Below is our unpublished review of Sucker Punch, once destined to be printed in iMAGES, but left out on strict, prejudiced moral grounds. Sucker Punched, the review was!
Alice in La-La Land, Swinging a Samurai Sword
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
“All that gyrating and moaning, the dance should be more than just titillation” What dance? That dance – or the excuse for sexual gyration – that flings male consciousness into dumbfoundry. A dance that’s left for imagination in Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, a movie of reality within a fantasy within a daydream made in the image of a pubertal male’s fetish of seeing youngish women in bordello garb waving samurai swords.
The dance in question happens by chance – and odd regulations – of Dr. Vera Gorski (Carla Gugino) a mistress of a brothel whose newest addition is a pouty-lipped, half-awake form of Emily Browning in a smallish schoolgirl mini-skirt and big pig-tails; Miss Browning’s real name is not mentioned, or is something I missed when Mr. Snyder was over-indulging himself in back-to-back music video-like narratives at the start of Sucker Punch.
For the first few minutes we’re in the sanity of 1960’s where Ms. Browning is dragged to a mental institution and bribed towards a lobotomy by her incestuous, ogre-looking stepfather. There Ms. Browning, maybe aware of her upcoming vegetable state, cooks up an escape plan with four of her inmates – youngish girls with running mascaras and a limited life-span (like every prison movie, more than one is cannon fodder).
But wait, it couldn’t be that easy now could it? Ms. Browning, maybe on the eve of having her skull cracked open by the doctor, slips into whimsy: she’s now in an old-Chicago brothel where the dress-code comes from a fashion-line of classy boudoir (or the sets of the musical “Chicago”).
Here Dr. Gorski is a headmistress-cum-dance instructor, the lecherous warden (Oscar Issac) is the head-gangster/pimp and Ms. Browning is graced with a sleazy mob-babe title “Babydoll”. Her escape partners are a little lucky with names. They are: Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung) – each playing hollow, ridiculous, unconvincing parts of little logic and lesser coherence by the screenplay of Mr. Snyder and Steve Shibuya (this is Mr. Snyder’s first original screenplay, 300, Watchmen, Dawn of the Dead and Legend of the Guardians are all based on prior published/produced materials).
With his cast locked, Mr. Snyder introduces Babydoll’s dance, a half baked excuse that we’re told mesmerizes customers (as this is a brothel) and any other male in the room into a state of mindless oblivion. As Ms. Browning, sways to the left, and then sways to the right, her cohorts slip away to gather items needed for escape.
As if Mr. Snyder needs a reason to add mayhem, as soon as Ms. Browning sways, she escapes into a parallel fantasy featuring beauty shots of somersaulting women in impromptu brawls with 80-foot adversaries. Babydoll’s tough-as-nails group become tough-as-nails elite commandoes who slice off samurais, slit dragons in World War I, dispose of zombie robots with glowing eyes and ride gun-trotting mechas; this is an eccentric, indulgent, unreality of videogame babes ass-kicking videogame bosses in very fake, kinetic, yawn-inducing segments.
As if he’s a 30-something high on adolescent fairy-land, Mr. Snyder bypasses his common sense and jumps right into absurdity and Sucker Punch stops making sense two minutes into its 110 minute running time. Alice in Wonderland, this ain’t.
“Sucker Punch” is rated PG-13. Beware of women in un-erotic, erotic-garbs doing bloodless, slicing and dicing. Prerequisites for watching include a healthy appetite for Xbox logic, a copy of Chicago, Shutter Island and Inception.
By Farheen Jawaid
In the semblance of women empowerment Sucker Punch parades them in lingerie, cropped mini-skirts and school dresses, reminiscing Sailor Moon, using an assortment of weapons to destroy everything in preposterous CG battles. As if to dazzle with his stylized vision, Zack Snyder unknowingly (or knowingly) strays far from anything stylish or visionary.
As Mr. Snyder’s first non-adapted work, he lands punches in all the wrong places. The many disjointed fantasies residing within one fantasy are made in illogical, manic and uninteresting fashion often leaving all sense and coherent story telling at the starting line; as a result Sucker Punch ends up bombarding the screen with one blood-drying fantasy fighting sequence after another without cogitating over the rationality or any simple character depth or emotion.
Baby Doll (a wide eyed and vacant, Emily Browning) whose stepfather, with incest and money running high on his mind, sends her to the asylum for the accidental death of her little sister. To escape the craziness she creates a world of solace set in a bordello in her head, with the hospital staff acting out parts as pimps, madams and the patients as cocottes.
To get away from the hell she has invented (why create a hell to get away from in the first place?), Baby Doll makes another fantasy world in which she and the other girls collect items to escape by acting out in wishy-washy fight sequences set in Buddhist temples with giant samurais. But the buck doesn’t stop here, as other spurts of imagination take her to World War I with giant robot armors and then to medieval dragon hunting with fighter planes. The human mind – or the one in Mr. Snyder’s, who directs and co-writes with Steve Shibuya – works in an unusual manner; even Legend of the Guardian, and its awe inspiring owls in battle garb and creative air-battles, was visually riveting.
One thing Sucker Punch does is live up to is its name – it sucker punches its way through audiences from start to finish. It is no compliment, by the way.