Review: SUCKER PUNCH - Bombastic But Somber Pop Fairytale

rating: 3.5

Fishnets, lollipops, orcs, dragons, and steampunk Nazis only scratch the surface - Sucker Punch doesn€™t skimp on gals in skimpy outfits dishing out massive firepower in their mind€™s eye. But it turns out Zack Snyder has a lot on his mind unlike the €œchicks with guns€ vibe most of the ads are desperate to intimate. Sucker Punch skews far closer to, say, Pan€™s Labyrinth than 300 and represents a genuine departure for Snyder while retaining and expanding certain fetishisms he€™s flaunted in previous works. Make no mistake, this is an overtly personal project and possibly the best film Zack Snyder has made to date €“ an outstanding pastiche of pop culture footnotes married with a dark and disheartening drama. Working from a script he co-wrote with Steve Shibuya, Snyder envisions Sucker Punch as a sandbox film €“ overstuffed with minute details and insistence on noting specific objects and expressions in tight, claustrophobic close-ups. Sounds are amplified, every gunshot thunderous, while music selections blare and pulse €“ Sucker Punch is a primal experience, a film that demands your attention on strictly audio-visual basis. The soundtrack permeates every key moment of the picture, and music cues are even used to signal a transition from one universe to another as Baby Doll (Emily Browning) schemes an escape from an insane asylum, with a group of inmates in tow. Placed there by her abusive stepfather after she attempts to murder him but accidentally wounds her baby sister, Baby Doll acclimates herself with three disparate worlds €“ the grim reality of the asylum, a retro dance club/brother and several segments set for eye-popping balletic acrobatics. She plots her escape, guided by the Wise Man (Scott Glenn), with the rest of her inmate girlfriends onboard €“ Amber (Jamie Chung), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), and sisters Rocket (Jena Malone) and Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish). In opposition stands frequent supporting actor Oscar Issac as Blue Jones. Sporting just above a pencil-thin moustache in the brothel reality (where we spend most of the film), Blue€™s dapper demeanor hides exactingly violent tendencies. I am not given to exaggeration and this review may be getting the best of me, but I spent the first 40-odd minutes slack-jawed at the kind of epic grandeur on display. Say what you will about the man€™s habitual resolve in delivering subtlety-free imagery but Sucker Punch may represent the current apex of Snyder€™s visual sense. Larry Fong€™s cinematography is familiar, given that he€™s worked with Snyder since 300, but the scale and action climb to a new plateau. Everything is precisely exhilarating, from the blocking to the thankfully less-than-liberal use of speed ramping, and the production design (Rick Carter) goes from opulent to spare depending on which reality we are in at the moment. There is a frank set of ideas running through the film, ideas that I am still attempting to grasp hours after the screening €“ not that they are particularly complex, but rather I€™m not sure that they are earned or I€™m simply assigning them to the film. Is Snyder commenting on gender roles? Is he critiquing the invincibility of action heroes (and heroines)? What does €œSucker Punch€ have to say about fate? What about personal responsibility? Occasionally, when it delves into darker emotional territory, the tension-filled moments we spend there are almost an atonement for the apparently brainless but beautiful action scenes we witness prior. When I sat down to write this review, I imagined a flowery ode to €œSucker Punch€ €“ instead, I cobbled together something more workmanlike and concrete. I plan to see it again this weekend €“ it€™s worth it just to drink in the scenery and ponder how this film was ever approved for an $85 million dollar budget. Whether it will end up an unqualified success or another notch on Nathan Rabin€™s exemplary Year of Flops list, is up to you. Yes, you. Now go out and see it. Sucker Punch opens in the U.S. tomorrow and in the U.K. on April 1st.
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The best of the five boroughs is now represented. Brooklyn in the house! I'm a hardworking film writer, blogger, and co-host of "It's No Timecop" podcast! Find me on Tumblr at Our Elaborate Plans...