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Movie Review: Sucker Punch
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Sucker Punch
Directed by Zack Snyder
Starring Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Scott Glenn
Warner Brothers
Rated PG-13
Release date: March 25, 2011

Sucker Punch is the newest film from Zack Snyder, director of 300 and Watchmen, and it continues his string of visually arresting films. Snyder does not only direct adaptations of comic books (see Legend of the Guardians and Dawn of the Dead as the exceptions), but he is widely known for them, particularly with his involvement in the next Superman film. Sucker Punch is his first original screenplay though, so many were wondering what he would come up with himself. What he presents with Sucker Punch is a mix of unique genres that continues Snyder’s line of visually unique films, but has very little going on to make the viewer care about what’s happening.

Sucker Punch revolves around a young girl given the nickname of Baby Doll (Emily Browning). She is sent to an insane asylum by her stepfather in a plan to steal an inheritance that is rightfully hers. The stepfather plans to have Baby Doll lobotomized (by Jon Hamm who is becoming a master of big-screen cameos), but she plans to escape, with the help of some of the other inmates. Somehow, the plan involves the inmates taking a few necessary items, distracting the guards with some kind of dance that becomes a series of fantasy action sequences. And then Scott Glenn shows up as a wise old man relaying pointless platitudes. Trust me, explaining the plot makes my head hurt and exposes many of the movie’s flaws.

Going into this movie, I had been seeing a lot of people having a big problem with it, and I couldn’t tell if it was because they actually thought the movie was bad, or if it was just the general backlash that seems to follow Zack Snyder for some reason. It’s not like the advertising for the film was trying to sell it as anything other than a movie with attractive young women fighting in crazy situations with lots of explosions going on. They weren’t trying to market this as a thought-provoking character piece. So, like anyone would, I was kind of raising and lowering my expectations as I heard differing opinions of the film.

And now having watched it, ummmmm, I still don’t know exactly what to make of this one. It is not a good movie, but I would have no problem watching it again, but I would do it at home on DVD when I can skip certain parts and re-watch other parts repeatedly. The characters are boring, the plot is nonsensical, and the dialog is ridiculous. However, I still enjoy how Zack Snyder directs an action scene and there are some very cool sequences throughout. There is a good movie buried in here somewhere, but it is buried under a façade of hackneyed dialog and questionable objectification of women. All I wanted to see is the crazy girls versus samurai/WWI steampunk zombie/dragon/bomb on a train on another planet movie. Instead, what we get is that crazy movie, but with a joke of a framing device that ruins what could otherwise be an enjoyable film.

The shame of Sucker Punch is that if you examine any part of the movie for more than a few minutes, the whole thing falls apart. After the basic plot is set up, and the main character is sent to the asylum, the fantasy sequence begins in earnest, changing a horrible insane asylum into some kind of 1950’s night club, where the inmates are dancers at the club, the head guard is the club owner, and the therapist is a dance instructor. It’s never explained why the main character views her experience like this. I could accept it if we were given some indication that Baby Doll was given some kind of drug, or if she was in fact totally crazy, but outside of one bit at the beginning when she is given a sedative, this is never indicated. We are told throughout that she does not deserve to be in the asylum; it is for this reason that we are supposed to root for her to escape, but that is never earned. In an action movie, you have to care about the characters so that you cheer with them when they make the death-defying leap out of the exploding building and that just doesn’t happen here. There just isn’t a single interesting character in the whole movie, and that means I couldn’t care less about what happens to them. Also, I’m pretty sure most of the main characters are in an insane asylum for a valid reason, which puts a vastly different spin on the end of the movie.

That said, I keep thinking about things that I kind of liked about Sucker Punch. Zack Snyder brings his A game during the action sequences in this film. If Sucker Punch was all action, I would probably have a different opinion of it. If you’ve ever played a video game before, you have probably seen these action scenes before, but there is something different about seeing them on the big screen. Having seen Sucker Punch, I think that Snyder will bring Superman to life in a way that hasn’t been seen before. I just hope that the script and Christopher Nolan’s influence will keep the rest of the film in check and give that film a spine that connects the action scenes together.

I also really enjoyed the soundtrack for the movie, which is made up largely of covers, and the songs perfectly accentuate what is happening on screen. The music is very upfront about itself. Most of the songs are about dreams or sleep or fantasies, and a lot of them are a bit “on the nose.” There is an argument to be made that you should never really notice the music in a film, and the Sucker Punch soundtrack does not really do that. I was at times more focused on the music than I was on the rest of the movie and that’s not what a soundtrack should do. But I just liked the songs for what they were, and wanted to download them as soon as I got out of the movie.

