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Sucker Punch

A 2011 fantasy-action film directed by Zack Snyder.

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Careful, Girls – Don't Lose Your Heads

  • Mar 26, 2011
Star Rating:

Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch is a strange one indeed. It’s at once an all-girl action spectacle, a phantasmagoric special effects extravaganza, and a philosophical examination of destiny, freedom, and the power of imagination – an offshoot of the mind, an endless road if ever there was one. There’s no doubt that the film is a technical achievement, but when it comes to plot, character, and theme, I can’t help but wonder: What message is Snyder trying to send? With its puzzling structure and surprisingly vague opening and closing voiceover narrations, I’m forced to consider the possibility that it there isn’t a message, that the whole thing is simply an excuse for scantily-clad, gun-toting young women to fight armies of computer generated foes. The day may come when Sucker Punch is seen as a milestone of male fantasy – a video game crossed with a pinup calendar.
The internet tells us that it takes place sometime during the 1950s or ‘60s, but given the highly stylized sets, the inaccurate costume and hair designs, and the alternative rock soundtrack, the era doesn’t matter all that much. The central character is Baby Doll (Emily Browning), who, after the death of her mother and sister, is committed to an insane asylum by her father – or perhaps her stepfather – and although we know virtually nothing about him, everything he does reeks of a total sleazebag. The opening scenes contain almost no dialogue and plod ahead in slow motion, as if Snyder wanted every moment to be an action sequence. At a crucial moment, one I don’t think I should reveal, she slips into a fantasy world; the institution becomes a brothel, and the doctors, orderlies, and patients are transformed into dancers, mobsters, and officials.

It’s in this alternate reality that we meet a Russian named Madam Vera Gorski (Carla Gugino), who choreographs the burlesque numbers the girls are required to perform. With the help of music on reel-to-reel tape, she encourages the dancers to let their minds go free. This puts Baby Doll into a trance, allowing her to escape into yet another level of fantasy, a world unbounded by order or logic. The first time she does this, she enters a Chinese temple and meets The Wiseman (Scott Glenn), who speaks in proverbs and ends almost every conversation with, “Oh, and one more thing....” He tells her that her freedom depends on a quest for five items, four of which are everyday objects. The fifth one is a mystery. She’s then armed with a samurai sword and a gun, which she will use to fight gigantic Asian warriors that look like video game bosses.
Baby Doll then returns to her first fantasy world – the brothel – and while we never actually saw it happen, it seems that slipping into that second level of fantasy allows for some incredible dance moves. She’s now determined to escape. Tagging along are four young girls: Amber (Jamie Chung); Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), who actually has black hair; the gung-ho Rocket (Jena Malone); and Rocket’s sister, the reluctant Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish). Baby Doll’s plan is essentially to distract those who possess the necessary items with her dancing – when the men aren’t looking, the other girls will steal from them. As they go on their scavenger hunt, Baby Doll will repeatedly slip back into her second fantasy world, each time receiving mission instructions from The Wiseman. Visually, these sequences could not make less sense; when they aren’t fighting zombie soldiers in a scene that crosses Saving Private Ryan with Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, then they’re flying in a helicopter and shooting at a fire-breathing dragon, which came from a castle stronghold straight from The Lord of the Rings.

Looking at the film is an experience unto itself. One of my favorite shots was an outdoor view of the planet Saturn, which filled almost the entire skyline. The scene featuring this involved a high-speed train carrying a bomb, which was guarded by shiny, faceless robots. But there’s a noticeable disconnect between the film’s visual creativity and narrative techniques; by the end, we will have witness two hours of top-notch special effects, but we will have learned almost nothing about the story or the characters, apart from the fact that the girls are all victims and the men are all violent and heartless. A perfect example of the latter is the owner of the brothel, Blue (Oscar Isaac), a man who gives new meaning to the word “reprehensible.”
I’m tempted to issue a spoiler warning in order to discuss the ending. Is it happy? That’s debatable; it depends entirely on your definitions of freedom and control. It also depends on how you interpret the final voiceover narration, which is written so poetically that it’s just shy of impenetrable. What I can say is that I left the theater more confused than exhilarated, which is bad considering all the work that went into the visuals. Is there, in fact, a point to this movie? Or is it merely a testosterone fantasy masquerading as some kind of existential commentary? I wish I knew. I can recommend Sucker Punch for its style, but when it comes to substance, I’m still trying to figure it out. And is it just me, or does the title make absolutely no sense? The closest this movie gets to a sucker punch is Baby Doll scratching her stepfather’s face. Maybe that’s something else I missed.


