Sucker Punch
dir Zack Snyder
scr Zack Snyder, Steve Shibuya
prd Deborah Snyder, Zack Snyder
with Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Carla Gugino, Oscar Isaac, Scott Glenn, Jon Hamm, Richard Cetrone, Gerard Plunkett, Malcolm Scott
release US 25.Mar.11, UK 1.Apr.11
11/US Warner 1h49
Sucker Punch
Schoolgirl fantasy: Browning, Malone and Chung

cornish hudgens gugino
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Sucker Punch There are so many layers of fantasy in this eye-catching film that we never see any real humanity. This sucks all tension and emotion from what should be a provocative thriller. Although 12-year-old boys will probably love it.

After her mother dies, Babydoll (Browning) is sent to a gothic madhouse where a sinister orderly (Isaac) arranges, behind the back of the head doctor (Gugino), to have her lobotomised when the specialist (Hamm) arrives in five days.With less than a week to escape, she hatches a fantastical plan involving four fellow inmates (Cornish, Malone, Hudgens and Chung). They fantasise that they're on dangerous missions led by a mysterious man (Glenn), gathering the items they need to break out.

The base "reality" in this film is already hugely heightened, with desaturated colours and prowling camerawork. Then Babydoll arrives at the asylum, which morphs into a lurid, velvety brothel in which the mental patients are hookers who dance for wealthy clients. Finally, it's when Babydoll dances that she takes the other girls into action-adventure sequences semi-themed as a samurai battle, World War II aerial fight, dragon quest and futuristic terrorism plot.

But aside from the Moulin Rouge-like brothel scenes, everything looks gloomy and grey. And without internal logic or human connections, nothing hangs together. Why do the girls turn into Japanese schoolgirl gaming characters with supernatural fighting powers? Why don't we see Babydoll's apparently jaw-dropping dancing? Why does every sequence seem to go on twice as long as it needs to? Despite the loud, constant action, these pointless set-pieces are dull and tedious, like watching someone else play a videogame.

Director-cowriter Snyder is indulging what's essentially action porn, with fetishistic violence as the payoff instead of sex. This is most apparent in the girls' fetish gear, with micro-skirts slit to the waist, thigh-high stockings, bare midriffs and heaving cleavage. Pasted together from every movie Snyder has seen, it places imagined chaotic battles within a feverish boudoir fantasy populated by thugs who prey on girls. It shouldn't be difficult to generate some sympathy for young women trapped in this kind of place, but Snyder somehow prevents us from caring at all.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 25.Mar..11

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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall