"Walk down the right back alley in Sin City and you can find anything."
— Marv, "The Hard Goodbye"
Sin City is an irregular comic book series about the venal Basin City (known as "Sin City" to the people who live there) and the seedy inhabitants who lurk in its alleys and doorways. It is probably writer/artist Frank Miller's best known work (other than The Dark Knight Returns).Infamous for its absurdlymacho writing, Sin City reads like an Affectionate Parody of Film Noir turned Up to Eleven: every hero is a mentally or physically scarred bruiser and every woman is a beautiful dame with a heaving bosom. Black and Gray Morality is predominant.The series's other defining attribute is its artwork, which is largely black and white, with occasional spot colouring for certain important characters. Miller plays heavily with silhouettes, high-contrast images and negative space to create a series of visually striking images that look like no other comic on the market.Because it is almost exclusively set in and around Basin City's criminal underworld, Sin City has a number of recurring characters, although the protagonists vary from story to story. Additionally, some plotlines overlap or weave together in subtle ways (The Hard Goodbye and A Dame to Kill For are both mostly set on the same night, with the protagonists driving past one another in a single scene in both comics).The currently available collected editions are, in order:1: The Hard Goodbye - Originally just titled Sin City until the film adaptation, this story follows Marv, a street thug prone to psychotic episodes, who falls in love with a beautiful prostitute one night, only to find her dead the following morning and the cops beating down his door to take him in for her murder. On his quest for vengeance, Marv shakes down the criminal underworld, does battle with corrupt cops and discovers a sick conspiracy.2: A Dame to Kill For - Dwight McCarthy, a freelance photographer with a vicious temper, is pissed off when his beautiful ex — Ava, the dame of the title — contacts him out of the blue. But his anger is allayed when he discovers that her life has been threatened. With time running out, Dwight must save Ava from her cruel husband and his bizarre manservant. But is Ava what she appears to be, or is Dwight being manipulated into making the biggest mistake of his life?3: The Big Fat Kill - Dwight gets into more trouble when his new girlfriend, Shelly, is harassed by her abusive ex-boyfriend, Jackie-Boy. Dwight chases after him, but can only watch as Jackie and his pals are killed by prostitutes for threatening to rape one of their number. Ordinarily this wouldn't be a problem — the prostitutes of Old Town are given free rein by the police — but Jackie has a dangerous secret, one that might tear Sin City apart.4: That Yellow Bastard - John Hartigan may well be Sin City's last decent cop, but not for long: It's his last day on the job. But Hartigan's refusing to go quietly, especially since a well-connected young serial killer/rapist has just kidnapped little Nancy Callahan. It's no big thing — Hartigan's spent his entire life taking down scum like him. But this time, there will be repercussions...5: Family Values - While picking up some intel for his new new girlfriend, Dwight learns of a mafia war that's about to go down in Sin City. Captured by one side of the impending war, Dwight has to rely on a certain enemy-turned ally for help: the deadly ninja Miho.6: Booze, Broads and Bullets - A collection of short stories from various sources, including back-up strips from the early issues of The Big Fat Kill and stories from the various Sin City one-shot specials.7: Hell and Back (A Sin City Love Story) - Wallace is an interesting guy: an artist, a war hero, a short order cook and a lightning-quick fighter. His life is pretty dull, though, until he saves a suicidal woman named Esther and they begin a tentative relationship. In typical Sin City style, however, Esther is kidnapped and Wallace must pull the city — and the lives of some of its most privileged men — apart to get her back.
Several of the Sin City comics were turned into an anthology film by director Robert Rodriguez, simply called Sin City, which was released in 2005.Rodriguez quit the Director's Guild to let Frank Miller take co-director status. Even his friend Quentin Tarantino was given a co-director credit, since he came over on a day of shooting to film a scene. Rodriguez shot the film pretty much panel-for-panel from the comics, using black and white footage and Green Screen backgrounds to get the perfect Sin City feel.The Sin City film comprised The Hard Goodbye, The Big Fat Kill and That Yellow Bastard and was bookended by an adaptation of "The Customer is Always Right", a short story featured in the Booze, Broads and Bullets collection.A sequel, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, was released in August 2014, and at least one more Sin City film is planned. Originally, the first sequel was planned to include the titular story, along with a brand-new sequel to That Yellow Bastard and the three Blue Eyes short stories. The final film drops the Blue Eyes stories for a second original story and another Booze, Broads and Bullets yarn, "Just Another Saturday Night".The other sequel will be centered around Hell and Back. Both films were originally scheduled for a 2008 release, but were in Development Hell for seven years until 2012, when they wereSaved from Development Hell. Sadly, the recent deaths of two important actors - Brittany Murphy (Shelly) and Michael Clarke Duncan (Manute) - and the disappearance of Devon Aoki (Miho) from acting caused some difficulties. (Duncan and Aoki have been replaced by Dennis Haysbert and Jamie Chung◊ respectively, with Jeremy Piven taking over from Michael Madsen as Bob).The second film contains two original storylines not shown in the comics.1: The Long Bad Night - Johnny is a young man with charm and great skill at slots and card games. Looking to make a name for himself in Sin City, he crashes a private poker game hosted by Senator Roark and cleans him out. However, considering who he just beat, Johnny's luck might not last the night.2: Nancy's Last Dance - Four years after "That Yellow Bastard", Nancy still can't come to terms with Hartigan's suicide. She plunges into a self destructive spiral until she decides on what she must do. She has to kill the man responsible for Hartigan's death: the infamous Senator Roark himself.Not to be confused with SimCity, which is potentially a whole lot nicer. Or GTA Vice City, which is definitely not all that nicer. Or Las Vegas, for that matter.
