Sucker Punch (2011)

Sucker Punch has all the ingredients for a genuinely exciting film; guns, girls, samurai demons, robots, helicopters, dragons, clockwork Nazis, orcs, bombs and bazookas. Yet much like if your pie was actually made from these ingredients, it’s impossible to swallow and leaves a horrific taste in your mouth. Sucker Punch is a giant mess.

Those who’ve seen the trailer will realize the general concept of Sucker Punch is a wildly exciting one; after accidentally killing her sister, Baby Doll (Emily Browning) is carted off to a mental asylum by her evil step-father, and she’s given five days left of sanity before she’s lobotomized. In these five days she has to organize and execute an escape plan and quickly enlists the help of four other girls living in the nuthouse, who must find five items to help with their liberation; a map, fire, a knife, a key and a secret, special item of some undetermined origin…

Baby Doll does this by transporting herself into a different world where the mental asylum becomes a strip club / brothel (bear with me) ruled by a man called Blue. Within this world, she can also transport herself via dance (still with me?) into alternate realities where she needs to defeat specific targets in order to attain the five items. Still alive? Okay, I’ll continue…

These different planes of reality include a Samurai temple, a version of World War II, a dragon’s castle and a futuristic version of the DLR, policed by crap robots. If the five girls succeed within the alternate reality then in the real world – well, the mad brothel world (stay with me!) – they obtain that item. But can they get all these items in time before the lobotomiser man turns up and brain-fucks Emily Browning?

Who cares?

The major, underlying flaw with Sucker Punch is that you have absolutely no emotional investment in anything. We understand Babydoll’s tragic past, but we have no idea who Sweetpea, Rocket, Amber and Blondie actually are. They’re in a mental asylum, so surely one of them is actually a complete psychopath? They could all be innocent or they could be students of the Myra Hindley & Aileen Wuornos School of Insane Bitches. But we never find out about any of their backgrounds, so we simply don’t care. Coupled with the fact that it’s all a bloody dream in the first place, we don’t even know if these girls actually exist, as they may in fact be elements of Babydoll’s fractured mind.

Yawn. This lack of caring comes directly from the script, or lack thereof. It’s a paper-thin ream of nothingness, filled with occasional platitudes or overblown faux-philosophic twaddle that is as profound as saying “Be strong and you will win” or “Love will set you free”. It’s forgettable pap… but then, Sucker Punch isn’t about words. At all. In any way.

If you’ve seen the trailer you know Sucker Punch is all about action… lots and lots of action. Now, the action is naturally insanely thrilling but it is also utterly soulless, and after Baby Doll gets smashed in the face by a thirty-foot tall demon samurai and survives without a single bruise, you realize anything can happen. Literally anything. This creates an even bigger sense of apathy as the apparent threat is dissolved as soon as it appears – you cannot worry about the safety of someone who is basically an immortal mute.

The action is also less disciplined than Zack Snyder’s previous films. Whether you loved or hated Watchmen, 300 or his Dawn of the Dead re-jig, his style and imagery have always made an impact. There is the occasional arresting image in Sucker Punch that impresses greatly and the first ten minutes are genuinely superb (and classic Snyder), but there are some headache-inducing moments too. Taking a lesson from Michael Bay’s lob-everything-in-a-blender-and-press-record method of filming, some of the scenes are so confusing it hurts – the robot / train attack makes absolutely no sense; it’s just metal, sparks and girls. I expected more from Snyder.

There are, however, some genuinely excellent things about Sucker Punch; the soundtrack is typically superb, something we’ve come to expect from Zach Snyder’s awesome film jukebox. This time round it features versions of Sweet Dreams, Asleep and Where is My Mind?, which are surprisingly performed by Emily Browning and a superb remix of Bjork’s Army of Me, along with music from Queen and Skunk Anansie. The soundtrack works beautifully with the insane imagery on screen… but what did you expect from the ex music-video director? A subtle score? Silence? Not likely…

Oscar Isaac excelled as Prince John in the Ridley Scott’s otherwise hideously dull reimagining of Robin Hood, and once again Isaac’s take on orderly / mob boss Blue lifts the film and – despite the appalling moustache – provides some of the film’s grittier, more impactful moments. Yes, more impactful than a dragon biting a plane. Overall the acting is not terrible; it is just without depth, much like in a really long music video. Browning does well with an almost speechless role and Scott Glenn’s “Wiseman” is excellent despite being handed some of the film’s worst lines. The girls all do well, but when you’re handling a giant turd, you always end up smelling of shit.

Sucker Punch is a huge misstep for Zack Snyder, and hopefully this doesn’t spell disaster for his 2012 Superman reboot. It also adds another epic film fail to Emily Browning’s list of Darkness Falls, Ghost Ship and The Uninvited. Despite being a genuinely good actress, she’s been lumbered with some truly abysmal projects. Next up is her role as the titular Sleeping Beauty… but this happens to be a darkly erotic version. She can get an Oscar later in her career then…

Devoid of mystery, charm or empathy, Sucker Punch fails on a surprising amount of levels. It is visually exciting at times, the opening is excellent, the music is superb and the acting isn’t appalling, but it just isn’t good enough. Sucker Punch is a pointless, frustrating mess.

Rating: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

One Comment on “Sucker Punch”

  1. GoreJess says:

    I think Emily Browning is in the wrong industry to be honest. She seems to enjoy ‘starring’ in these type of ‘wank-fest’ films…first this, then ‘erotic fairytale’ Sleeping Beauty…what the hell next?

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