Suckerpunch delivers a limp wristed attack in the action-adventure genre.
Written by Steve Shibuya and Zack Snyder and directed by Snyder (300 and The Watchmen), it is Snyder’s first attempt, and hopefully his last, with an original screenplay.
Emily Browning (Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events) donning platinum blonde pigtails, stars as Baby Doll, a damaged and timid 20-year-old orphan (yes, a 20-year old orphan). She is committed to an asylum by her predictably cruel step-father. The era is sometime during the 1950’s when step-fathers could supposedly commit legally adult step-children without court-ordered psych evaluations, but that is never discussed.
The asylum is not what it seems. It is a brothel run by a man-scara wearing orderly named Blue, played by Oscar Isaac (Guerrilla) and Russian therapist Dr. Vera Gorski, portrayed by Carla Gugino (Spy Kids).
While in captivity, Babydoll, learns that she can escape into a fantasy world she evokes by dancing. Her moves not only act as a portal to a virtual reality, they also hypnotize and captivate all males who dare to look. Confused yet? Wait, it gets better. The audience is never privy to Baby Doll’s performances, but throughout the movie, constant references are made to her abilities. With each adventure sequence, Baby Doll returns to the real world sweating, panting and relieved. For all the audience knows she could be jerking or doing a mean robot.
When Blue discovers what he has in Baby Doll, he decides he will save her for the High Roller played by the dashingly handsome Jon Hamm (Mad Men.) Baby Doll has only five days to devise an escape plan before she looses it all to the High Roller.
With the knowledge of this new power, Baby Doll assembles a crew of stunningly attractive mental patients to help her find the tools to escape. Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Amber (Jamie Ji-Lynn Chung), and Rocket (Jena Malone) join Baby Doll on her quest for freedom.
The rouge crew is guided by Scott Glenn (The Silence of the Lambs) as the Wise Man. After describing the missions at hand, he doles out dated clichés such as, “don’t write a check with your mouth your ass can’t cash,” before sending them off to battle dragons, samurais, and steampunk Nazi soldiers. Fortune cookies are more astute than this inept Shaman.
The movie drags on for two mind-numbing, ear-deafening hours. There is little dialog. With only a 100 lines split among the entire cast, the film relies heavily on CGI fight scenes. The action scenes, along with the soundtrack, are the film’s saving grace. After a while, even the fighting becomes redundant. There are plenty of shots with the heroine kneeling forward, weapon ready, over vanquished opponents, slow-motion jumping kicks and of course slow-motion-walking- with-hair-blowing-wildly-in-the- wind-scenes.
Snyder’s attempt at a feminist femme-fatale action movie falls flat and is reminisce of failures such as “Showgirls” or “Striptease,” but with machine guns.
In Baby Doll’s imagination, the girls are powerful, no-holds-barred warriors. In reality, they are fragile; falling apart under suspicious glances they’re often reminded of how weak they are. Because after all they’re just girls, right? Perhaps it was Snyder’s intention to make the characters so delicate in reality and firm in the fantasy world, in order to highlight the stark contrast. But he only succeeds at telling the women in the audience that the only way to find an escape from problems, fears and male oppression is by using their imagination.
Much like in Snyder’s previous films, The Watchmen and 300, women are second-class objects. The girls are constantly being assaulted or fending off potential rapists. Not to worry, though. The movie is rated PG-13, so there is minimal blood. The attempted rapes are always foiled, but there is plenty of violence (actual and implied) toward women.
Visually, the movie is stunning. However the lack of a sensible plot and character development is just disappointing.
Suckerpunch is all carbs and no fiber – you could’ve had a V8. The movie is chock-full of eye candy, with Browning pouting and whispering as a drab Sailor Moon knock-off. The soundtrack makes it bearable and somewhat easier to swallow. Remember, somewhat. This movie is highly recommended for those who are into visually compelling soft-core torture porn.
Overall, two stars.