Sin City contains examples of:
Since the film is such a direct adaptation of the comicbooks, listing the tropes seperately probably won't be necessary.
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Acceptable Targets: In-universe. Marv notes that he loves hitmen, because he can torture and kill them all he wants without ever feeling bad about it.
Action Girl: Many of the girls of Old Town, especially Miho.
The movie moves Dwight's "Most people think Marv is crazy" monologue from A Dame to Kill For to The Hard Goodbye. This works fine in a standalone movie, but in the comics the chronology of that night is very well fleshed out. Its revealed that while Marv was drinking at Kadie's after Goldie's murder two cops were questioning Shellie about Dwight's whereabouts. At that point in the story Dwight is recovering from events in his own story, so he couldn't be anywhere near Kadie's that night. Furthermore, he underwent plastic surgery which gave Dwight his appearance in the movie but that only happened months after the events of The Hard Goodbye, at which point Marv was on Death Row. It seems the films has addressed this by altering the timeline to make the entirety of Dame to Kill For take place before Hard Goodbye.
There's also The Salesman, the assassin from "The Customer is Always Right," who later becomes The Colonel, the Big Bad of Hell and Back. Since The Colonel is dead by Boom, Headshot (and quite deservedly so) at the end of Hell and Back and the events of The Big Fat Kill take place after that story, the Salesman doing to Becky what he did to his "customer" in the other story at the very end of the film adaptation can't exactly happen in Sin City canon unless someone else is the Colonel in the film adaptation of Hell and Back.
The first movie has a newspaper near the end of The Hard Goodbye showing a headline involving Senator Roark denouncing the death of his brother. The second movie has as a major plot point Nancy's Roaring Rampage of Revenge against Senator Roark...with Marv's help—thus clearly setting that story beforeThe Hard Goodbye.
Alas, Poor Villain: In Hell and Back, Wallace feels some pity after he kills Deliah, the contract killer who tried to seduce and kill him, calling her a "strange, sad creature", before silently closing her eyes.
The Alcoholic: Jackie Boy seems to be one and Dwight is a recovering case.
The Alleged Car: Nancy's car. "No one but me can keep this heap running." Also the clapped out banger without enough space for all the bodies or enough fuel to get them to the tar pits and a cop-attracting broken tail-light. Also the battered old VW Beetle from Family Values. The ironic thing is, The Heap is a 1957 Chevrolet Nomad, a very desirable car, and the car Dwight is given to ditch at the Pits was a 1957 Ford Thunderbird, both Cool Cars. Part of Dwight's narration mentions that it once was a Cool Car, but after years of abuse and neglect, it became a clapped out banger at the end of its life.
All Girls Want Bad Boys: Subverted with Shellie. She dumps the abusive boyfriend Jackie Boy and goes for the much nicer Dwight McCarthy. But as readers know, Dwight's no angel either, and he even killed a former Femme Fatale girlfriend in a previous issue—but he's still a far cry from the misogynistic scumbag that Jackie-Boy was.
Marv talks about a pair of twin prostitutes who "even smell the same." Then again, Marv is crazy enough that he mistakes one for the other... even while knowing full well that one of them is dead.
There's also Benny and Lenny, Rourke Junior's bodyguards, although they don't last long.
Always Save the Girl: Subverted. At the end of The Big Fat Kill, Dwight tricks Manute and his men that Gail is all he wants in exchange for Jackie Boys head. The head was filled with explosives, and as soon as it goes off, every girl from Old Town shows up on the rooftops and fires every bullet they have into Manute and his men.
A Man Is Not a Virgin: Subverted. Marv tells Wendy that due to his looks, he wasn't even able to buy a woman before the night with Goldie that started it all.
Anachronic Order: The comics were published in anachronic order, and the segments of the film are shown anachronically as well.
Antagonist Title: That Yellow Bastard refers to Hartigan's antagonist, the serial killing, child molesting Roark Jr. whom he must destroy to protect Nancy. It's the form Roark ended up as after the experimental treatment his corrupt father paid for to regrow his penis.
Anti-Villain: Liebowitcz, the dirty cop. He's as corrupt as any other cop and beats up Hartigan for not ratting out Nancy. Despite this, he is a devoted family man and is willing to turn on the Colonel, going so far as to kill him. In that instance, he's probably the only sympathetic villain in the entire series.
In the the second film, Liebowitcz goes out of his way to warn Johnny to leave the city after he beats Roark in a poker game.
Anyone Can Die: Many heroes and villains are offed in both movies. Hartigan and Marv who are two of the three main heroes end up dying. Senator Roark Lampshades this in the second film by saying sooner or later everybody dies in Sin City, which is an ironic line considering his fate at the end of the film.
Art Evolution: In the first few issues of A Hard Goodbye the characters and backgrounds are drawn with more realistic proportions and with subtler shading, looking more like a standard black and white comic. By the end of the book the art is crystallized into the high-contrast, over-exaggerated, blocky artwork that became the standard of the series.
Ass Shove: Jackie Boy falls on Miho's swastika shuriken and gets it stuck in his ass. In The Big Fat Kill, Miho apparently shoves her katana up a merc's ass (in the movie, she just stabs him through the back).
Author Appeal: Frank Miller sure does have a thing for prostitutes, and Sin City is stretching this so far that there is an entire part of the city that is run by prostitutes. Similarly, count how many times the Nazi swastika appears.
Badass Longcoat: Most of the characters wear one and Marv trades up for new ones all the time. If Marv ever says to you "That's a damn fine coat you're wearing", you'd better hand your coat over and he might leave you breathing if he's in a generous mood.
