Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Vanessa Hudgens, Jena Malone, Jamie Chung
How do you escape from a prison? Imagine you’re a prostitute. That’s what Baby Doll (Browning) does in Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, a bombastic bit of titty-loving action that mixes big explosions with small skirts. Trapped in a mental hospital by her evil father, Baby Doll does the sensible thing: she retreats into her imagination, which for some reason resembles a 1950s brothel. It’s like hanging out with Pan’s Labyrinth’s horny younger brother.
Things aren’t helped by the fact that the women only go by their prozzy names: Amber (Chung), Rocket (Malone), Blondie (Hudgens) and Sweet Pea (Cornish).
The film revolves around female empowerment (and schoolgirl costumes) as Baby Doll uses her feminine wiles (breasts) to distract her male captors while the others steal the key items they need to escape. But we never see her jiggle her booty about, because that’s when Snyder cuts to his own erotic dances: 10-minute music videos, set in another fantasy world, that involve samurai swords, dragons and nuclear warheads.
Filled with ridiculous action, these set pieces are actually well put together. They have nothing to do with anything, but they sure do look pretty: steampunk clockwork Nazis? Orcs machine-gunned on the steps of Mount Doom? Yes please. Sporting some of the most stylised butchering since 300, Snyder is in his element here, slapping some serious wow factor up on the screen.
Then the action’s over, and we return to the other part of Baby Doll’s daydreams. Not that it matters whose brain it is – the women are all interchangeable, unless you count having different coloured hair or slightly shorter skirts as depth of character (phwoar, get a load of her... character development).
And this is why it doesn't work: Snyder seems to realise that you can’t just have spectacle alone for 100 minutes, but can’t write a script to string together his teen boy fantasies. Getting the cast to record their own cover versions of songs like Where Is My Mind? is a nice (if unsubtle) touch, but it doesn’t add meaning to the film. The dialogue is way too hammy – think massive male sausage meat – for that, which leaves doctor/pimp Blue (Isaac) and Mad Men’s Jon Hamm looking stupid in their supporting roles as exploitative men.
Boo, men. Nasty, leering men. That's what Snyder says from behind the camera. Slowing everything down whenever a woman jumps in the air or fires a gun, he pores over every frame with a drooling fetish that would be sleazy in a 15 or 18 certificate film. For a 12A, it’s just uncomfortable. Everyone struts along in skimpy outfits, but people pause before they say naughty words and things like rape and abuse occur off-screen. It’s a misogynistic, adult world that’s suitable for kids.
Of course, all of these problems don’t matter to Zack. His videogame-addled brain loves the screenplay’s pretentious final note and worships the idea of shooting Nazis while gathering magical objects. Admittedly, it’s hard to deny the fun of watching scantily-clad females killing things, especially when it looks so good. For all its dubious content, Sucker Punch really isn't as terrible as, say, Age of the Dragons. But at its best, it's little more than Porn’s Labyrinth.
Sucker Punch is the Citizen Kane of movies about semi-naked women with guns. If that description turns you on, you'll love it.
- abbie cornish
- emily browning
- jamie chung
- jena malone
- jon hamm
- oscar isaac
- sucker punch
- vanessa hudgens
- zack snyder