movies: sucker punch

sucker punch - you will be unpreparedMy review of Sucker Punch can be summed up in one word... and that word is "bigfathotmess"!

Okay, I know that that is technically four words, but it doesn't make it any less true. The tagline for this movie is "you will be unprepared"... and fortunately (or not as the case may be) I wasn't completely unprepared for how much potential this movie was going to squander of the course of it's 110 minute run.

That's what annoys me more than anything about this movie. Underneath all the bad choices and poor storytelling there's kind of a kickass movie laying prone on the floor and breathing quite shallowly due to the weight of all the stupidity piled on top of it.

It just feels as though Zack Snyder didn't really know how to pull off certain parts of his premise, so he just stacked on so much extra fluff in the hopes that nobody would see him madly tap dancing through the minefield. I have news for you Zack... we all saw you!

The premise is strong enough, abused girl is thrown into an asylum by her abusive and greedy stepfather and is told she is going to be lobotomised in five days time... seems like more than enough of a motivation for her to want to escape the asylum... and does so by disappearing into fantasies... or some blend of fantasy and philosophy where "everyone of us holds power over the world we create". Or so the opening narration tells us.

However Snyder wasn't content with the escape from reality to fantasy... he's obviously been to see Inception and figured if they could cope with multiple levels of reality, he could use it to. So the girls suddenly show up inside of a brothel cum burlesque house and it's from there that they stage the trips into fantasy.

Actually that's slightly misleading... just to go play in the Spoiler Sandbox for a moment, it's only the lead character, Baby Doll who takes these little trips into fantasy land, and the end of the movie seems to indicate that the whole brothel fantasy, in fact, the majority of the movie, takes place inside Baby Doll's mind within a matter of seconds.

The problem is that because the whole thing takes place inside an artificial world which is inside an artificial world which is laid over the real world, you end up having to do a touch too much thinking.

My mind kept tugging at the thought, especially when they were in the brothel reality, of what they were really doing in the world of the asylum to be able to make things happen in the brothel and vice versa. And while bits of it were completely self explanatory, there were other bits where I had no idea what the action was supposed to represent. Although if you follow the end of the movie through to it's logical conclusion, nothing you are seeing actually happened or only existed as a shadow version of the reality.

Part of me wonders if Snyder couldn't find a tasteful way to have the girls do what they needed to do in the real world, so created this extra reality to mask it. The inference is, or at least it was to me, that the girls are using their bodies and sexuality in the real world of the asylum to put the things that happen in the brothel reality into effect.

But like I said, that was before the end of the movie yanks the whole premise of the movie out from under you.

What I kept thinking as the movie progressed was that there was a lot of incredibly lazy writing. And more than just lazy writing, missed opportunities.

Part of the premise of the "escape" from the brothel is that they need to collect four objects, and three of the five girls are responsible for stealing/collecting/acquiring one of the said items in the brothel reality. And they do this (somehow) by disappearing into another level of fantasy where they shoot a lot of guns, put a lot of holes in some nameless, faceless hoards of villains and somehow emerge triumphant.

However (and again we descend into the Spoiler Sandbox) in each fantasy sequence it's never the girl who's taking the risks in the real world who takes the lead and does the deed... it's always Baby Doll. And to me that's just lazy writing. Added to the fact that the girl whose costume matches a particular fantasy is also not the girl who is supposed to be taking the lead in that particular quest (well, maybe once).

See... it's a fluffy popcorn movie, but it made me think deeper thoughts than I really wanted to.

It also seems slightly telling that almost all of the six main female roles seem to have originally gone to at least one other actress who pulled out of the movie and was replaced by somebody else... nothing says "quality project" like replacing almost your entire cast.

Having said that though, the cast and the acting weren't bad (again, that puts a big check in the "squandered potential" column)... Abbie Cornish is particularly good as Sweet Pea (although she's really anything but sweet) and Emily Browning does a credible job as Baby Doll.

One other thing that both baffled and irritated me (again with the slight Spoiler Sandbox)... the way that Baby Doll accesses these fantasies is when she dances (don't ask me how or why, it doesn't make a damn lick of sense)... she's supposedly so good that nobody can look away from her and don't even notice whatever is supposed to be going on around them.

Except, other than the occasional self conscious sway from side to side, we never see Browning dance a step... to me it would have made sense to either a) get a dance double in and cut from the brothel reality to the fantasy sequence and make certain items of one correspond to things Baby Doll is doing in the other... or b) let us see the beginning of a dance sequence before fading into the fantasy.

The topic of dancing (or lack of same) brings me neatly around to the soundtrack... which was pretty damn awesome I have to say. And used to good effect at certain points.

Although, because it seems that every good part of this movie had a major drawback, for some reason the volume for the fantasy sequences which essentially contained a lot of yelling and shooting and exploding things as well as a lot of the aforementioned music seemed to be significantly higher than the volume of the rest of the movie... almost painfully high in fact.

Having essentially ragged on the movie almost in it's entirety, I can say that it's a very good looking movie. The costumes, especially the ones in the fantasy sequences, are both stylish and sexy... the special effects are gorgeous (well, in a dark, gritty and often chaotic kind of way), the action sequences are suitably actiony and interesting (although a touch on the repetitive side) and as I said before, the performances, while not exactly Oscar winning caliber, are solid enough.

Unfortunately as far as story, plot and execution are concerned, this movie is one big fat missed opportunity.

yani's rating: 1 high roller out of 5

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