Goldie seduced Marv so that she would have someone to protect her... or at least avenge her death.
The entire story of Family Values is Dwight pulling one big Batman Gambit.
Wallace basically turns into Batman himself at the mid-point of To Hell And Back, turning the Colonel's own Corrupt Cop against him and calling several favors from friends in order to destroy the military helicopter the Colonel was using against him.
Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Both in the sense of "body" and "soul" for Nancy. In Nancy's Last Dance, she puts herself through all kinds of degradation—drinking on stage, driving herself mad with rage and grief, cutting (and apparently dyeing) her hair, and cutting her own face to motivate Marv. Frankly, her last line in the film seems to imply she may not be able to return to her normal life.... However, Marv's presence emphasizes that this takes place before The Hard Goodbye—in which we see her back on stage, fully restored to her former glory.
Bigger Bad: Senator Roark and Mob Boss Wallenquist. The former is an immensely powerful and unashamedly Corrupt Politician who can get away with anything while the latter is an immensely powerful crime lord controlling most of the organized crime in the city. While both men are responsible for the greatest evils in Basin City and perpetuate the Crapsack World itself, neither would really qualify as the main villain in any of the stories. Their organizations and influence are so vast that they're usually concerned with larger matters than direct confrontation with the (Anti-)heroes.
Bittersweet Ending: This is the best kind of ending you're gonna get in Sin City. Only on occasion will this be subverted in lieu of a more "happy" ending—such as in The Big Fat Kill (all the villains are gunned down and the mob is humiliated) or Hell and Back (Wallace and his love interest beat the villains and leave Sin City).
Though several examples exist, Hartigan's concluding speeches in the film's second and penultimate chapters are especially notable, as both close with Hartigan getting shot and losing everything so Nancy can live.
In the movie, the Salesman from "The Customer is Always Right", which opens the film, reappears in the final scene.
Born in the Wrong Century: Dwight suggests that Marv would have had a better life in ancient times, as a warrior on the field of battle or a gladiator in the Roman arena.
Also, Hartigan is one of the last honest cops in Basin City. He appears to belong to a better age, and follows his own code of morals and honour, when no-one else does.
Bottomless Magazines: In the first part of "That Yellow Bastard," Hartigan's partner, Bob, shoots him 8 times with a 6 shot revolver without being seen reloading.
Bulletproof Human Shield: In the film, a federal agent is used as a shield while Sociopathic Hero Marv hacks up his teammates with a wood axe. This actually seems to be unintentional on Marv's part since he was busy killing one of the agents when the human shield basically ran into the path of the bullets.
But for Me, It Was Tuesday: A major theme of the series is the act of seemingly random violence happening to the wrong person at the wrong time, resulting in the Anti-Hero taking revenge. The Big Bad in these situations often thought nothing of the crime and may not have even initially known the names of their victims.
A notable example takes place in Family Values where the mafia breaks a truce with a rival organization to take revenge for the death of a relative of The Don. Everyone involved is worried about a gang war. It turns out a hooker was killed by a stray bullet. No one thought much about it, except her friends and colleagues, who quickly gather to plot revenge.
Call Forward: In the opening teaser story, "Just Another Saturday Night", for Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Marv is commented on his Bernini brand trenchcoat by one of the frat boys that he believed accosted him. This sets up the Running Gag of Marv getting a new trenchcoat each time its ruined or destroyed.
Marv: (Looking at his coat) Bernini, huh? And a fine coat it is....
Nancy's Last Dance emphasizes the depth of the bond between Nancy and Marv—which in turn gives new depth to Marv's lines in The Hard Goodbye about how there's nothing Nancy wouldn't do for him, and how it really "gets my goat" when dames like Nancy are "roughed up".
Captain Ersatz: Many of Sin City's characters are homages to previous characters from pulp fiction and film noir:
The Yellow Bastard is a horrific case in that Frank Miller has admitted that he was based off of a grown-up (and deranged) version of the Yellow Kid◊, the earliest comic book character and a very popular one for children at that time.
Card-Carrying Villain: Most of them openly admit to being bad guys. Senator Roark and Ava Lord especially. Ava gleefully seduces men left and right for her own purposes and gives out an Evil Laugh because she knows she can get away with it. Senator Roark openly admits that he killed his wife and gloats that there isn't a damn thing anyone can do about it.
Celibate Hero: When we first meet Dwight, he's trying to maintain this trope. He seems to do okay until Ava comes back in his life.
Cavalry Betrayal: When the Federal Agents arrive at the farm, Lucille naturally assumes that they are there to help and yells at them to not arrest Marv, as he's with her. And then they pour literally boxes of bullets into poor Lucille.
Chained to a Bed: Blue Eyes chains herself to a bed in order to seduce Wallace. It doesn't work.
Chewing the Scenery: There's quite a bit of it in the movie, but it works with the tone quite nicely.
Christianity is Catholic: The Catholic Church seems to be a big power player in the city, and crucifixes are a motif throughout the series. The Babe Wore Red also features a nun who is shown in a much more positive light than usual for Sin City.
Chroma Key: Generally quite good in the movie, but a notable "jerkiness" occurs when Miho stabs several people through the head with her sword.
He amputates all of Kevin's legs and sicks Kevin's own wolfdog on him to eat him alive. Okay, Kevin was a cannibalistic serial killer, but still... brrr. Becomes A Fate Worse Than Death, but it didn't seem to bother Kevin much. He never screamed, just stared at Marv the whole time.
Marv:Kevin was damn frustrating but Roark's a pure joy. ... I stare the bastard in the face and I laugh as he screams to God for mercy and I laugh harder when he squeals like a stuck pig and when he whimpers like a baby I'm laughing so hard I cry. He spurts and gurgles and life is good.
