Sucker Punch (2011) Movie Review

Watching “Sucker Punch” is like watching some creepy old dude’s rape fantasy masquerading as a female empowerment story for young women. Apparently all teenage-looking girls need to do to transcend sexual assault is to do a seductive (read awkward) dance to hypnotize their would-be attackers and flee into their imaginations. One of the five female leads is almost raped every few minutes. People are going to describe “Sucker Punch” with words like “hot”, “sexy”, and “sensual”, but more accurate words are gross and skeevy, not to mention painfully long and repetitious.

“Sucker Punch” begins by raining shit down on Baby Doll (Emily Browning), who does actually look like she’s made out of plastic. Her mother dies, her evil stepfather tries to get at her, but goes after her little sister instead. When the little sister winds up dead, evil stepfather blames it on the already traumatized Baby Doll, and has her committed to a sinister, old school, electro-shock-therapy style mental hospital. There he pays an unscrupulous orderly, Blue (Oscar Isaac), to arrange an unnecessary lobotomy for his wayward stepdaughter.

Inside the asylum, Baby Doll meets fellow inmates Rocket (Jenna Malone), Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), and Amber (Jamie Chung), who all wear an absurd amount of eye makeup for being mental patients. Through the sheer power of imagination (you assume, since the subject is never dealt with in this level of reality) the hospital is transformed into a burlesque brothel, where the inmates are enslaved prostitutes who dance for wealthy clients. Carla Gugino chews on the scenery as a Polish psychiatrist in the real world, and a Polish madam/choreographer in the alternate universe, and Blue turns up as the mustachioed club owner/pimp.

Baby Doll bonds with Rocket by saving her from being raped by the morbidly obese, possibly mentally handicapped chef, which is really the best basis for a friendship. When Baby Doll is forced to dance, her moves are so entrancing that everyone who lays eyes on her falls under her spell for the duration of a song. Baby Doll not only enraptures her audiences, but she also dances herself into yet another layer of imagination, one where she encounters Wiseman (Scott Glenn), who gives her five things she and her friends must find in order to be free. That’s how subtle “Sucker Punch” is, the wise man is fucking named Wiseman. You may as well have called him Mr. Smartypants, or Tourguide.

You watch this pseudo-steampunk tale unfold as awful covers of great songs play at eardrum-crushing volumes, waiting for the action. Most people aren’t going into “Sucker Punch” in search of a great story. After all, writer/director Zack Snyder is known primarily as a visual stylist (the most engaging characters in any of his films to date are cartoon owls), not a great storyteller. And, admittedly, the action is the only thing “Sucker Punch” has going for it. Here’s the problem: the action scenes are super repetitive. They all begin with Baby Doll swaying uncomfortably to start her dance (Browning never looks at ease once in this entire movie), and distracting the lecherous Johns while her friends steal the tools they need to secure their freedom. Baby Doll’s homies accompany her to the third layer of reality, where they are all super badass and have guns and fight ninjas, zombies, giant Japanese-style statues, fire-breathing dragons, and the orcs from “Lord of the Rings”. Each one of these scenes, and you know exactly how many there will be because they tell you up front, play out almost exactly the same. It looks cool for a while, but you want something interesting to happen, which it never does. The movie takes all of this time getting to the action, only to have that action get boring and tedious.

I know I’m totally going to be accused of hating fun because I don’t like “Sucker Punch,” but it’s like an idiot “Wizard of Oz”, only with more molestation (I’m not kidding, someone is almost raped every few minutes) and an ending that shamelessly apes “Brazil”. It’s one of those movies that is smug and self-important, despite the fact that it is nothing but empty stylistics, visual bells and whistles, and completely devoid of any content at all. “Sucker Punch” basically spends two hours telling you how significant and game changing it is.

The thing I hate most of all, and if you didn’t get this point already, I hate pretty much everything about “Sucker Punch”, is that I know far too many people are going to embrace this as a feminist story full of strong young female characters fighting back against oppression, but it’s not at all (and no, the irony that I am in fact a man is not lost on me). “Sucker Punch” parades itself as that, while it is nothing more than an excuse for guys to infantilize young girls in pig tails and check out their underwear. As a film, “Sucker Punch” is not only dumb, it’s despicable in most capacities.

