Reviewed by GREG KING
DIrector: Zack Snyder
Stars: Emily Browning, Carla Gugino, Scott Glenn, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung.
Sucker Punch is a misogynist fantasy, in which scantily clad female warriors kick some major butt in an alternative world. It comes across as a frenzied mish-mash of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Girl Interrupted and Inception via way of Shutter Island. In some ways Sucker Punch resembles a dark, garish, nightmarish CGI-driven version of the recent Inception.
The concept for the film was apparently pitched to the studio that financed it with the tag line “Alice in Wonderland with guns.” And so we journey down the rabbit hole with this depressingly excessive, horribly misogynistic and exploitative piece of cinema from Zack Snyder (director of 300, etc).
Snyder proved himself a visionary and imaginative director able to amalgamate state of the art computer generated imagery into his movies. But there the CGI effects and visuals served the story. In his latest film the visuals overwhelm the story, and this relentless assault on the senses eventually overwhelms the audience as well. His excesses distract and detract from the narrative, which was co-written with first time writer Steve Shibuya, a former second unit director.
The opening sequence is the best part of the film. An almost wordless sequence, shot in muted, desaturated colours, slow motion and oppressive close-ups, it shows how our heroine Baby Doll (Emily Browning) came to be placed in the care of her greedy and abusive step father, who is keen to claim her inheritance for himself. When she tries to prevent him from killing her younger sister, Baby Doll is committed to an insane asylum for mentally disturbed young girls. In a few days a doctor will arrive to perform a lobotomy.
To pass the time, Baby Doll escapes into an alternative world, in which she works in a high-class bordello. She is waiting for the arrival of the “High Roller”, who will presumably take her away from this world of abuse and misery. Baby Doll undergoes therapy at the hands of a doctor (Carla Gugino), who uses dance as a form of therapy. But while dancing she retreats into yet another level of consciousness, and here the line between reality and fantasy is blurred. Here she meets her mentor (Scott Glenn, seemingly channelling the late David Carradine), who spouts mystical nonsense and informs her that she must gather five objects to help her escape. They are a map, a knife, fire, and a key. The fifth item is a mystery, which she must solve.
Baby Doll enlists the help of fellow inmates/prostitutes including Sweet Pea (Australian actress Abbie Cornish, also recently seen in Limitless, etc), Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), and Amber (Jamie Chung). In her various imagined worlds, Baby Doll and her scantily clad colleagues do battle with giant mechanical monsters, fight zombie German soldiers during a hyper surreal World War One battle, defeat fire breathing dragons, and try to disarm a nuclear bomb on a speeding train. These action scenes though are filmed with all the visual panache and energy of a typical video game, and after a while they become repetitive and forgettable.
The film is deliberately anachronistic, and the loud rock score that accompanies the action is grating. The film at times is visually ugly, with a look and a feel that has been heavily influenced by video games. The production design also has a deliberately retro feel to it. which adds to the surreal nature of the whole thing. The female characters are uniformly dressed in skimpy, fetishistic lingerie, and their names also hint at the exploitative and sexist nature of the material.
Sucker Punch is a depressing example of the current state of film making, particularly in Hollywood, where the industry is aiming at adolescent males raised on a diet of video games and music videos. They may well enjoy this film; everyone else will leave the cinema shaking their heads in disbelief.