This focus on hyper-masculinity seems like a direct callback to noir. Emulating genre mainstays such as Humphrey Bogart was the pinnacle of male aspiration for those entrenched popular culture. Despite how Bogart treated women, he maintained an undeniably stereotypical male persona. The characters in Sin City could be seen as this obsession with maleness taken to an extreme, and therefore a self-reflective commentary on the genre as a whole. However, it is more likely that these moments of overt gender role assignment simply represent the stagnancy of gender portrayal in noir and neo noir film.
Muddying more than just the conventions of animation, live-action, and noir, Sin City also uses some of the syntax of the medium of comic books. In one scene in “The Hard Goodbye” storyline, Wendy and Marv are driving in Wendy’s car. The camera settles on Wendy’s face, then very briefly cuts to Marv. When it cuts back to Wendy, she has two cigarettes in her mouth. While this may seem like a continuity error because the time the camera cut away from Wendy was not enough time for her to take out two cigarettes, it echoes a common trope of comic books. In Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, Scott McCloud refers to these spacial/temporal jumps as “transitions,” the elapsed time filling the “gutters” between frames. Looking at the scene in the context of the source material, what seemed like a filmmaking mistake takes on a whole new purpose and intention.
Sin City is a significant film in the study of genre and medium boundaries. In a film that fuses live-action with animation in a subtle but effective manner, it becomes difficult to answer what actually constitutes either medium. Moreover, because of its clear link to the world of graphic novels, Rodriguez’s commitment to a nontraditional film adaptation of the Sin City graphic novels confuses the line between movies and comics. And while Sin City certainly uses many of the semantic and syntactic elements of the film noir genre to help give context for its stories, there remain clear thematic differences between classic or even neo noir and Miller and Rodriguez’s bleak, maniacally violent world.