Movie Review – Sucker Punch (2011)
by HELEN GEIB
It’s often said that Hollywood movie-making is all about the numbers. Allow me to break down Sucker Punch by the numbers.
Watching Sucker Punch is like watching somebody else play a video game for two hours. A video game that sprang fully formed from the mind of a 14-year old boy.
I had half a mind to leave before the end.
The world within the film is composed of three nested fantasy layers. The top layer is the characters’ reality, a mock-Gothic insane asylum to which heroine Baby Doll (Emily Browning) has been wrongfully committed by her evil stepfather. The middle layer is a showclub/bordello fractured mirror of the asylum, apparently inexplicably Baby Doll’s escape from reality into imagination. The bottom and relatively most interesting layer is a multiverse video game-like construct in which Baby Doll and her four member girl-victim posse are invincible warriors. Their names are Sweet Pea, Rocket, Blondie, and Amber.
The layers are connected by the film’s one defining visual motif, namely nubile young women in stripper-hooker outfits.
Sucker Punch might possibly have been an entertaining women in prison/anime hottie/comic book/female warrior fantasy pastiche if it had one of these three things:
1) A STORY. The damaged mind that escapes into a fantasy world is an idea. It’s proved a fruitful idea for numerous filmmakers since at least The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. But it’s not a story.
2) CHARACTERS. Sucker Punch doesn’t have characters. It has six beautiful actresses, including a thrown away Carla Gugino, in various and varied stages of near-nudity representing suffering and exploited womanhood and a few fully-clothed actors representing stock male villains. Plus Scott Glenn as Baby Doll & Co.’s portentous spirit guide.
3) HUMOR. Humor in this self-serious movie? Now there’s a laugh.
The script lapses into pretentious voiceover narration two times, the first during the pre-commitment prologue that is the film’s otherwise wordless high point and the second to close out the post-escape epilogue that constitutes the titular punch aimed squarely at the audience.
Abbie Cornish is the only one of the five young actresses able to wrestle the dialogue to the mat.
Sucker Punch was directed by Zack Snyder. Story and screenplay by Zack Snyder. Zack Snyder makes his appearance on the list of directors who should stick to directing and let other people do the writing at number one, tied with Robert Rodriguez.
Review of Watchmen (directed by Zack Snyder, original story not by Zack Snyder)