Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Movie Review: ‘Sucker Punch’ is My Newest Guilty Pleasure

Sucker Punch movie poster, property of Warner Brothers.
Sucker Punch AVERAGE

I’ve been accused of always sharing Brian’s opinion about movies.  The assumption is that I don’t have a mind of my own, and that if Brian likes a movie I will also like it, and if Brian dislikes a movie I will also dislike it.  I will admit that a lot of the times I agree with Brian’s opinions, but let me assure you that I do not simply mimic him like a trained monkey.

Case in point:  the movie Sucker Punch by director Zack Snyder.  Brian absolutely hated this movie, but I actually liked it!  Notice I didn’t say that I loved it, but I definitely did not hate it like Brian did.  The movie is exactly what you would expect from a Zack Snyder film as far as his visual style is concerned.  Have you ever seen 300 ?  It looks a lot like that with sped up and slowed down action sequences, a certain grittiness, and a definite nod towards comic books and animé alike.

While not as good as some of his other movies (like Watchmen), I found Sucker Punch to be highly watchable and entertaining.  The story is of a girl named Baby Doll (Emily Browning) who is sent to a mental institution after accidentally killing her sister.  There, the corrupt Blue Jones (Oscar Isaac) strikes up a deal with her stepfather to have her lobotomized before the week is out.  As a coping mechanism, Baby Doll reverts to a fantasy world in her head where she is not a mental patient but actually a sort of prostitute/exotic dancer working with the other girls in a club ran by Blue.  These other girls include Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), and Amber (Jamie Chung).  They plan to escape before the “High Roller”—the doctor coming to lobotomize Baby Doll—comes for her.

What’s a bit strange is that Baby Doll seems to revert to an alternate reality within an alternate reality.  So beyond the pretend club, there is also a world where she battles with bizarre creatures and receives guidance from Wise Man (Scott Glenn).  He tells her that she needs to collect five things in order for her to escape.  She needs a map, fire, a knife, a key and a mysterious fifth object (spoiler alert: it’s herself).  So throughout the movie the girls obtain each item in turn, simply dancing and seducing in the one reality, while kicking butt with machine guns and samurai swords and explosions in the other reality.  We never see what they actually do to get the items in the real world situation of the mental hospital, we just flip flop between the dance club and the war-torn fantasyland.

For me, I liked the look of the movie, the rockin’ soundtrack, and some of the more human moments.  I wasn’t too interested in the fighting (it is cool to look at but basically pointless), but I was pretty drawn into the other aspect of the movie.  Although Baby Doll’s character isn’t developed at all and the story is a bit lacking in terms of depth, we get some pretty strong performances from sisters Sweet Pea and Rocket.  Jena Malone and Abbie Cornish are very talented actresses, and for me, they added a lot to the group dynamic and made me care about their escape.  Another performance that I found incredibly fascinating was Oscar Isaac’s portrayal of the villain Blue.  Without him, I don’t think I would have liked this movie at all.  He was just so sexy and suave, yet deeply disturbed and twisted.

So will you like this movie?  I don’t know.  Brian hated it.  Most critics hated it.  But for me, it turned out to be a lot better than I expected.  There are probably a million reasons why I shouldn’t like it, but Sucker Punch sort of became my guilty pleasure.

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