Sucker Punch

Directed By: Zack Snyder

Starring: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Carla Gugino, Oscar Isaac, Jon Hamm, and Scott Glenn

Hot girls and cool action sequences are not always a cool one-two punch combo for decent popcorn fare.  For every Transformers, there are 99 other films that absolutely sucked.  Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch falls into the category of the crappy 99%.  Snyder substitutes sexy women and elaborate visuals for a coherent story and rich characters.  This huge mistake is the kind of nonsense that runs up my bar tab.

When 20-year old "Babydoll" (Emily Browning) learns of the tragedy that her mother has passed away, her stepfather (Gerard Plunkett) learns something equally devastating.  His wife left him nothing in her will.  Instead, she decided to pass all her wealth onto her two daughters.  Infuriated by this, Babydoll's stepfather tries to eliminate the girls so he can get his hands on their mom's money.  In a horrifying altercation between Babydoll and her stepfather, Babydoll's younger sister is killed.  The stepfather publicly blames Babydoll for a murder he committed and has her locked away in a mental institution.  He pays off orderly Blue Jones (Oscar Isaac) to schedule a lobotomy for Babydoll in five days by forging the signature of the asylum's psychiatrist Dr. Vera Gorski (Carla Gugino) on some paperwork.

Now in a mental institution, Babydoll has a limited time left before she loses a good chunk of her brain.  In order to cope with the grave situation, Babydoll imagines that she is in some alternate reality where the asylum is a brothel run by Blue.  At this brothel, they entertain their customers on stage by dancing.  After meeting and becoming friends with several dancers—“Sweet Pea” (Abbie Cornish), “Rocket” (Jena Malone), “Amber” (Jamie Chung), and “Blondie” (Vanessa Hudgens)—Babydoll shows off her dancing talent.  Her performance is mesmerizing for others and transformational for her.  While dancing, she is transported to another world where she meets the Wise Man (Scott Glenn) who tells her what she needs to do to find freedom from Blue and the brothel/asylum.  Now, all she has to do is get some help from her fellow dancers to execute the plan.  She's also got to defeat some demonic samurais.

Sucker Punch is one of the most bizarre and poorly written films through which I've ever had to suffer.  There is a lot of weird crap in this movie that reflects an ill-conceived film.  The only way I would ever understand what the hell Snyder and the screenwriters were thinking is by getting liquored up.  Snyder uses Babydoll's visions as a way to build some theme of female empowerment as the girls try to escape the asylum and find a better life.  At the same time, he keeps all the girls dancing in a brothel or scantily clad on the battlefield.  Liberation and misogyny aren't exactly siblings.  Snyder also uses the opening of the film to convince viewers that Babydoll is a sane person who is just a victim of tragedy and deceit.  He then undoes this throughout the rest of the film by showing all of her crazy delusions of some fantasy world.  He should just decide whether Babydoll is lucid or cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.

Aside from the small detail that Snyder forgets to tell a logical story, he also drops the ball in building worthwhile characters.  Aside from Babydoll, we don't know anything about the real lives of these girls in the asylum.  We don't know anything about the relationship between Blue and Dr. Gorski other than what Babydoll perceives in her little fantasy world.  We don't really know anything about anybody in the asylum other than Babydoll.  Sucker Punch is all a dream and a pretty bad one at that.  Snyder spends too much time in Babydoll's world and not enough time in the real world.  Because he doesn't correlate her fantasies with actual events until the end of the movie, he doesn't let the audience develop real connections with any of the other main characters.  We as viewers have no reason to give a damn about anybody other than Babydoll, the crazy girl sitting in the asylum envisioning brothels, Orcs, and demonic samurais.

With poor writing and poor character development, Sucker Punch is a film that leaves a lot of important questions unanswered.  Why does dancing bring about visions of some foreign battlefield in feudal Japan?  Why is there no break from Babydoll's fantasy world?  How do all these girls know all these kick-ass moves in Babydoll's world?  These questions are just the tip of the iceberg, and we're not going to get the answers.  These are some major issues that can’t be thrown under the carpet.  The only answer to these problems is a few rounds of mystery shots.  Sucker Punch gets a wasted rating.  Don't waste your time on this one.