Sucker Punch Directed by: Zack Snyder Cast: Emily Browning, Oscar Isaac, Carla Gugino, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Scott Glenn Running Time: 1 hr 50 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: March 25, 2011
PLOT: A young woman (Browning) seeks to escape the insane asylum she's locked up in by exploring violent fantasies, featuring her friends (Hudgens, Chung, Cornish, Malone).
WHO'S IT FOR?: While ladies are indeed kicking butt, the empowerment of Sucker Punch is reserved for the fanboys, who get to watch Snyder toy with more action figures (or in this case, scantily clad dolls). The same crowd that ate up the silly 300 will enjoy this very much, whether they’re aware or not of Snyder working overtime to reverse that movie’s homoeroticism.
EXPECTATIONS: “Slow-mo” Snyder has gotten fairly predictable with his style, which is at least unmatched as of now (no one loves slow motion as much as him). The real curious corners of Sucker Punch involve the casting, which features Vanessa Hudgens from High School Musical and even that girl from that “Lemony Snicket” movie, Emily Browning.
Emily Browning as Babydoll: She’s soft spoken in the movie’s “reality” with her pure blonde hair and oozing innocence, but she maintains a swift attitude in the action world. Browning delivers the movie’s best moments of action, providing a handful of truly epic images (especially when gravity is disregarded). Still, the shakiness behind her construction prevents her from being a protagonist of whom we can enjoy the ride with. Score: 4
Oscar Isaac as Blue Jones: With his thin mustache and bad temper, Isaac is actually fairly intimidating in this evil role, especially when he begins to crack down on the girls' escape plan. His attempt at being menacing is nicely spared any sort of ham, and despite its potential never becomes jokey. Score: 5
Carla Gugino as Vera Gorski: Gugino's presence in the movie is a bit more like an extended cameo. Gorski is an interesting character deserving of her own subplot (like, why is she so submissive to her male boss, but so aggressive with her ladies?), but she doesn't get one. Score: 4
The Other Ladies: It could be the corset or the guns talking, but Hudgens is able to step outside of the High School Musical skin that she has carried over to her other teen roles like in Bandslam and Beastly. It’s funny to see Jamie Chung step into that giant rabbit thing, and the two sisters (played by Malone and Cornish) have a couple of amusing action moments. But in general, these leading heroines are written to be as flat as Maxim magazine paper. Score: 4
TALKING: With all of the "babes and guns" elements being thrown around, Sucker Punch is without fiery dialogue, or even potentially bad-ass one liners. One would think that Snyder wouldn’t hold back on his dialogue in such a movie, but that’s exactly what he does here. When characters do speak, it’s often fairly vacuous. Scott Glenn’s description of the various missions are less like information briefings, and more like video game cut scenes that you just want to skip by pressing “B” so you can just get to the good stuff. Score: 4
SIGHTS: Regardless of whether they have any meaning to anything, the visuals are consistently impressive throughout Sucker Punch. The movie’s many environments, which likely used heavy amount of green screen technology, all feel very tangible, especially with such colorful and certainly labored special effects. The action of Sucker Punch is fairly enjoyable, but at times can run redundant. The same can be said about the movie’s constant usage of slow motion, which in the film’s opening sequence, feels especially dirge-y. (If anyone's keeping score, Antichrist pulled that off more successfully.) Score: 7
SOUNDS: The Sucker Punch soundtrack features a handful of alt-rocking songs, but none of them are played in a straight forward sense. Every song is a cover, from Alison Mosshart and Carla Azar’s cover of the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” to Skunk Anansie’s cover of Iggy Pop and the Stooges’ “Search and Destroy.” There are a couple of mash-ups in the soundtrack, but thankfully they do not achieve the awkward feeling that the Just Go For It soundtrack gave a couple months ago. The Pixies’ popular song “Where Is My Mind?” is given yet another rendition, this one extremely breathy and prominent throughout the movie. The soundtrack provides Sucker Punch even more of an odd tone to its pop art potential, but the songs by themselves aren’t very significant. Instead, their random implementations are a bit distracting to the other nutty things happening in the movie. Score: 4
BEST SCENE: Snyder’s "slow-fast-slow" motion alteration looks the best in the train-bomb sequence, which features some very fluid butt-kicking as borne from impressive fight choreography. To top it off, the camera captures Babydoll’s moves in what appears to be one shot. Cool.
ENDING: We learn who the real story is about. But we still don't know what it’s all about.
QUESTIONS: I’ll keep it simple: What the hell could Babydoll’s dances feature that makes them so hypnotic? And of course, how much does drug abuse play a part in Snyder’s filmmaking process? First we had medieval epic owls, and now this? Why is this movie called Sucker Punch?
REWATCHABILITY: Sucker Punch’s action scenes hold some replay value, but a large chunk of everything else really doesn’t. This isn’t a movie I’d see again on my accord, but I’d go with a friend if just to attempt to maybe unscramble a few things ... if that’s even possible.
A submission to the same unofficial directorial d*ck measuring contest that Michael Bay participated in with his Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Sucker Punch has the accredited action auteur/special effects slave Snyder playing with his toys to his heart’s content, in whatever manner he feels like. Not having to futz around within the bounds of an adaptation (as with Watchmen, Dawn of the Dead etc.), he can let his pop impulses fly, allowing the slow motion to dominate his non-sensical action scenes as the movie’s general craziness goes from “What?” to "What the hell?" to “What the f**k?” and so on and so on, until your brain pops (or your inner 12-year-old bursts out of your chest like in Alien).
In this way, Snyder’s attempt at making a “babes in gunland” action movie to satisfy his inner-Russ Meyer is a lot like Spike Lee’s She Hate Me. Like Lee’s peculiar 2004 film, Sucker Punch apparently has some personal corners (its “Love is the Drug” credit song is complimented with a dedication to Marsha Snyder, whom I assume is his mother). At the same time, Sucker Punch is really only significant to the rest of Snyder’s filmography. If it were by someone else, it would be ultimately head-scratched out of moviegoer conscience. And strangely by possible coincidence, the comparative She Hate Me also presents women in a very, very questionable light of "empowerment" (it’s about a heterosexual man who is hired to impregnate lesbians).
Non-sexually speaking, Snyder makes his toys seem like something we want to play with too. Meaning, Sucker Punch shouldn’t be a movie so much as a video game, as it's fit perfectly for the format. Snyder's method of morphing his movies into action sequence mixtapes (watch 300 and tell me I'm wrong) continues proudly here, and feels more like the levels of a video game. They even come with the aforementioned mission briefings that we skip over in boring cut scenes. Even better, the logic of video games is quite accepting of ridiculous story concepts that are wildly followed through with. The crazy Sucker Punch would be right at home, without desperately needing multiple lobotomies.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10