And why the hell is John Hamm in this movie? He has like three lines and is completely wasted (squandered wasted, not drunk wasted).

Zack Snyder (writer/director)/Steve Shibuya (writer)
CAST: Emily Browning…Baby Doll
Jena Malone…Rocket
Abbie Cornish…Sweet Pea
Vanessa Hudgens…Blondie
Jamie Chung…Amber
Carla Gugino…Dr. Vera Gorski
Oscar Isaacs…Blue


Buy Sucker Punch on DVD



About Brent McKnight

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Brent McKnight lives in Seattle with his dogs. He likes beards, movies where things explode, and overcast skies. His three favorite movies are "Rubin and Ed", "A Bittersweet Life", and "Out for Justice". He wishes his knees didn't hurt. On Twitter @BrentMMcKnight

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  • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool

    “That’s how subtle “Sucker Punch” is, the wise man is fucking named Wiseman. You may as well have called him Mr. Smartypants, or Tourguide.” Dude. it’s escapist fantasy. It’s her imagination, I actually think it makes sense that his name is what his role is. It’s like “Faster” paying homage to the old 70′s action flicks with the chracters being named for the roles.
    “They all begin with Baby Doll swaying uncomfortably to start her dance (Browning never looks at ease once in this entire movie), and distracting the lecherous Johns while her friends steal the tools they need to secure their freedom.” Is she supposed to look at ease in her situation? You’ve go on in detail to describe how horrible things are so why would she be at ease dancing for the Johns?

    I think you tried to read to much into this and just forgot to have a good time. This isn’t SHakespeare, it’ SNyder. It’s basically a live action anime in the vein of “Perfect Blue,” (Psychological aspect and the imaginary fantasy aspect) and even the “Scott Pilgrim” film. What we get is what she perceives. But hey I’m sure it’s not a perfect film, but still a good review. I’m still wanting to see it though.

    • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool

      And just a little insight into Snyder’s warped film:

      http://io9.com/#!5785523/zack-snyder-explains-the-point-of-sucker-punch

      I dont think his vision came off the way he wanted it to going by Brent’s review.

    • http://twitter.com/Nazicole Nicole Balaoing

      Awww man you’re kidding yourself right? It is an escapist fantasy, but it lacked certain logic linking it back to reality. Dude if it was just 10 t0 15 minutes of this crap it would have been fine. But for a film to drag you on for so long without so much as to proving a point or relevance to all the visual effects, you can’t blame us for not “just having fun with it”.

      Suckerpunch is the feeling i got after watching the movie, even twice, trying to understand if im missing out something. Later on i realized it was the movie that was missing something: a story, a point, or even the logic of this drastic effort of killing a baby dragon. Was really stupid man, i’m sorry. The director has off the charts cinematography, but he has barely an idea on how to tell a story.

      • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool

        I didn’t blame anyone. I said it to brent and no one else. But also repsect his opinion. Thats why i said in the second post I dont think SNyder’s vision came off the way he planned.

      • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool

        I didn’t blame anyone. I said it to brent and no one else. But also repsect his opinion. Thats why i said in the second post I dont think SNyder’s vision came off the way he planned.

  • http://twitter.com/Terminator2366 Bad Zack

    I SAW IT LAST NIGHT at 12:01 on a free pass – the story line is terrible but the action is great but repettitive but visually great — i will say the fight scenes w/ abbie cornish are crazy bad ass and the one with vanessa huddgins damn near made me drool

  • justjoe

    Seriously, everyone expecting a movie about “female empowerment” for the next generation of feminists with a lot of subtext and deeper meaning seemingly skipped the teaser, the artwork, the trailers. pretty much everything related to that movie and has only him/herself to blame!

  • Zero-shot

    I saw it last night and I knew what I was going in for,I watched it for visual style and left my brain at the door and I really loved it. had a great time.

  • Anonymous

    Fuck, I hope you didn’t give away the ending with the “Brazil” reference.

  • Falock

    given that this is all her imagination and, its her way to deal with her sorroundings every choice makes sense and every moment is perfect those who didn’t like it i ask in the trailer you saw her leaping at a 20 foot samurai robot what did you really expect?

