The action, violence, and skimpy outfits are so omnipresent in Sucker Punch that the film not only stands out as a lush demonstration of what’s possible with CGI and modern filmmaking but could be seen as an example of “action porn.”
Sucker Punch. Directed by Zack Snyder. The cast includes Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Carla Gugino, and Scott Glenn.
By Sarah Sanders
Sucker Punch hates reality. It’s a graphic, saturated, action film adamantly refusing to be cowed by any sense of realism. After her mother dies, Babydoll (Browning) is locked away in an insane asylum by her abusive stepfather, who has secretly arranged for her lobotomy in five days. In order to cope with her situation, Babydoll envisions herself the newest recruit in a lavish brothel, awaiting her turn to impress the “High Roller.” Determined to outwit her stepfather and the High Roller, Babydoll convinces her fellow courtesans, led by Sweet Pea (Cornish), to help her in a quest to find the means to their escape.
Under the tutelage of their dance instructor Gorski (Gugino), Babydoll, Sweet Pea, and the other girls dance for clients in order to “set themselves free,” which in the world of Sucker Punch means envisioning elaborate battle scenes where they take on the likes of robots, samurai ogres, and zombie Nazis. In these fantasy-within-a-fantasy sequences, the girls work together as an elite fighting force that is essentially invincible. Doesn’t matter the size or scale of the enemy, they cannot lose; in fact, the girls don’t even get the occasional bump or bruise. But to say that doesn’t sound very plausible is to miss the point of the movie: nothing is realistic.
These miserable girls and their helpless situation get completely glossed over and made to appear badass rather than depressing. Pretty sure being forced to work in a bordello is not an improvement to being caged up in an asylum gorked out on meds, but director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) doesn’t seem to care about this fact because the point is to have the female ensemble cast prance around in fishnets and fake eyelashes. At least what’s evil in “reality” remains evil in the fantasy—the power of personality cannot be covered up by the imagination.
Sweeping statements of good and evil, though, are not the purview of the film or of Snyder, who is more caught up in the action and explosions than with anything close to a message. All of the characters are flat and one-dimensional, but such is usually the case with action movies. In fact the action is so omnipresent, Sucker Punch, a lush demonstration of what’s possible with CGI and modern filmmaking, might be considered “action porn,” relying more on visual overload than exposition.
The strongest part of the movie may very well be its soundtrack. The dramatic opening sequence in which Babydoll’s stepfather attacks her is perfectly accompanied by a slow, sultry rendition of “Sweet Dreams” by Eurhythmics sung by the film’s star Browning. Few songs have ever matched the mood of a scene so well. Sucker Punch boasts several of those rare moments where a perfectly chosen song encapsulates the feeling and action of a moment, seamlessly melding the visual elements with the auditory.
Sucker Punch is a fun thrill ride. It knows its place among high-octane action films and never oversteps its bounds to make some sweeping message about abuse. Rather, it succeeds through its use of a great soundtrack, stunning special effects, and stylized characters.