Marv also tortures and dismembers a cop, partially for information but mainly to avenge Lucille.
Combat Parkour: The gunfighters tend to have very standard action movie/crime noir moves except for Wallace. He tends to do a lot more hopping around and is probably the most skilled protagonist of the series.
Comforting the Widow: Mort, a mostly honest Sin City cop, tries to do this with Ava Lord and ends up tangled in her web.
Continuity Overlap: The movie has this with "The Hard Goodbye" and "The Big Fat Kill", as both take place on the same night, both protagonists pass at the same bar, and several characters (such as the prostitutes) appear in both. The same applies for Part 2 of "That Yellow Bastard" and "The Customer Is Always Right".
Cool Car: Yet more Author Appeal; many characters drive classic American cars of various ages all in mint condition, to the delight of Marv and Dwight who both think modern cars look like electric shavers. The only modern cars treated with respect are European sports models like the Awesome, but Impractical Ferrari in which Shlubb proposes to smuggle Hartigan's body.
The 'Heap' owned by Nancy, and later, The Captain in Hell and Back, is a 1957 Chevy Nomad, which is in such disrepair that only Nancy can keep it running, and the 1957 Thunderbird Dwight uses to take the bodies of Jackie Boy and his buddies to the local tar pits has been abused and neglected so much that it just barely holds together for the trip, has a broken taillight, and doesn't even have enough gas to make it.
Cop Killer: Dwight kills his ex's abusive ex-boyfriend, realizing too late that he's actually a cop. If the body is found, the fragile truce between the corrupt cops and the Band of Brothels will be broken in the cops' favor, so they need to disfigure and get rid of it.
"She tried to analyze me once, but she got too scared."
Cut Himself Shaving: Marv tells his mother this. (The scene was filmed for The Movie, but it was deleted from the theatrical shot and can be viewed on the recut edition DVD). The scene was also in the comic, of course.
Daddy's Girl: In the appropriately titled, Daddy's Little Girl.
Dangerously Genre Savvy: Hartigan. After despatching Shlubb and Klump, he tells himself to "think like a cop", he starts having chest pains and realises he probably won't be able to run after Junior, so he disables Junior's 1962 Jaguar XK-E, apparently by removing two spark plugs (removing the ignition cables would have been more accurate and just as easy to depict), then makes sure Junior is thoroughly "disarmed", knows that Nancy will be safe when backup arrives and only has to live till then, and accepts his wrongful sentencing because it's the only way to protect everyone he loves. When he's released, he senses it's all been a trap and he's led Junior straight to Nancy, and every second he stayed in the bar, he put her in danger. Then, when he shoots Junior, he demands to confirm the kill. As he's sneaking onto the Farm, he mentions he'll use a knife first, plays dead to trick two guards, and tricks Junior by pretending to be too weak to lift his revolver, then stabbing him in the stomach and beating him to death.
Dark Action Girl: The assassin Blue Eyes, as well as Miho. Both are cold-blooded assassins, although Miho is downright stoic during all the bloodshed she incites, whereas Blue Eyes sexualizes her kills.
Determinator: Just about all of the protagonists, but especially Hartigan could be the poster child of this: sixty years plus and feeling it, survives a heart attack, a hanging and having a revolver emptied in his back at close range. Every one of the incidents and each of the bullets should kill him, but he just keeps going.
Senator Roark says he does everything he can to save Hartigan, so that he can disgrace him.
Devil in Plain Sight: Senator Roark mentions that he could get away with murder in public since he's done it in the past... to his own wife, even.
Dirty Cop: About half the Basin City police force.
Dwight "I don't have nearly enough money to bribe this cop, 'course there's always the chance he's one of the honest ones"
Dirty Coward: The Yellow Bastard both before and after his transformation is more likely to run away from a fight than stay.
Hartigan's former partner Bob is also quite cowardly since he is more willing to turn on his partner and threaten a child than he is about catching the real Big Bad.
Shlubb and Klump can be pretty cowardly. Especially in the presence of Dwight since he beat up both of them throughout the one-shot The Babe Wore Red.
Disposable Sex Worker: Somewhat averted. Goldie's death in The Hard Goodbye is used to set the plot in motion, but she is portrayed posthumously as a person of value, especially to Marv and her sister. In other stories, the prostitutes of Old Town tend to avoid getting offed by psychos due to their firepower. When one is offed, they respond in kind.
Doing It for the Art: invoked Wallace is an artist who refuses to sell out dispite money problems. Dwight also had aspirations of being a photographer as opposed to a PI but they never came to be.
Domestic Abuser: Jackie Boy is an abusive boyfriend to Shellie... or was at least.
Don't Tell Mama: In the comics Marv tries to keep his mother innocent of what his real purpose is when he goes to get Gladys. As well as Becky with respect to...well, you know.
Driven to Suicide: Hartigan knows that his death is the only thing that can once and for all save the girl. He promptly shoots himself in the head.
Mort after he shoots his partner dead and realizes too late how much Ava has ruined his life.
Drop Dead Gorgeous: It's precisely this that sets Marv on his Roaring Rampage of Revenge to avenge Goldie's death. Notably they actually just had consensual sex, but her murderer killed her while Marv was still sleeping.
Enormous Engine: Muscle cars pop up sometimes, engines exposed and all. Sometimes, the engine is not shown but described in explicit detail.
Empathy Doll Shot: Done in a very literal way. Wallace is under the effects of a drug given to him by the bad guys. He finds a dead child in the trunk of a car but all we see is his hallucination: a Raggedy-Ann doll. He knows what the doll really is but actually expresses gratitude that the villains drugged him for that one moment.
