympathetic when Annie recounts how her serious boyfriend was married to six women.
    • Roxie herself is very civil to the Hunyak and sympathetic about her case.
    • Mama seems genuinely upset at the Hunyak's execution, and both she and Billy take the time to attend Velma and Roxie's show.
    • Mary Sunshine may be a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing, but she also seems to be genuinely saddened by the Hunyak going to the gallows.
    • When Billy sees that Roxie is genuinely afraid before her trial, he comforts her and sings Razzle Dazzle partly to reassure her.
  • Police Are Useless: Subverted. The police are more cordial in the film when they interrogate Amos about what happened, while checking Fred Casely's wallet to identify him. Then when Amos reveals that it was Roxie who shot Fred Casely and lied to Amos, they immediately take Roxie into custody.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Roxie calls Billy Flynn a micknote  when things aren't going her way in court. It could be that this is meant to further establish Roxie as a bad, bad person in the audience's eyes, but it's not like anything much is ever made of it.
  • Pretty in Mink: This was the jazz age, so furs were bound to turn up.
  • Reconstruction: Of the movie musical. By framing the songs as figments of Roxie's imagination, it finds a way to justify many of the musical tropes. Critics heaped praise on it for its attempts to revive the movie musical (although Moulin Rouge! deserves some of the credit too).
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Flynn and Roxie both fire off one to each other toward the end of the second act. Flynn calls Roxie out on being a dumb, common criminal who let her (temporary) fame get to her head and needs to wise up before she gets herself hanged, and Roxie retorts that he's just a sleazy lawyer who's Only in It for the Money. Both Sides Have a Point.
  • Refuge in Audacity: "Razzle Dazzle" is practically a hymn to getting away with murder through liberal use of outrageous stunts.
  • Revenge Ballad: "Cell Block Tango" is the combined Revenge Ballad for the "Six Merry Murderesses of the Cook County Jail", who all (but one) murdered their husbands or lovers and explain how and why here.
    All: He had it coming, he had it coming
    He took a flower in its prime!
    And then he used it; and he abused it
    It was a murder, but not a crime!
  • Rewatch Bonus: Billy's tap-dance becomes a lot more interesting when you realize he never actually lies during it. He just implies very strongly, and lets people draw their own conclusions. In fact, when you realize his description of the culprit applies to himself, it's almost a Sarcastic Confession.
  • Rule of Symbolism:
    • During "Cell Block Tango", five of the six murderesses use red scarves to represent the blood of their slain lovers. The Hunyak, on the other hand, uses a white scarf to show that she's innocent. She is also bathed in heavy white light during her monologue while the rest of the women are bathed in red. What's more, she dances a graceful, elegant ballet, as opposed to the sexier, almost violent tango number the other ladies perform.
    • "A Tap Dance" is very much a visual representation of Billy Flynn's battle in court. The harder he argues, the harder he tap dances during the number.
    • "We Both Reached For the Gun" portrays Roxie as a ventriloquist's dummy (with Billy as the ventriloquist) and the press corps as marionettes (with Billy as the puppet master).
  • Sex for Services: Roxie's stock and trade. She has an affair with a man she thinks has connections, and is not pleased when he reveals he lied about it to get her into bed. She also offers to... "work something out" with Flynn since she can't afford his five thousand dollar fee, but he brushes her off. When she tells the press she's pregnant and is given a physical examination, she uses sex to convince the doctor to corroborate her story.
    • Hinted of Did They or Didn't They? as Mama's shirt is unbuttoned revealing her bra as she is letting Velma listen to Roxie's case on the radio.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Roxie, meet bleach and makeup, applied in her cell. She trims her bangs and curls her hair into a fashionable bob.
  • The Show Must Go On: Only one half of a sister act shows up, hidden in the shadows and prepared to sing. The MC on piano looks reluctant, but he lets Velma perform "All that Jazz". Roxie reveals later that Velma got arrested that night, after the show, which was why Velma shot a Death Glare at the men in trenchcoats before finishing the number.
  • Sidekick Song: Billy Flynn's three songs—"All I Care About is Love", "Press Conference Rag", and "Razzle Dazzle"—all relate to how he serves as an older Hyper-Competent Sidekick for Roxie.
  • Sitting Sexy on a Piano: Roxie plays this for all it's worth in "Funny Honey".
  • Smoking Gun: Roxie's diary. Subverted; the diary was modified by Billy Flynn and then anonymously sent to the DA in order to make it seem that he had fabricated evidence.
