I saw Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch a few days ago, but I wanted to wait until my ears stopped ringing before I wrote a review. Frankly, I needed the time to come up with something to say. Sucker Punch is often a great music video. It is frequently a great video game. But it never adds up to being a good movie. Indeed, Sucker Punch is a repugnant, pointless, and depressing movie, in spite of the fact that it is visually stunning and brilliantly directed.
This is a shame, because Zack Snyder is a very talented director. I would argue that his Watchmen is the greatest superhero movie of all time. But Watchmen had a great script, a 19th century Romantic novel disguised as a comic book, whereas Sucker Punch has a train-wreck of a script, a mashup of Brazil, Suddenly Last Summer, The Lovely Bones, Moulin Rouge, The Lord of the Rings, Inception, and I am sure a host of video games I am too hopelessly unhip to know anything about.
I have no idea of why it is called Sucker Punch, unless it is a cynical reference to how well the movie delivers on its marketing.
Since you are unlikely to want to see Sucker Punch anyway, I am going to summarize the plot as I understand it. If you don’t want to know, then stop reading here.
Sucker Punch is supposedly set in 1955, but there is no attempt to make the music, technology, or racial composition of the cast realistic for that time. A wealthy young woman, known only as “Baby Doll” (played by Australian actress Emily Browning), is committed to an insane asylum by her stepfather, a monstrous figure who may have murdered his wife to gain control of her money only to discover that the money went to her two daughters. Enraged, he attacks the daughters, and Baby Doll, in self-defense, accidentally kills her little sister. (All this is related, by the way, during the pre-title sequence entirely without dialogue. As with the opening credits of Watchmen, this shows that Zack Snyder is truly a great silent movie director.)
The wicked stepfather commits Baby Doll to an insane asylum and bribes a sleazy Semitic orderly “Blue” (Oscar Isaac) who has a racially mixed set of henchmen, to have Baby Doll lobotomized by faking the signature of Dr. Gorski (the ravishing Carla Gugino), the psychiatrist in charge. When a doctor comes to perform the lobotomy, Baby Doll slips into a fantasy world, which is pretty much the whole rest of the film.
In her fantasy, Baby Doll and four other girls (two of them white, one Chinese, and one mystery meat) are in a brothel run by Blue, who is a gangster/pimp. Instead of being scheduled for a lobotomy, Baby Doll’s virginity will be sold to a man known as “The High Roller” who will arrive five days hence. Determined to escape, Baby Doll enlists the help of four other girls to steal the things they will need to escape: a map, a lighter, a knife, a key, and a mysterious fifth item.
Within Baby Doll’s main fantasy, there are four other fantasies, which are basically video games: in one Baby Doll fights three giant samurai à la Brazil; in another the five girls fight steampunk German zombies in the trenches of the First World War while majestic zeppelins soar overhead; in the third, the girls fight orcs and a dragon in a castle; in the fourth, they try to save a futuristic city on another planet from destruction by a nuclear device on a speeding train guarded by robots.
In the brothel fantasy, one of the girls is killed by a cook while trying to steal his knife. Two others are brutally murdered by Blue. And one of them, Sweet Pea (Australian actress Abby Cornysh), escapes because Baby Doll chooses to remain behind, sacrificing herself, a gesture that is sanctified with some pretentious voiceover rubbish about guardian angels. In the real world, however, Baby Doll is simply lobotomized and nobody escapes. Blue, however, is caught and rats out Baby Doll’s stepfather. The end.
Oh, and if you stay through the credits, you can see the repulsive Blue in his pimp getup performing Roxy Music’s “Love is the Drug” à-la Moulin Rouge with Dr. Gorski in a red wig.
The biggest question is: Who is the natural audience of this film? I think it is pretty much evenly split between teenage girls attracted by the girl power fantasies and child molesters attracted by the powerless girl realities: the hot, wholesome, helpless Mark Rydenesque waifs being locked up, strapped down, beaten, lobotomized, raped, and murdered. That left me, and pretty much the rest of the human race, feeling rather out in the cold, and frankly a little sick.
(The sad truth, of course, is that these girl power fantasies lead young women to take foolish risks that make them more likely to become victims of rapists and murderers.)
It is a mystery to me how this movie got anything less than an R rating, even from the Semitic Legion of Indecency. Parents of young girls should consider vacationing in Iran until this movie is gone from the theaters and the pimps, perverts, and fedora-in-lap types who are surely buzzing around it like latrine flies have dispersed.