Sucker Punch (2011)

THE SCOOP
Director:  Zack Snyder
Cast:  Emily BrowningAbbie CornishJena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung
Plot:  A young girl is institutionalized by her wicked stepfather. Retreating to an alternative reality as a coping strategy, she envisions a plan which will help her escape from the facility.

Genre:  Action/Fantasy/Thriller
Awards:  -
Runtime:  109min
Rating:  PG for thematic material involving sexuality, violence and combat sequences, and for language.

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IN RETROSPECT
Zack Snyder, who is popular for his ultraviolent, over-stylized films such as 300 (2007) and Watchmen (2009), delivers a new motion picture that marks a return to his roots as a badass filmmaker this side of Tarantino.  But a quick look at the consumer rating for Sucker Punch is likely to leave fanboys considerably disappointed.  

After all, a PG-rated Snyder film is as puzzling as it is ironic.  Please ignore the anomaly that is his last film, a family-friendly animated outing called Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (2010), which is Snyder taking a breather rather than letting out aggressive steam.

Sucker Punch, with its all-babes cast, targets male youths who are also video gaming geeks.  The story, which is so minimalistic that it lives up to the first four letters of the film’s title, tells of a teenage girl called Baby Doll (Emily Browning) who is sent to a mental institution by her immoral stepfather.  

There she envisions a plan to escape the facility while retreating into the reality of her mind, which by the way is every geek’s wet dream.  With the help of four other hot babes in the institution, Baby Doll attempts to free herself from her physical prison with guidance and clues from her mental mentor, the Wise Man (Scott Glenn).

Opting for all style does not always guarantee substance.  Weak characterizations plague Sucker Punch, whose lead cast are nothing more than eye candy, and their motivations not well-developed. Viewers are unlikely to care whether they live or die, or about the sacrifices they have made for each other, because their characters are as paper-thin as the skimpy outfits they wear.  The acting, however, is surprisingly decent for a film whose emphasis is overwhelmingly on the spectacle of sight and sound, of which it has too much in abundance.

The action is stylized and invigorating, at least in the four or five 7-10 minute interludes that break the narrative structure into several progressive parts.  Very much a MMORPG blown up onto the big screen during these interludes, Sucker Punch borrows heavily from elements of popular culture such as The Matrix (1999) and Kill Bill (2003) to even games like Metal Slug in the mid-nineties.  Not since Tank Girl (1995), a brainless, zany, sci-fi action comedy that pits one girl (and her tank) against an evil mega-corporation has a film been so reliant on girl firepower to light up the screen.

Loud, brash, and I daresay at times entertaining, Sucker Punch is unfortunately soft on violence and sex, which apart from the non-existent plot, is the other main issue here.  Where is the blood and gore?  Where is the nudity?  There is not even a hint of lesbianism, or any other forms of frank sexuality.  Not that these are necessary, but a Snyder film is still a Snyder film.  

He may have returned to his signature filmmaking style that characterized 300 and Watchmen, but not in the hardcore fashion that we have expected him to deliver…and one more thing, please pack a pair of earplugs to go with your popcorn, unless you want to get your eardrums sucker punched.


GRADE: C- 

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