TMP Reviews: Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch (2011) – Emily Browning as the diminutive samurai butt kicking Baby Doll.

There has been grumbling about the deceiving marketing of Sucker Punch and packaging the movie as simply a guy’s graphic novel style T & A flick, when in actuality it was really a message movie about Zack Snyder’s idea of female empowerment. Whatever the argument, this is one fantasy action thriller that will leave you bewildered and unprepared for the depth of the darkness that is delved by Sucker Punch.

Sucker Punch (2011) – From left to right: Jena Malone as Rocket, Abbie Cornish as Sweet Pea, and Vanessa Hudgens as Blondie.

Yet Sucker Punch is also a dark, full throttle fantasy dream land where scantily clad women with heavy make up, false lashes and heels run around expertly toting weapons. It boasts a voluptuous landscape guilty of sensory overload where the beauty and sensuality of women are as dangerous as the weapons they carry, and where names like Baby Doll and Sweet Pea abound. Is Sucker Punch out there? Oh yeah, it’s out there.

Sucker Punch (2011) – Baby Doll is institutionalized against her will.

The SET UP

Baby Doll is locked away in an insane asylum against her will by her abusive stepfather. She is scheduled for a lobotomy in five days, and so to escape the horrors of her reality, she retreats into different fantasy worlds within fantasy worlds of her own creation where she has the power to set herself free if she has the courage to do what it takes to fight for that freedom. She urges four other girls to take the chance to escape their horrible fates as well, and together they embark on some unbelievable adventures. In these imagined worlds she fights giant samurais, then zombie soldiers in a World War I setting, slays fire breathing dragons, and vicious robots who safeguard a bomb set to destroy a city.

Directed by: Zack Snyder

Cast: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Jamie Chung, Vanessa Hudgens, Carla Gugino, Oscar Isaac, Jon Hamm, and Scott Glenn

Written by: Zack Snyder and Steve Shibuya

 

Sucker Punch (2011) – The visuals in Sucker Punch are as bleak as they are stunning.

The GOOD

Zack Snyder asks you to not only suspend your disbelief but to free your mind altogether from realism, archaic stereotypes and Jungian archetypes for the five women (for the most part) when they exist within Baby Doll’s far out fantasies. This film, as much as it is a feverish fantasy, was also a look at the harsh ugliness of reality, and the truth can be hard to take. The injustice of the opening sequence alone will burn like a putrid fire in your chest it is so harrowing.

The movie continues in this vein as it takes themes that can make even the toughest viewers’ skin literally crawl and makes one want to divert their eyes. It is only because the film is unlike anything seen before that the audience is unable to turn away even as our psyches are being horrified and outraged that someone would dare to put material like this on the screen.

Sucker Punch (2011) – In her Inception-esque fantasy within a fantasy there is nothing that Baby Doll and her friends cannot do.

There was something primal and unnerving, primordial and violent about this visual extravaganza. Yet the film was also titillating, provocative and beautiful and possessed the uncanny ability to shock even the most loquacious among us into stunned silence. Leaving Baby Doll’s brothel dance up to our imagination instead of showing it on the screen lured the audience even deeper into her lurid daydream and knocked the show don’t tell mantra out of the water. A mayor that looked and behaved more like a pimp was satire at its best. The kindness of a stranger emphasized the need for compassion and goodness in a world devoid of any such notions.

Sucker Punch (2011) – Provocative, beautiful, stunning and full of shocking moments.

It was as if one of the most graphic of graphic novels was brought to life with no fantasy left unturned. The juxtaposition of horror and beauty was like the snake in the Garden of Eden. In essence, this is a film about warrior women and comparisons to Kill Bill, Tomb Raider, Xena and Red Sonja will inevitably enter your mind because it is a film about women who fight, for themselves and for each other, in a world where the defenseless are so often violated.

You can’t help but be drawn in, even if it is unwillingly, and when I saw it, no one got up and left the theater — which is the ultimate sign that a movie is so bad that people can’t stand to stay. In fact, whenever I chanced a brief glance around the packed theater, I saw the same looks on everyone else’s faces that I am sure was on mine — riveted fascination. Sucker Punch definitely pushes the boundaries of what is and isn’t acceptable, but it is definitely getting people talking — and isn’t that in the end what movies are meant to do?

Sucker Punch (2011) – Sucker Punch is a fantastical, gorgeous mind trip.

The BAD

The good things about this movie are also the bad things about this movie. It was too fantastical, too lurid, overblown and it did push the boundaries of good taste. Am I all for removing the pervasive cloud of impending rape and violence towards women that saturated the film? Yes I am. Were the small outfits, tons of makeup, false eyelashes and heels unnecessary? Probably, even if these elements did add to the whole hot chicks kick some serious butt schtick of the movie. I did not buy Carla Gugino’s Russian accent and I desperately wanted a different ending. Also, this film is most definitely NOT a PG-13 kind of movie; that rating in and of itself is misleading.

Sucker Punch (2011) – Oscar Isaac as Blue Jones makes for one of the most chilling, ruthless and menacing of villains.

Probably my biggest problems with the film were first of all the sense of confusion I felt early on in the film. This was not a movie about Baby Doll (Emily Browning) what? It was actually about Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) and her sister Rocket (Jena Malone) what?. I started to wonder a third of the way through the film why Baby Doll’s character, despite the dramatic opening, as well as her relationships with the other girls wasn’t really being developed. Why was there so much time spent on the two sisters Sweet Pea and Rocket? In the end I felt wholly betrayed. Secondly, the fate of the biggest and most utterly vile villain in this film is left unknown to us. The sense of futility and injustice and dissatisfaction with the ending is intensified because of this deliberate loose end. Thirdly, I felt like I had to compartmentalize while viewing this film. It was like watching separate movies in a way and lacked a certain cohesiveness and the ending felt rushed. Lastly and probably most of all, the violence towards women was also I felt at times too much to take.

Sucker Punch (2011) – Sucker Punch was a movie with an unexpected message.

The Scorecard

Acting: No Oscar calibre performances here. The one liners served as comic relief even though they were uttered by the venerable Scott Glenn and delivered as sage advice to our girl heroes. Oscar Isaac played a villain extraordinaire.

Directing: What is fast becoming his signature style of filming is stamped all over this film. Zack Snyder’s imagination is wild and I don’t know if that is a good thing, though he does craft a visually gorgeous and stunning film.

Writing: A shocking tale that pushes the boundaries of good taste yet is highly imaginative and does keep you interested in the outcome of the protagonist and her friends despite its obvious flaws.

Sound: The soundtrack is a rocking mix of the past and present, taking some of those hot songs we knew then and revamping them into something that will definitely rock you now. Probably one of the most redeeming points of the film.

Visuals: Stunning, arresting, violent, thought provoking, exquisite as it is heinous, harrowing yet gorgeous at the same time.

Sucker Punch (2011) – “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

Overall

As the Sucker Punch debate rages on, only box office numbers will be able to tell whether or not Sucker Punch kicked butt or just sucked. Was Sucker Punch a film about female empowerment or was it just every guy’s fantasy? I think it depends on which side of the argument you’re on. Regardless, Sucker Punch was also a stunningly beautiful, high octane thrilling mind trip with a message and is fueling the flames of a hot deliberation. This is one message movie that will blow your mind just as much because of the good things as it will because of the bad things.

I give Sucker Punch a 6.5 out of 10.

Sucker Punch (2011) – No sweet dreams here, just one outlandish, feverish, spellbinding fantasy.