Let this sink in for a second. Marv is a badassdeterminator who has shrugged off bullets, cars, and all manner of attacks on his person, has thrown people through walls, and has generally proven to be Made of Iron and an Implacable Man...and he beats Manute up so damn badly he tires himself out.
That Yellow Bastard gives us the page quote for this trope. Police Detective John Hartigan saved 11-year-old Nancy Callahan from being raped and murdered by Roark, Jr., then was framed for the rape and spent eight years in prison. After Hartigan is released, Roark gets a hold of Nancy again and tortures her. Hartigan doesn't take it well.
Eye Scream: Marv rips Manute's eye out of his socket. In most cases of this trope, this would be out of desperation. Not here. Marv just did it for the hell of it.
Marv and Hartigan, the former of whom merely snarks at his own execution to annoy the guards, the latter of whom performs a Heroic Sacrifice.
The unnamed female character in the short story The Customer Is Always Right fits this trope as well, but it's implied that she put the hit on herself. According to Frank Miller, she took the hit out after breaking up with someone in the mafia, who swore vengeance.
A good number of attractive actresses get naked (or wear very little) in the name of art. Carla Gugino brandishes a gun topless and wears a thong, Rosario Dawson is in her underwear, Brittany Murphy is in nothing but panties and a button down shirt, and Jessica Alba is a stripper as well. In the comics, all of these characters are depicted naked at one point or another, even if their actresses weren't nude in the movie. We can also add Miho to the mix. Pretty much half of Ava's total screentime in the second film is without clothes. And Sally in the second film is always either topless or in lingerie. No other options.
Not to be outdone, the ladies are treated to Dwight getting naked in almost every one of his stories. Hartigan and Wallace also both get Male Frontal Nudity scenes.
Freeze-Frame Bonus: The date of Marv's trial and therefore the series' timeframe, which is in the '90s, can be seen on a newspaper if you freeze at the right point.
Freudian Threat: Shellie threatens to cut the manhood off of one of Jackie Boy's friends when he hits on her. A couple of pages later, Dwight holds Jackie at knife point and says he'll cut him in ways that would "make you useless to a woman."
Gonk: Marv, in-universe. Before Goldie, he states that he'd never even been able to buy a woman.
Good Guy Bar: Kadie's. Not so much of a Good Guy Bar as it is an Anti-Hero Bar since the main protagonists, Marv and Dwight, frequent the establishment. Not to mention that this is where a few major side characters work as well.
Good Is Not Nice: Many of the series' more ethical characters skirt (if not outright embrace) this trope. Perhaps justified, considering that Basin City is a pretty nasty place where most people are either victims or victimizers — being neither of those, in this setting, seems to require a degree of hardassery.
Hartigan to Roark Jr., who certainly deserved it. Twice.
Marv also shoves a hatchet into a cop's crotch and at one point, crushes Weeval's balls in order to get him to comply.
When he first meets Dwight, Manute gives him a good kick in the junk.
Guns Akimbo: Everyone wielding a gun (i.e everyone) almost always ends up with two of them.
Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: It's hard to tell because the comics are largely black and white, but Nancy Callahan is canonically blonde. A young woman working herself through law school by working as a topless exotic dancer off hours, she's probably the kindest and most innocent character in the comics (Word of God calls her "an angel" living in a Wretched Hive). She's acquainted with a lot of the major characters, who protect her from abusive or downright evil men out to hurt her.
Hartigan uses a Smith & Wesson Model 29 in the beginning of the film. Later on he uses a Ruger Blackhawk, also a .44 Magnum.
Some of the Old Town prostitutes also use Blackhawks, noticeably Dallas.
The (likely fake)revolvers Nancy Callahan uses in her cowgirl outfit are stainless Blackhawks. In the sequel, Nancy uses a real gun (specifically Hartigan's old revolver) during her stage acts and isn't afraid to fire very real warning shots at any patron who grabs her.
Heroic Suicide: At the end of That Yellow Bastard, Hartigan kills himself so that no one will hurt Nancy to get at him.
Hero of Another Story: Thanks to the fact that many stories feature Kadie's Bar many characters appear in each other's stories. Marv holds the record for most appearances for a protagonist, appearing in six stories while only being the protagonist of three. Dwight and John Hartigan both have a quick cameo outside of their own stories as well. Wallace is the only protagonist to only be seen in his own story.
Innocent Innuendo: In "Hell and Back", Wallace is in a car chase with Blue Eyes in the passenger seat. When the bad guys are about to open fire on them he tells her to get her head down, so she, well...
Informed Attractiveness: Nancy is often seen as the most beautiful woman in Sin City. While she is drawn quite lovely, she doesn't seem to be all that different from say, Shellie, who looks very similar.
Invincible Hero: Ex-Navy SEAL Wallace. While the other protagonists accomplish their goals by either taking a lot of punishment (Marv and Hartigan) or by having tons of back up (Dwight), Wallace almost single handily takes out every one in his way easily, with nary a scratch to show for it. He's also not held back by any particular moral standard like Marv's dislike of hitting girls. The only time he's seriously inconvenienced are when the bad guys manage to sneak up on him and tranq him.
"Deadly little Miho. You won't feel a thing. Not unless she wants you to."
"I take away his weapons... both of them."
Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Marv is really fond of this. Amusingly, when the Old Town prostitutes try it on Marv, he takes several blows from a .38 revolver used to Pistol Whip him and explains himself. Then he calmly rips out of their ropes like they were tissue paper, and could have done so the whole time.
Jerk Jock: The story Just Another Saturday Night has a group of jerk jocks from a fraternity. This being Sin City, they don't stop at just being jerks, though. They like to light homeless people on fire.