  • Anonymous

    I’d have to say my expectations for the movie weren’t high going in. Not because of any reviews or word of mouth but because it was clearly going to be a mashup of interesting and disparate nouns (beautiful women, mecha, samurai, dragons, the “Killzone” series’ Helghast) thrown into a sandbox, and that’s what the movie’s “action layer” feels like. It’s like something a kid would come up with if he threw “G.I. Joe”, “Star Wars” and anime playsets into a sandbox and made shit up as he went along. The burlesque/brothel layer took me a bit to get used to and I’m not sure what the exact idea behind it was, but it worked for me. It felt like it was there so that these abused and/or unstable women who are probably shut away inside themselves in the real world could be shown in a more normal state, so to speak.

    As for the question of is the movie sexist or empowering, let’s not forget that as hypersexualized the women in “Sucker Punch” are, the men in “300″ were even more obvious pieces of walking fuckmeat. Were those guys treated solely as sex objects? Not really. It wasn’t so much the Spartans’ washboard abs as it was that they used them to kill-streak dozens of Persians at a time in speed-ramped glory and in “Sucker Punch”, we get women in mini-skirts and push-up bras working through soldiers, orcs and robots like expert “Call of Duty” bots. Both movies present provocatively dressed action leads, but ultimately it was the action that makes or breaks it. And that makes me wonder what an R-rated version of “Sucker Punch” would’ve been like.

    And if people have issue with the fetishing of the “Sucker Punch” cast, what about other movies and TV shows that sexualize teenage girls/young women on a regular basis and only receive criticism from folks identified as conservative loons? How empowered do you suppose Sydney Bristow was whenever she squeezed into a mini-skirt and holster on “Alias”? Or Jessica Alba in her catsuits on “Dark Angel”? Or Supergirl on “Smallville” a few years ago? Or just about any female character ever drawn by Frank Miller or Jim Lee or Adam Hughes or fill in blank? The movie does have problems, some very big problems, but I don’t think the empowerment VS sexist question is one of them.

  • SmokinBandit

    Its a action movie plain and simple, no message of female inpowerment or anything for that matter is conveyed. Its just one of those movie where you turn your brain off and watch things explode, get kicked in the face, shot, sliced in half, etc, etc.

  • SmokinBandit

    Its a action movie plain and simple, no message of female inpowerment or anything for that matter is conveyed. Its just one of those movie where you turn your brain off and watch things explode, get kicked in the face, shot, sliced in half, etc, etc.

  • Brian

    Everything about this movie was bad. It made zero sense, all of it. The first fight in the snow, the fake “icy breath” was so terrible, they didn’t even get the right timing, she exhaled aggressively towards the end of that scene and there was no breath, but when she inhaled next… bam there it was. The fight in that scene, when she gets knocked into the building and rips up the floor…what does she weigh 90 pounds? Was the floor made of paper? The CG throughout was terrible…this is 2011 there is no excuse for that. Brutal green screen shots, random things breaking that didn’t need to just for the fact that they could add in more CG and stuff going on that made no sense. I really like Snyder but come on.

    Probably the most annoying part of the movie (aside from every male character being portrayed as evil…despite what people might argue), was the over use of slow motion. Sure it was cool in the select sequences in his previous work, Watchmen most notably, but in this…it was so ridiculous. The slo-mo shots had no purpose other than to show the upskirt of an attractive girl jumping in the air, while the skirt is also defying physics to get up while she’s jumping up…and to over-emphasize the overused in this movie shots of the girl jumping, landing on her knee, looking down for 3 seconds and then raising her head. Cliche overuse ftl.

    Absolutely none of the dialogue was memorable with the possible (long shot) exception of John Hamm…just because he’s John Hamm and awesome.
    As soon as I saw the first trailer that said “You will need to find five items” I knew it was going to be bad. I just didn’t realize it could be THIS bad.
    Looks like Snyder needs to stick with pre-made source material that he didn’t write.

    Now I’m all for throw intelligence and common sense aside action movies, but this couldn’t even be enjoyed at that level. On the way out of the theater we heard a girl say “I LOVED IT” and if it wasn’t a girl I would have turned around and socked them in the face for being an idiot.

    Now, with all that negativity said, I have to say I really enjoyed the opening sequence of her life pre-just entering the asylum. That sequence was highly stylized, shot well, edited well and felt Snyder for sure. After that though…