  • Spanner in the Works: Go-to-hell Kitty for Roxie's plan to become famous and Billy Flynn's typical modus operandi. When she's arrested, Kitty keeps telling Billy he's not her counsel and she didn't hire him; Billy confirms her mother did that. The press sees her kick a photographer's camera out of their hands and a reporter in the groin. Roxie then sees her fame floating away and decides to fake her pregnancy.
  • Stocking Filler: Justified, in that the time period was the age of thigh-high silk stockings and garter belts...but my, do the costume designers take full advantage of it.
    • It even gets deconstructed toward the end, when the once-glamorous Velma is reduced to wearing runs in her stockings. For a woman with no shame about murder or perjury, the way she lowers her eyes and shifts her skirt to hide the run is telling of how far she's fallen.
  • Stripperiffic:
    • In "Cell Block Tango," the female inmates appear dressed in nothing more than bras, hot pants, fishnets, and a few artfully arranged black straps...yet somehow when the women reappear in the "All I Care About" number, they're wearing even less.
    • Mama Morton's dress during "When You're Good To Mama" shows off her ample cleavage, and the whole song is an extended burlesque number (so ample, in fact, that rumor has it Queen Latifah almost fell down the stairs because she couldn't see her own feet over her cleavage.)
  • Stupid Evil: Velma has this as her Establishing Character Moment. People came to see the Kelly Sister act, and Velma finds her husband and sister doing "The Spread Eagle" hours to their next show. While Veronica sleeping with Velma's husband was pretty bad and stupid in itself, Velma's response was not the brightest. She claims that she blacked out, but she apparently shot both of them and maybe pistol-whipped them given the amount of blood on her hands and the gun. Then she had to rush late to their show, and clumsily hid the gun in a drawer. Her manager shouted that the audience wants to see her sister as well. The police find her in the time it takes for her to perform "All That Jazz," though they wait for her to finish before arresting her.
  • Symbolic Blood: During "Cell Block Tango", each of the merry murderesses utilizes a red cloth to depict through dance their alleged murders.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: "Then he ran into my knife. He ran into my knife ten times."
  • Token Good Teammate: Hunyak, unlike the rest of "The Six Merry Murderesses of the Cook County Jail," is innocent of the murder she's accused of.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Hunyak, the only woman in "Cell Block Tango" who did not commit the murder she was accused of, is the only person we see found guilty and executed.
  • Too Dumb to Live: "Come on, doll, you going to believe what you see or what I tell you?!" Not the best thing to say to your incredibly enraged heiress girlfriend/wife, who just caught you in your shared apartment in bed with two other women and is currently aiming a gun at you.
  • Unreliable Voiceover: "All I Care About" is one in song form. In the song spot, Billy claims that he doesn't care about money, just about love. Meanwhile, in the story, he refuses to sign Roxie on as a client until she gets $5000 and outright rejects her proposition for "making an arrangement."
  • Wardens Are Evil: For a given value of evil, at least. Mama Morton is not particularly sadistic or malicious, but thoroughly corrupt and not above taking sex as payment for services rendered, if it's offered.
    So what's the one conclusion I can bring this number to?
    When you're good to Mama... Mama's good to you!!
  • Woman Scorned: All of the murderesses commited their crime over cheating with their loved ones.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Kitty is seen being brought into the prison after murdering her husband, but she's immediately forgotten about. Presumably her triple homicide became old news once the press was interested in Roxie's fake pregnancy.
  • Who's on First?:
    Billy: You expect this jury to believe that you slept next to this woman every night, without exercising your rights as a husband?
    Amos: Well, I could've if I wanted to.
    Billy: Oh, but you didn't?
    Amos: No, I did.
    Billy: Did what?
    Amos: Want to.
    Billy: But you didn't?
    Amos: Didn't what?
    Billy: What you wanted.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Billy Flynn gives Roxie's diary to Velma Kelly, his other client, to give to the DA in exchange for having the charges against her dropped. He's modified the diary to include legal terms so that he can insinuate that the prosecutor wrote the whole thing. With one planted diary he gets one client acquitted and, if nothing else, the other released on a plea bargain.
  • You Can Leave Your Hat On:
    • Billy Flynn is introduced during "All I Care About", during which he strips off. By the end, he's only wearing his undershirt.
    • Downplayed in "A Tap Dance" but Billy does take off his jacket and tie in the course of the sequence.

♫ In fifty years or so
It's gonna change, you know
But oh, it's heaven
Nowadays ♫


Video Example(s):


Pineapple Heiress Scorned

Kitty comes home to find Harry in bed with two women, and she responds like any scorned woman would.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / DeathByWomanScorned

Media sources: