“Sucker Punch” is such an epic and total failure that I can in no way recommend you spend hard-earned American dollars to view it. Ever.
Still, it is wholly original and fascinating in its failure that it bears examination, much in the same way the TSA investigates plane crashes with the hopes of avoiding any future calamities.
“Sucker Punch” is the brainchild of Zach Snyder, best known for directing the super-stylized, swords-and-sandals epic “300.” I happen to think Snyder has a lot of skills as a director, although it is abundantly clear after his first attempt at an original screenplay that writing isn’t one of them.
What I find to be most mystifying is that the first 20 minutes of the movie are actually good, if not very good. In the dialogue-free prologue we meet Baby Doll (Emily Browning) as her sad tale is unspooled in super-cool slo-mo with a spooky version of the Euyrthmics “Sweet Dreams” (as sung by Browning herself) playing in the background.
In fact, the entire soundtrack is unquestionably awesome and probably played a part in delaying my realization that this movie sucked as bad as it did.
Anyway the “plot,” such as it is, involves Baby Doll being sent to a mental institution by her wicked stepfather where she only has five days to escape before a doctor arrives to administer a lobotomy.
Now stick with me, ’cause here’s where the whole thing starts to unravel. In order to cope with her surroundings Baby Doll envisions the asylum as some sort of bizzaro cabaret where the girls are forced to dance for various slimy customers. As is the case in any prison-break movie, items required for escape must be secretly acquired, and for some reason when Baby Doll “dances” she possesses a hypnotic power that allows her compatriots to sneak around and steal whatever is needed. Seriously.
But wait, it gets worse.
Baby Doll’s “dance” only has power if she envisions herself in yet another alternate reality where she and her fellow inmates – with names like Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) Rocket (Jena Malone) and Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) – must wage battle against dragons, robots and Nazi zombies. That’s right, I said Nazi zombies.
“Sucker Punch” winds up becoming so convoluted it makes “The Matrix” trilogy look like “Forrest Gump.” So where exactly does it all go wrong? I’ll just hit the high points or otherwise this review would turn into a novella.
First of all, I would usually be the last person in the world to complain about visually-stunning battle scenes where a foxy force of scantily clad babes lays waste to strange creatures in bizarre worlds. That sentence alone would have made my brain melt when I was 15.
But the problem is in these scenes, there is nothing at stake. The girls can’t be physically harmed and if they “fail” the result is that Baby Doll stops “dancing,” big whoop. (Incidentally, I just broke my personal record for use of smarmy quotation marks. Look what you’ve driven me to “Sucker Punch!”)
Plus it is never exactly clear what impact the cabaret reality has on “actual” reality. Sinister orderly Blue (Oscar Isaac) morphs into the sadistic owner and operator of the cabaret, but some of his actions in the alternate reality become impossible when you consider his lowly station in “actual” reality. In a lot of ways “Sucker Punch” feels like having Charles Manson explain the plot of “Inception” to you.
Because the movie starts off on a high note and ends in a painful fog, “Sucker Punch” pulls off the rare feat of becoming steadily worse throughout the film. So literally every minute of the movie you are thinking to yourself “I am watching the worst minute of the movie.” It’s like a Kafka nightmare.
Because “Sucker Punch” is so outrageous and over-the-top in its failings I can almost foresee a future for it in midnight showings where hipsters revel in its awfulness, repeating the corny dialogue and throwing things at the screen. Until then it will just have to take comfort in being one of the biggest, hottest messes in Hollywood history.
“Sucker Punch” is rated PG-13 for thematic material involving sexuality, violence and combat sequences, and for language.