Subverted in the movie with Becky, who seemingly escapes with nothing worse than a broken arm but is killed by The Salesman in the movie's final scene. In the book her segment's based on, she dies along with everyone else.
Downplayed with Senator Roark. He may not get his comeuppance, but with Junior dead and Hartigan's suicide denying him revenge, he's still screwed. By the movie A Dame To Kill For, Roark's Karma Houdini meter runs out as his reputation is first ruined by his (literal) bastard son, then he's killed by Nancy for what he did to Hartigan.
Knight in Shining Armor: The Salesman approaches a women outside of a party and tells here that he has come to help her face her troubles, and that he loves her. Then he subverts it. He was never there to be her shining knight; she hired him to kill her in a delicate fashion because a mob figure threatened to brutally murder her after she broke up with him.
Laser-Guided Karma: Despite the stories often ending with the hero dead or in dire straits, the bad guys usually get what they deserve before all is said and done. Even if they survive, they usually lose whatever they held dear. Case in point, Senator Roark is still alive but he lost his son and has to live with the fact that the Roark family lineage is now cut. Considering this family has lorded over Sin City for more than a century, that's a hell of a letdown for him and his one surviving brother. And the film A Dame To Kill For takes this Up to Eleven with Nancy killing Roark, effectively ending their reign over the city.
The short story Rats has a Nazi war criminal being shoved in an oven.
The Last DJ: John Hartigan, the last honest cop in Sin City.
Lightning Bruiser: Marv is big and tough but he proves to be very fast and agile, as evident in his fights with the cops.
Lolicon: Junior is a particularly disturbing example of one of these, in that he likes to slash his victims to ribbons once he's done raping them, and he Loves To Hear Them Scream. It's quite telling that when he gets his hands on Nancy again, he says that she's "too old for him", despite her being nineteen years old at this point.
Little Useless Gun: Ava shoots Dwight with a .32. Marv tells him he'd be in trouble if she'd used "a real gun" on him. The .25 Dwight carries in the climax of A Dame To Kill For also counts, as the six shots it carries barely phases Manute.
Local Hangout: Every main character hangs out at Kadie's these days. Even Roark, the Big Bad goes there for his weekly poker game!
Magic Realism: It's in the crime genre but that doesn't stop it from dabbling slightly with mysticism (Miho, Kevin, the empathic elements of the Farm) or even light sci-fi (Yellow Bastard, the Colonel's operations). There was also the torture technician in Big Fat Kill who could cause pain with a simple touch. This was changed to Manute in the movie.
According to Frank Miller, Miho and Kevin are two sides of the same coin: he refers to them as the "demons" of Sin City, Miho being the "good demon," Kevin being "the bad." This is in reference to their silent, super-violent, sadistic natures, and the fact that both are incredibly difficult to harm.
May-December Romance: Nancy and Hartigan. He doesn't go so far as to actually sleep with her, since he understandably thinks he's way too old (around 65 at the end of the story) to enter a relationship with a 19-year old, but they do share several very passionate kisses and he describes her as "the love of my life" in his internal monologue. This is really a subversion, as Hartigan explicitly rejects the relationship due to the age difference.
Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Hartigan's ghost appears multiple times during Nancy's story in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, which suggests that Nancy has gone insane over the four years since his death. His mirrored reflection at the end of the movie which gives Senator Rourke a Jump Scare suggests otherwise.
Mega Crossover: Several stories overlap and there has been at least one instance of protagonists teaming up: A Dame To Kill For.
Metallicar Syndrome: Characters are often supposed to be hiding out from the cops or mafia, but when they choose rides, they usually get the Cool Car. This trope is actually justified in that most cars in the city are vintage muscle cars.
Monster Misogyny: Most of Sin City's male villains are some form of misogynistic scumbag, to the point that in A Dame to Kill For, Ava plays on Dwight's violent protectiveness of women in general by casting her perfectly innocent husband as one of these in her Wounded Gazelle Gambit.
More Deadly Than The Male: This always happens when Dwight teams up with deadly little Miho. Dwight is a brooding noir hero who can hold his own in a fight. Miho is an extremely agile and deadly Old Town assassin, probably the most dangerous character in the books. Dwight tends to stand back while she slaughters whole groups of enemies in front of him.
More Dakka: This is what the Big Fat Kill refers to. Dwight and the Old Town girls unload on Manute and his men until they're just "wet chunks of meat."
Murder, Inc.: The Colonel's organization specializes in contract killing next to human trafficking.
Murder-Suicide: Hartigan commits suicide after killing Roark, Jr., realizing that he's the only link left leading to Nancy (the latest victim). By killing himself, he ensures that she is left alone.
My Car Hates Me: Subverted with Nancy's car, which waits until Yellow Bastard's taking her away to break down. This is because she's the only one who knows how to get it working right. Played straight with the car Gail provides to Dwight to dispose of Jackie Boy and his crew. The trunk is too small to hold all the bodies and it runs out of gas before he reaches the tar pits.
Nazi Hunter: The Janitor, in "Rats", hunts down a Nazi war criminal. This may or may not have taken place in Sin City.
Nazi Protagonist: The POV character in the two-page short story "Rats" is an escaped Nazi war criminal who served in an extermination camp. "Rats" is what he called the Jews he murdered there. At the end he is killed by a Nazi Hunter.
Necro Non Sequitur: In Family Values, a mob hitman machine-guns a passing dog For the Evulz while he on a job, causing a Disaster Dominoes effect when a stray bullet accidentally kills an Old Town girl. The girl's lover, also an Old Town girl, has Dwight and Miho systematically bring down the entire crime family, even going so far as to force the hitman to kill his own brother and betray The Don. The girl's lover comes in during the last act and guns down the mafia heads, including the hitman who killed her girl. To cover their tracks, the heroes frame the Wallenquist crime family, inciting a Mob War which would surely result in even more deaths.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The biggest example is Dwight beating up Jack Rafferty at the beginning of The Big Fat Kill. If he hadn't, not only would Jack be alive but Old Town would've been much safer.
Another Dwight example is from A Dame To Kill For. Dwight kills Ava's husband, but that just means that Ava will now be in control of his organization and will pin everything on him.
Hartigan's actions at the beginning of That Yellow Bastard also count. He ends up exposing Nancy, leading Junior right to her.
Nigh-Invulnerability: Marv goes several days without eating or sleeping, gets run over by a car many times in a row, gets shot, slashed, kicked around, hit with a sledgehammer, and more in the span of one story and still manages to bring down one of the most powerful men in the world.
Nightmare Fuel: Invoked. Marv did not allow Wendy to see him torturing and killing Kevin, because she would have nightmares about that.
The Nth Doctor: The sequel, which will have a "pre-facial surgery prequel" story for Dwight, will star Josh Brolin cast in the role instead of Clive Owen. Owen was supposed to play Dwight again after surgery, but his schedule prohibited it, so they used prosthetics and makeup to make Brolin look as much like him as they could.
Offing the Offspring: Senator Roark does this without hesitation to his illegitimate son Johnny for beating him at poker twice and ruining his image.
One Degree of Separation: Major characters are often hanging out in the background. In some cases, this is used to show that two major stories are happening at once.
Only One Name: Just about everyone. The setting is "down there", after all. If we learn someone's full name (such as Nancy Callahan), chances are good they're one of the extremely rare honest men or innocent women in the city.
Averted when cops try to beat up Wallace for little reason. The keyword is try.
Pragmatic Adaptation: Arguably one of the best examples in a comic book movie. The stories are mostly frame-by-frame adaptations, right down to the cinematography. However, a lot of narration is chopped out, either in small trimmings (removing a fair bit of Frank Miller's infamous use of repetition) or in entire pages worth of backstory, commentary, etc that would have bogged the movie down. Its done so smoothly that its not noticeable unless you read along to the movie.
A pragmatic example: In the book, Marv escapes from a cell by bull-rushing the door, slamming into it with his shoulder, over and over and over again, until he finally jars the bolt loose from the wall. This is implied to take at least an hour. Since this would have slowed down the movie intolerably, he instead simply wrenches the window bars out of the frame.
Precision F-Strike: Despite all of its many taboos, the comic is pretty tame in terms of language. The one and only F-Bomb comes from Lebowitcz when he shoots the Colonel and says, "Make a missing person's case out of this fucker."
The last line of the second film, right before Nancy kills Senator Roark.
Professional Killer: Both hitmen and assassins show up. Hitmen are sent after Marv early on in The Hard Goodbye; Shlubb and Klump are specifically described as "low-rent killers" but are often just errand boys for the baddies. Miho and Kevin are used as assassins but they're in it for more than money. The Colonel (The Salesman in the movie) has an entire guild of assassins.
Ramming Always Works: Marv rams the frat boys' car multiple times in Just Another Saturday Night to get them off the road and doesn't mind running straight into armed foes more than once.
Averted when Dallas rams the IRA members' car in Big Fat Kill. Dwight remarks that she is too excited and careless. This leads to Dallas getting shot to death, Miho getting caught by a grenade, and Dwight almost getting killed.
In The Yellow Bastard, we see type 2 and 3. While Junior was probably going to die after the initial stabbing, he goes on to have his balls ripped off and his head caved in for good measure. Hartigan had his reasons.
Retronym: The very first Sin City story was titled just that... Sin City. The series caught on, resulting in future stories containing secondary titles (i.e. Sin City: A Dame To Kill For). Even when the original story was first collected in a trade paperback format, it retained its original title. Word Of God gave it the nickname The Hard Goodbye and that's what Fanon called it when discussing this particular story. When the movie came out, the collected editions added this title. Likewise, this particular sequence in the movie shares the same title. It resulted in a slightly awkward line, however. Every story name drops its own title but this one never contained the line "the hard goodbye" since that wasn't its original name. The line was added to the dialogue in the movie.
Road Block: A minor occurrence in the first story (also depicted in the movie). The cops are chasing Marv on foot through the hotel. He drops out of the window and tries to go down the alley, only to see a cop car heading him off, blocking his way. He ends up jumping through the windshield to beat up the drivers and subsequently, take the car.
Kevin from The Hard Goodbye, who also practices cannibalism.
Roark Jr. from That Yellow Bastard. Junior also doubles as a Serial Rapist of the absolute worst order, targeting pre-teen girls.
In the short story Behind Door Number Three there's such a killer who likes to go after prostitutes. The girls from Old Town give him a very karmic punishment when they introduce him to their private assassin Miho.
Series Continuity Error: The Big Fat Kill takes place after Hell and Back, but Dwight is seen driving the 1953 Cadillac Eldorado he took from Vito at the end of Family Values, a story that takes place well after both The Big Fat Kill and Hell and Back.
The sequel, A Dame to Kill For creates a rather glaring one: Nancy, who is having a Sanity Slippage, badly scars her face when she decided to quit her job as a stripper. Not a big problem, except in the the Sin City segment from the first movie, which chronologically takes place after the new one, she is unscarred and still a stripper.
Splash of Color: That Yellow Bastard (and his blood) are constantly colored yellow after the prologue. Other stories, like "Blue Eyes" and "The Babe Wore Red" featured similar use of color. The movie added splashes of color to stories that didn't have them in print.
Suicide Mission: This is a recurring idea in the comics, where almost every mission is said to be one in which the hero could easily be killed. Considering the Anyone Can Die structure of the narrative, it isn't far-fetched to believe that they really will meet their end.
Swirlie: Marv is seen interrogating one man by shoving his head in a toilet. Another time Dwight sneaks up on Jackie while he's taking a leak and shoves his head into the toilet, holding him there long enough until he's forced to take a few gulps.
Switching P.O.V.: Every story has a different protagonist but aside from that, there's a brief sequence in Hell And Back where Liebowitcz's son is the narrator.
Teeth Flying: Dwight knocks out Shlubb's protuding lower tooth in "The Babe Wore Red". He has it back in the next chronological story he appears in.
Manute and his men are machine gunned to death with an endless hail of bullets. The story's called The Big Fat Kill for a reason.
The death of Junior involves being stabbed in the chest, manually castrated (again) and stomped to mush by the hero.
This Bed of Rose's: When Dwight McCarthy is on the run from the cops, the girls from Old Town heal him and let him stay.
The Magic Poker Equation: Happens twice in two poker games between Johnny and Senator Roark. They seem to pull their very impressive hands right out of nowhere.
This Is Wrong on So Many Levels: In "That Yellow Bastard", Nancy reveals to Hartigan that she fell in love with him because he rescued her, and makes a pass at him. He rejects her, because he first met her when she was still a child.
Hartigan: God! There's wrong, and there's wrong, and then there's this!
A neo-Nazi once insulted the bar tender at Kadie's. Marv asked her if he should step in but she told him to remain calm. Dwight mentioned that Marv was in an "all too generous mood". The Nazi then began to insult the bar tender some more. Marv voiced his displeasure but maintained his cool. The thug then decided it was a good idea to shove a pistol in Marv's face. It didn't end well for him.
While Marv kills Kevin and Cardinal Roark, the men responsible for Goldie's murder, he is convicted of the murders Kevin committed and is executed.
Hartigan, one of the few honest cops in the city, is arrested after saving a little girl from Roark Jr., a vicious child rapist and murderer who is the son of a powerful politicion. In the end he commits suicide to protect her.
Unwanted Spouse: Ava Lord in A Dame To Kill For starts off hating her mafia-tied husband and begs Dwight to do something about it. He does but it turns out to be a setup for Ava to inherit her husband's estate.
Also, Blue Eyes, Mariah, and "Daddy's Little Girl" to a lesser degrees.
Vapor Trail: Marv does this to a wrecked car in Just Another Saturday Night.
Vengeance Feels Empty: Highly averted when characters enact revenge, they often remark how good it feels.
The Villain Knows Where You Live: The assistant district attorney finally gets Marv to confess to the murders actually committed by Kevin and Cardinal Roark (and their murders, which he was guilty of) by turning off the recorder and showing him a picture of his mother in the crosshairs of a sniper rifle. Marv breaks his arm in three places, but signs.
Wasn't That Fun?: This happens mid-chase in A Dame to Kill For. Dwight McCarthy has just been betrayed, is bleeding to death, is being chased by cops, and has Sociopathic Hero Marv behind the wheel of the getaway car. The entire situation is harrowing for him to say the least but Marv quips how fun the situation is.
What a Drag: "I don't know about you, but I'm having a ball."
What Did I Do Last Night?: Marv blacks out a lot due to unnamed mental problems. This is most notable in Just Another Saturday Night where he has to sit down and remember the events of the night in order to figure out why he's surrounded by dead bodies.
What the Hell, Hero?: Lucille gives Marv one of these when he reveals that he beat up a group of cops.
Woman Bites Woman: Gail to Becky in "The Big Fat Kill," nearly ripping her throat out, after learning that she sold Gail and the other girls out to the mob to protect her own neck.
Gail: Your neck, your neck, your precious little neck...
Wouldn't Hit a Girl: One of Marv's only rules. The only time he breaks it is to spare Wendy from watching him torture Kevin to death.
Worth It: Marv's quest to avenge Goldie results in his death, along with some pretty brutal baseball bat torture, being riddled with bullets and the death of Lucille. Considering the person he was avenging only slept with him for protection and felt nothing for him some might wonder if it was all worth it. But Marv? When he gets confused and sees Wendy as Goldie he proudly says "I got him for you good, didn't I?" For him it was completely worth it and he'd do it all over again in a heartbeat.
Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Ava uses Dwight's violent protectiveness toward women in general to manipulate him into murdering an innocent man.
Ironically, Dwight does the same thing to Marv when he recruits him to help rescue Ava. Marv, who Wouldn't Hit a Girl, is absolutely enraged when Dwight tells him how Ava is being tortured at the hands of her husband. Dwight knows he's manipulating Marv, but doubts Marv would really care anyways.
Hartigan does it too. He apparently collapses when confronting the Yellow Bastard the second time, to lure him in close. This also causes Junior to let go of Nancy, who Hartigan was presumably worried about hitting.
Nancy does it the second film. She cuts her own face and then tells Marv the Roarks did it, knowing that Marv will be so enraged he'll help her attack them. Knowing Marv, he probably would have helped if she just asked.
You Can Barely Stand: Subverted by Hartigan the first time: "You can't even lift that cannon" — "Sure I can."
Not that Junior learned his lesson the second time around, either.
Your Soul Is Mine: Kevin was a Serial Killer who ate his victims, all female prostitutes. Cardinal Roark, who supported him and joined in, claimed that he ate not only their bodies, but their souls as well, which would "fill him with light" and feel close to God. The story makes it clear that they're just delusional though.