I wish it was a better movie, but Sucker Punch failed to land with me, and it seems to have failed to connect with the general viewing public. Outside of the action sequences, there’s no reason to recommend going out to the theater to see this. There is just nothing that is interesting going on and I found myself wishing Sucker Punch would just come to an end. I’m giving it a very unfortunate 2 out of 5. I hope that Snyder can bounce back and deliver the Superman movie that I am hoping for, but I honestly don’t know if that’s going to happen.

Now, can someone explain to me why this movie is called Sucker Punch?


  1. One theory is that the movie ends up being Sweetpea’s story at the end instead of Babydoll’s thus the sucker punch.
    There is rumor that some cut scenes needed to get the PG13 rating will be restored when it comes to DVD.
    But I can’t imagine those scenes will make the movie more watchable as a whole.

    Comment by Dex — April 4, 2011 @ 2:21 pm

  2. Well, IMO Snyder only made one good film to date, Watchmen. However, that’s based on an outstanding book, so someone with Snyder’s sense of visuals can hardly mess it up. It just doesn’t suggest to me that Snyder is capable of making good films in general; just that he can make films look great.

    Comment by unwesen — April 4, 2011 @ 7:39 pm

  3. Hot blond in pig tails..Check
    Giant Samurai with a Mini-Gun… Check
    Bad ass fire breathing dragon..Check
    Nazi Zombies….. Check
    Hot Oriental Mecha Pilot… Check

    Story line…… r u Serious?

    Maybe you should go watch The Kings Speech… Plenty of story there.

    Comment by Dragonxtreme — April 4, 2011 @ 3:37 pm

  4. “Now, can someone explain to me why this movie is called Sucker Punch?”

    Your sheer lack of ability to understand this is all I needed to know in order to disregard anything you’ve said here. A Sucker Punch is the use of misdirection to land a devastating and unsuspected hit. Baby Doll’s dancing is the most repetetively used facet of misdirection in order for the main characters to steal instruments to escape. I’m certain that there is another level involving the entire world within the asylum (the fantasy) and the “real” characters, but idiots in the movie theater, such as yourself, could not understand what was going on and continued talking, thus preventing me from following the ending well enough.
    So, from everyone that now has to watch the movie again because we enjoyed it until people like you talked during the movie and spoiled it for the rest of us, fuck you.

    Comment by SSDD — April 4, 2011 @ 9:18 pm

  5. I can see how some people may think this movie has no plot but they would be completely wrong. This is one of the more complex stories Ive seen in years. You have a girl who while trying to protect her sister ends up killing her. Shes then thrown into a corrupt insane assylum where she has one week to “escape.” The second layer to this is the 50’s style whore house. In a big stretch you have to imagine that this assylum trully is house of ill repute. Her way to escape was to distract and while distracting she took herself to another world. A fantasy world where she kicked ass. This world was the best part by far and the reason I went to see the movie. However it was just fantasy. If you remember correctly at the beginning she was just about to be labotomized before we started this adventure. Then just before lights out she had a flashback memory of the week leading to this procedure and the truly amazing part is she did escape. The only way she ever was going to escape. With her mind.

    Comment by Jhnallington — April 5, 2011 @ 10:49 am

  6. Domestic Total as of Apr. 4, 2011: $30,335,494
    Production Budget: $82 million

    “Sucker Punch bled 68 percent to $6 million for a $29.8 million sum in ten days. The drop was about as severe as Zack Snyder’s last live-action movie, Watchmen, but with only a fraction of the gross.”

    — Yeah, so it looks like even the fanboys couldn’t save this mess. All action + no plot = BOX OFFICE BOMB. Sorry, but defend it all you want. It’s L-A-M-E.

    Comment by Steve — April 5, 2011 @ 9:40 pm

  7. Agreed…it was a horrible mess. Made me feel dirty.

    Comment by Crizo22 — April 6, 2011 @ 12:30 am

  8. I totally agree with the users who say that you seem to have missed something in evaluating this as a film with hot women but no plot (although I say this more politely). I think the point of the entire film was to to treat women as objects, but to question that kind of treatment. in the movie, the asylum turns into some sort of dancing/strip club where these women are used for their bodies, and simultaneously, the audience gets the same view – it’s questioning the audience’s desire to see these women in this highly sexualized way. Also, they kind of kick ass in all the fight sequences, a lot of which are, I’m pretty sure, actually trying to make fun of things like video games (i.e. the first, samurai sequence) and action flicks.

    Comment by Anastasia — April 6, 2011 @ 5:09 pm

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