Sucker Punch (2011) – movie review

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Movie review by Neil Sadler

Starring: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Cheung, Jena Malone, Jon Hamm, Scott Glen, Carla Gugino, Oscar Isaac, Michael Jay White

Director: Zack Snyder

You would be forgiven from watching the trailer and looking at the poster campaign for SUCKER PUNCH for thinking that you will be watching a female version of Zack Snyder’s earlier film 300 – a series of violent battles framed around a comic book story. Whereas 300 bathed itself in bloody violence, SUCKER PUNCH is a less violent film and perhaps a more thoughtful one. I say perhaps because it isn’t half as profound as it would like to think it is.

SUCKER PUNCH is the first Zack Snyder film that is his idea and his script and tells the story of Baby Doll (Emily Browning) who in a dialogue free first 20 minutes loses her mother, sister and her liberty and possibly sanity to an evil step father. Locked away in a creepy 1930’s asylum, Baby Doll finds hope in a group of other inmates and also in her imagination.

Mimicking the approach of INCEPTION, SUCKER PUNCH unfolds as a tale within a tale within a tale (thankfully that is as complicated as it gets.) The trailer concentrates on the third level, a series of fantasy battles which cover robotic samurai, zombie WW1 fighters and terrorist androids which act as the enemies in the quests that Baby Doll and her friends must undertake in order to get their freedom in the real world. These sequences are all visually stunning although they lack some of the simple visceral charm that 300 and WATCHMEN had. I remember watching those films and feeling battered myself by some of the fights. Here it all feels tamer and a bit muddier, literally in some places. Partly this is down to the lower rating, an attempt to make this a more family friendly film means that all the violence leans heavily towards fantasy and the camera always “pulls it’s punches”.

Considering it is Snyder’s first film since DAWN OF THE DEAD not to be based on a comic, it is the most comic like. He shows how comfortable he is in this visual world and he is a beautiful craftsman of stunning shots. It is no wonder that he loves to work in this genre as he is obviously more comfortable showing than telling. The first 20 minutes are a good example of this but it does serve to highlight the slightly stilted dialogue and pseudo-self-help philosophy of the rest of the film.

This should not put you off the film, because as well as it stunning visuals, it tells an interesting story. The leads may all look amazing, even if they are little bit “men’s mag” in there appearance but they all perform well both physically and with the limited dialogue.

Snyder proves he is a true visionary with a strong sense of style and an impeccable eye for action and mixing effects with live action – all seamlessly handled here. Although this may not be as satisfying as his last few films, he should be applauded for creating something truly original and comic fans can rest assured that he should be a good choice of director to breathe life back into the SUPERMAN franchise.

4 out of 6 stars