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

Author: Brent McKnight

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
  • mutantbroccoli

    Babydoll’s a psychiatric patient… What would you expect? I’ve had enough of stupid comments made by overtly judgmental people who criticize the film as if they themselves have worked so hard to deserve to slap shit on Snyder’s work. SNYDER IS BRILLIANT.

    Babydoll has been brought to Lennox and was confined as a psychological patient, so don’t expect for a normal plot. The film’s abnormal right from the beginning. Sucker Punch is a roller coaster ride to the unimaginable. It’s not all about jailbreak God dammit. Don’t stray too far from the real essence of the film. People say the story’s weak and awful, but I say it’s original and damn right brilliant. It leaves you something to think about.

  • Sakshaz

    You are right about one thing: “The film’s abnormal right from the beginning”.

    I went in to have a great time but the “film’s” biggest failing is that the actions scenes are totally devoid of any suspense, tension and coherence. The lead looks blandly plastic and is an awful actor to boot. Fuck, she can’t even frown! This looks like a promotional video made by a CGI company in order to get real films. No wonder this piece of vegetable left “broccolis” something to “think about”.

  • Sakshaz

    Also the typical American sub-text about “kill to get freedom” couldn’t be far behind too.

  • Marc Ohhhh

    This movie was Pan’s Labyrinth on an overdose of steroids. I watched the movie last night and then read this review, and I noticed your reference to the orcs. Hahaha that’s EXACTLY what I told my girlfriend. Such an unsatisfying movie -_-

  • Shazam!

    Just because a movie is supposed to be “a fun ride” doesn’t mean that it can’t be graded for it’s lack of story! And the trouble with saying that this movie was the same as a flick like “Pirhana” is that it isn’t. One is trying to be serious and the other is not.

    And don’t flip out on people for saying the acting looked rough because you think they didn’t get what was going on (she’s a psych patient, etc.). If they failed to get that it’s because the film maker failed to take them there. There are plenty of tripped out movies that successfully create and deliver fantastic worlds, quirky characters or warped realities… this movie was not one of them.

    In my oppinion they idea is great but what they should have done was drop one of the quest items and replaced those saved minutes with story development.

    I hate to say it, but sometimes Snyder comes across as a guy who never went to school and learned the basics… or went but spent his time in class thinking how much better he was because his movies were going to have action. I’m all for action, but without a story that is well told, it comes across flat.

    This movie to me was like a side scrolling video game – fun for a while, but nothing really new after the first 10 minutes.

  • mutantbroccoli

    It seems so many people really hate this movie for its whimsical weak plot. I guess I just enjoyed it too much that I overlooked the vital details, or maybe because I was just hypnotized by Baby Doll’s plastic doll-like charm. Yeah I agree with Shazam, even the greatest action movies will fail if its story comes without enough substance. I know the idea of “get the 5 items = freedom” sucks but hey, it’s unique! :D

    Give it a break and try not to overthink things. Yes, this movie’s a fun ride but that’s no excuse to be not graded for it’s lack of story! But just try to not hate but instead appreciate :D (LOL whatever)

  • Businessdeal12

    nice blog ,thnks 4 shrng,

  • Suckerpunched.

    There’s only one,maybe two scenes where rape would come into this film. even then its only made by a misleading gesture, the cook for example could be classed like it would lead to rape,but no. Only that one scene with baby near the end.

    I don’t know how people think it made zero sense either, The film is a very dark storyline, these are simply baby using her imagination to eascape the dark times with her guilt and depression to make something happy for herself.

    The only thing i didn’t understand was this review and the comments.
    This film is Absolutley Amazing and for me ,in my opinion is definitley Film of the year worthy. I loved everything about it.

    The action.. no way near repetitive, always something new going on through out the film.
    I personnaly love how before each fantasy starts with baby dancing, because the music choices are excellent and compliment the visuals strongley.
    It gets me pumped to see what chapter is next in the story.

    The story itself is cool, it’s a short concept,but no way near terrible. For the people who are confused about this film,didn’t get it or just didn’t understand certain parts, i suggest you give it another go.
    Maybe the second time you watch it (or the first for you trolls.) you may find it more enjoyable.

    Also, for the hate at the ‘wiseman being called ‘wiseman’. who gives a fig.

    • Dedpool

      Good to see some positive buzz. I for one am still intrigued. I always thought of this as being akin to “Pan’s Labrynth” in its use of fantasy to escape the horrors of reality.

      Sent on the go.