For some viewers, Sucker Punch will be a can’t-miss jumble of imagery, attitude, mumbo-jumbo and bombast. For others, it will be an interminably numbing (and dumbing) action-fantasy that doesn’t work at all.
Only rarely does the film find its voice amid the din of special effects, and never is it able to sustain that voice. Those looking for entertainment will find Sucker Punch a sucker’s bet.
The first syllable in the film’s title is indicative of the overall work.
The themes of loss of innocence, loss of identity and loss of reality are experienced first-hand by the principal character, “Baby Doll” (Emily Browning), a grief-stricken gal who finds herself an inmate at Lennox Hill, a home for disturbed and wayward girls.
It is at Lennox House, as dark and foreboding an asylum as could be imagined, that she is to undergo “Polish therapy” at the hands of resident psychiatrist Vera Gorski (the ever-enticing Carla Gugino, reveling in an accent that is less Middle European than Middle Weird).
Instead, our Baby Doll descends — and that is the operative word here — into a world of her own imagining, where she receives advice and wisdom from Scott Glenn (craggy but everdependable) and makes her bid for true freedom, often in the most violent, hair-raising fashion imaginable.
Although based on neither a graphic novel or a video game, Sucker Punch feels as though it were, given that it’s loud, synthetic and extravagantly empty-headed. That Zack Snyder is the director, screenwriter and producer (along with wife Deborah), he takes full responsibility for this fiasco.
Calling Sucker Punch “Snyder’s Folly” would not be inaccurate. It’s his vision, evidently, and welcome to it.
Or not. That essentially the entire film is the product of its main character’s imagination, be it a dream, nightmare or hallucination, is a lazy, over-used device meant to justify — “excuse” would be more apt — lapses and gaps in logic and storytelling.
Long eyelashes appear to be the prerequisite for the film’s primarily female cast, which includes Jena Malone, Abbie Cornish, Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Chung. Watching them flounce around in revealing costumes, whether performing burlesque routines or engaging in full-scale CGI battles, has its merits, but the novelty wears off quickly, and what we’re watching is a group of talented actresses floundering in roles that reflect the character’s simplistic monikers: “Rocket” (Malone), “Sweet Pea” (Cornish), “Amber” (Chung) and “Blondie” (Hudgens, just for the record, a brunette). They play it very seriously, yet they appear lost throughout. Ditto Jon Hamm, in a brief dual role that could’ve been knocked out in a day or two.
Although some of the visual effects are impressive and striking, Sucker Punch never comes together as a cohesive whole. It’s neither rousing or arousing, just annoying.
Snyder is on tap to direct the new Superman reboot for Warner Bros. The Hollywood publicity machine seems more interested in reporting updates from that film, which is in pre-production, than they are in this film, which is out now.
Wonder no more.