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March 28, 2011
Great review, I want to see this so bad.
March 28, 2011
It's a visual treat, but when it comes to the story, I felt something was missing.
March 27, 2011
I just back to seeing this and I think we have similar feelings for it. I had fun with it, grnated it wasn't anything compelling but hey, it is called "Sucker Punch". Nice review!
March 27, 2011
Can you tell me why it was even called Sucker Punch? I kept trying to make a connection, but it never happened. Maybe it's meant to be one of those nonsensical titles, like A Clockwork Orange.
March 27, 2011
I think it was indeed one of those titles; but if I would do an analysis, I would say that the film was trying to do something "unexpected". As to how they mixed up different genre elements into one hyper-kinetic movie. But that is just me.... :)
More Sucker Punch reviews
review by . March 26, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Zack Snyder Genre-Busting Fantasy Film Punches You Like A Sucker!!
I’ve always said that Zack Snyder has the ability to take on an adaptation of the some of pop culture’s most groundbreaking creations such as with “300”, “Watchmen”, “Legend of the Guardians” and even succeeded with the remake of “Dawn of the Dead”. I’ve always seen Snyder as the ultimate fan boy and he knows what he likes and likes these things for a reason. I’ve also wondered how he would fare if Snyder was inspired to write …
review by . March 27, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
When Zack Snyder made 300 it suffered from the joke of being homoerotic because it was populated with tons of scantily clad men.  The joke for Sucker Punch is sure to be that it's a fourteen year old kid's wet dream because it's populated with a ton of scantily clad women.  But it goes even further by having tons of women dressed in sexy attire but also wielding guns, swords, flying planes, fighting dragons and just blowing up everything in sight.  In short, Sucker Punch …
review by . August 30, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
** out of ****     Zack Snyder's "Sucker Punch" is reminiscent of a modern music CD; stylish, has a good tune to it, but ultimately has tedious and distracting messages that accompany any potential goodness. Here's a film that I imagine will find appeal, and an audience, beyond those who are referred to as "film snobs". Oh, I have been called that many times, and I assume that I will be called it again for reviewing "Sucker Punch" and not liking it. People seem to be wondering …
review by . May 02, 2011
This is clearly the fantasy of Zack Snyder and pretty much every male geek that the movie was marketed to. However, I am not into girls, so the hot girls in the movie had not influenced me to go and see this. Sucker Punch was a fantastically entertaining movie in my opinion, although it definitely has its problems. If you have read my Guilty Pleasures in Film blog, then you know that I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with style over substance, as long as the style is well done. Well, the …
review by . March 25, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
   What happens when a guy falls asleep playing a video game - say Resident Evil or Lara Croft - who had previously spent the early morning hours playing an old throwback version of Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter? Well most likely he's dreaming of girls who can kick ass... but might somehow resemble Sailor Moon. Yeah I said it.  The Sucker Punch trailers gave off the appearance of being something cool like a post-apocalyptic version of Annie, however the reality of the film had …
review by . March 28, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Sucker Punch Is No Suker Of A Movie, This Is Very Well Done
This weekend my daughter and myself ventured out to the show to see a new movie called "Sucker Punch", the name does not tell the whole story, so you have to see this to tell what it is all about. This movie is 109 minutes of action, fantasy, and thriller scenes. So, if this is what you are looking for in a movie, then yes you will be quite pleased with all of the action and computer graphics that this movie has to offer. In my book this show is done very well and it will keeps you in …
review by . March 25, 2011
'Sucker Punch' 'Two Jews On Film' Only One Thinks This Scored A Knock-Out (Video)
'Sucker Punch' is directed by Zach Snyder (300, Watchmen) It stars Emily Browning as Baby Doll, a girl who meets tragic circumstances in the 1950's.  The film opens with Baby Doll witnessing the murder of her mother and sister by her wicked stepfather...One look at his face and you can tell...this is a very bad man. Baby Doll manages to get her hands on a gun.  She aims it at Stepdaddy-dearest but instead of doing the smart thing and killing the evil creep, she drops …
review by . May 06, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
12A - 110mins - Action/Adventure/Fantasy - 1st April 2011 Sucker Punch intrigued me before its release due to the seemingly random storyline and what looked like impressive graphics. So I sat down to watch it wondering whether I was going to enjoy the story it has to tell or be confused by it. Unfortunately it was the latter. Now I try and find both positives and negatives in everything I review but graphics aside (which were very enjoyable to watch and engaging) I struggled to for Sucker Punch. …
Quick Tip by . March 23, 2011
I'm very excited about Sucker Punch.  I'm a bit mixed on Zack Snyder's work, but I'm hoping that Sucker Punch falls in line with the brilliance of Watchmen and doesn't get  caught up in visual displays like 300.  Of course, explosions, hot chicks with big guns, and a cool soundtrack doesn't hurt this film's chances in my book!
Quick Tip by . March 24, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Plan on seeing this over the weekend. Hopefully it will be as bizarre as it looks...      UPDATE:      The tagline of Sucker Punch is "You will be unprepared." A more accurate tagline would have been "You will be unimpressed." But that wouldn't have helped to sell tickets. Director Zack Snyder has proven that he can deliver a stunningly visual cinematic experience when it comes to genre cinema. His film adaptations of graphic novels …
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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This weekend my daughter and myself ventured out to the show to see a new movie called "Sucker Punch", the name does not tell the whole story, so you have to see this to tell what it is all about. This movie is 109 minutes of action, fantasy, and thriller scenes. So, if this is what you are looking for in a movie, then yes you will be quite pleased with all of the action and computer graphics that this movie has to offer. In my book this show is done very well and it will keeps you in your seat during the whole 109 minutes of run time. This is rated "PG-13", this is definitely not for the younger crowd, even though the 12 and younger crowd would probably enjoy this because of its intense action scenes, it may give them nightmares because of all of the violence that you will see in this show.
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Director: Zack Snyder
Genre: Action, Fantasy, Thriller
Release Date: March 25, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: Zack Snyder, Steve Shibuya
Runtime: 120 minutes
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
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