MOVIE REVIEW: Sucker Punch


If you can't tell  from two of Zach Snyder's previous films, the comic book-based double play of 300 and Watchman, that he has a thing for slow-motion action and mixing cool genres, then you aren't paying attention to his creative talent.  Understand it or not, you have to tip the hat at his showmanship.  No one makes movies that look like his.  Whether it's P90X-chiseled warriors slaying Persians by the dozens or the dead-on accuracy of an 80's comic epic, the guy can make your eyes roll back in your head with his visuals.

In Sucker Punch, you have machine gun-toting and sword-wielding chicks in stripper clothes.  At different scenarios they are creatively killing giant glowing samurais, steam-powered undead Nazi zombies, dragons and goblins, and suicidal robots.  All of this occurs in dreams, meanwhile, those same girls are dancing their way as would-be prostitutes trying to inconspicuously gather the materials needed to exact a prison break. Finally, at other times, they look like catatonic, drugged out, and abused mental patients.

Sucker Punch is a loud, muddled mess of those cool action dream sequences, played one after another.  If those descriptions sound cool, then you like Zack Snyder's films and will enjoy this show.  If all of that sounded confusing, then two things are going on.  One, you are one of those aforementioned that doesn't get his creativity or, two, you've witnessed why Zach Snyder's movies never become revered ground-breaking classics: the stories can never live up to the visuals.  This reviewer is the former of those two, so count him as a biased fan.

The movie follows "Baby Doll" (Emily Browning, most notably from Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events), a 20-year old who is sent a mental institution for women in the 1960's after being blamed for her sister's death, which actually happened at the hands of her abusive stepfather.  There, she joins a group of lobotomized fellow patients, namely "Amber" (Jamie Chung of Sorority Row), "Blondie" (Vanessa Hudgens of the High School Musical series), "Rocket" (Jena Malone, over a decade removed from Stepmom), and her older sister and their leader "Sweet Pea" (Abbie Cornish, most recently of Limitless).  They are controlled and overseen by the devious orderly Blue (Oscar Isaac from last summer's Robin Hood) and asylum psychiatrist Dr. Gorski (Carla Gugino, in her element after Watchman and Sin City).  Once Baby Doll arrives, they are inspired to break of the asylum before she herself gets lobotomized by the "High Roller"/surgeon (Mad Men's Jon Hamm) that arrives in five days.  The action and dream sequences take over from there.

Like the wild and loud mix of action and intrigue of Sucker Punch or not, you will still find yourself glued to the visuals on the screen.  Snyder and his people don't do anything boring or halfway.  He, just as with his track record, gets that part right.  Sadly, what will un-glue you, also just as before, is the weak storytelling.  The dream episodes while fun and exciting can be repetitive and, other than being cool, don't serve the real asylum story.  It would have been nice to see their actual actions the girls took in the asylum to capture their needed supplies, not the symbolic battle dreams that stand in for them.  Overall, the movie's style points outweigh it's weaknesses.  Enjoy!

LESSON #1:  IF YOU DON'T STAND FOR SOMETHING, YOU'LL FALL FOR ANYTHING-- This is the in-movie lesson and reminder preached on by Scott Glenn's "Wise Man" character and it works for this movie and real life.  The lesson encourages you to have a side, have a cause, or have a goal that drives you and prevents you from being influenced by outside forces and roped into the drone public malaise.  These girls have that and we could handle standing up for something too nowadays (yes, even you Tea Party people).

LESSON #2: THE THREAT OF IMAGINATION-- To quote The Twilight Zone and its inclusion of the 1962 French film "An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge" from Ambrose Bierce's work, "two forms: as it was dreamed and as it was lived..." describes the "threat of imagination."  Our imagination is a powerful thing and a safe harbor.  We see things we want to see and replay events in our minds to great creativity.  Sometimes that imagination can replace what really happened and repress dreams and memories, confusing the border between real and fantasy.

LESSON #3:  THE THINGS THAT GO THROUGH ONE'S MIND WHEN THEIR LIFE FLASHES BEFORE THEIR EYES-- The chapters and visions of Baby Doll in Sucker Punch speak to this as much as that referenced French short film or even Bruce Willis' flashing memories before pushing that button at the end of Armageddon.  You will very easily notice when the film switches back and forth from the drab of the real and vivid color of the fantasies, all stemming from a possible lobotomy to our main heroine.  It's not Inception mind-bending, but it invokes the very real idea of life flashing before your eyes.

LESSON #4:  THERE ARE LOTS OF WAYS TO KILL PEOPLE BUT A MACHINE GUN IS THE FASTEST-- Nuff said. Screw paper, rock, scissors... or samurai swords.  Just bring enough ammo.

LESSON #5:  GIRL POWER RULES-- There's something to be said about the camaraderie and determination that comes from an empowered group of females.  The ladies here sure aren't the gals of Sex & the City, but don't screw with their caged heat.  Give a group of women something to be pissed about, a common goal, or something to fight about and they'll thrown down.  Strength in numbers and also underestimated in battle.