Sucker Punch – 2011

Directed by Zack Snyder

Starring Emily Browning, Jena Malone, Abbie Cornish, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Carla Gugino, Isaac Blue, Jon Hamm, Scott Glenn

Written by Steve Shibuya and Snyder

Chain Gang Chicks in sepia tone.  This is the kind of movie that can only be thoroughly enjoyed by those men (or fan boys) who have never spent significant time with a woman outside of their own head.  It’s for the kind of people that think Attack of the Clones had realistic dialogue.  There are plenty of excellent vantage points in Sucker Punch.  It’s just that none of these vantage points contain anything more than the wisdom you get from inside of a comic book.

Emily Browning plays Babydoll (like there can be any other name in a movie like this), a good girl who, in the opening song, loses her mother, her sister, and her freedom at the hands of a sadistic (again, like there can be any other) stepfather who’s going for the gold in the a-hole competition.  He hands his baton of cruelty off to a shady (again…) orderly named Blue (Isaacs), who takes a couple grand to forge some documents and have her lobotomized.  She hears the entire exchange, of course, but she does nothing, even though just screaming in a crowded room would have allowed her at least an investigation into these matters.  That is not the kind of sense one exhibits in a story like this.  In the comic book world, women are made to suffer while wearing skimpy outfits.  The next thing we see, she is lined up in the chair, ready for her lobotomy.  From here, we enter her dream world.

This dream world is, of course, a brothel.  All of the girls are dancers with other duties as assigned.  In this world, Blue is the owner of the brothel.  Through a sequence of events that only can be explained as necessary to jump to the special effects, she enters into yet another dream world while dancing.  We never see the dancing.  I think this is not necessarily because the girls can’t dance.  Instead, it appears the filmmaker understands that boys these days would rather see them handling swords and guns.  So, the first of these dreams starts with an encounter with someone called The Wise Man.  This is the one good guy in the movie, sent there to tell her how to escape the other guys.  After the initial passing of wisdom, she kicks some ass and, surprise, this translates into an incredible dance, or so we hear.

Having been befriended by Jena Malone who plays (wait for it…) Rocket, she gains access to Sweet Pea (Cornish), Blondie (the brunette Hudgens, for an ironic touch) and Amber (Chung).  These girls buy into her dream of escape and promptly begin setting up dances for the brutes of the brothel.  While Babydoll dances, the brutes are mesmerized, we get to watch Snyder’s awesome special effects, and the chicks, you know, steal stuff to escape with.

These fantasy sequences are as brilliantly filmed as they are stupid.  While watching them, one wonders how a story like this one could get such incredible amounts of money to work with when a superior story, like Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country has to borrow scenes from earlier films to save a few bucks.  Zombies, Robots and Dragons all sit up just so these chicks with swords, guns and lingerie can, you know, mow ’em down.  That not one of the characters outside of Babydoll is living any of this is of little consequence, and hard to figure from the preview commercials.

The performances are just a tad above the inane dialogue.  Browning leaves a small impression, and Jena Malone, so incredible in Contact all those years ago as a young Jodie Foster (I bought it), has become that girl who will forever be the friend of the one that survives.  Cornish, Hudgens and Chung look better than they act.  I wish I could say the same about Gugino.  Isaacs actually steals most of the scenes he is in, but then, he’s playing an evil jerk.  In fanboy language, that’s character.

I loved Zack Snyder’s first film, an incredibly witty and realistic remake of Dawn of the Dead.  After following this with a spectacularly homoerotic take on Frank Miller’s 300, he was a made man in Hollywood.  Watchmen was daring film that actually improved upon the original story, even if it wasn’t perfect.  The Legends of the Guardian: The Owls of Ga’Hoole was a good film that audiences noticed, if not the critics.  The common thread through these films are crystal clear graphics and spectacular effects.  Other than his first film and Watchmen, however, there has been a predominant sepia tone.  Most of the early pics from the upcoming Man of Steel have the same hue to them.  There also is a discernible lack of reality to the characters and their motives.  At least Dawn of the Dead had Sarah Polley and Ving Rhames.  Too bad they can’t be in every Snyder movie.

Sucker Punch is entirely watchable.  Each scene feeds seamlessly and sometimes comically into another.  Anyone not living in the basement of their parent’s home might have a smirk and move on with life.  As for the others…they’ll be dressed up at the next Comic Con, seeking the autograph of Yeoman Rand.

(** out of *****)

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