Sucker Punch

Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch has the vestiges of something great but there are crucial pieces missing. It's all kinds of cool and there's a repressed high concept at play here but it's deficient in the substance; it doesn't all quite gel. You get the feeling that perhaps this was the dumbed down action movie cut of an otherwise very intriguing movie. Is it directorial incompetence or studio interference that mars the work? On the strength of Watchmen, I'd guess the latter. This is a great shame as while the film’s opener is supremely engaging, by the time the first fantasy sequence falls abruptly in our laps, it all starts to unravel and the confusion begins; continuing on to Snyder's sleight-of-hand attempt to shift the focus to a different character in the final five minutes. Even the films mantra of 'believing in yourself' and 'fighting for your principles' is lost amidst the confusing mechanics of the story such that we need to be openly reminded of it again in the movies closing moments.

Imprisoned by her step-father in a mental institution and facing a lobotomy within five days, Babydoll (Emily Browning) recasts her oppressors and fellow inmates into specific roles within her nested fantasies. Some are clearly linked to their real world personalities, others - like Sweetpea (Abbie Cornish), for instance - seem to bear no resemblance at all to their real world personas. This creates a discord between the fantasy and reality worlds, making the transition from one to the other confusing.

Also creating confusion are the ill-defined thematic links between Babydoll's worlds. Why is the first fantasy level a sleazy cabaret show and why is it when she dances, she fantasizes about slaughtering steam punk Nazis, dragons and robots? Indeed, why is she even dancing? While it's clear that the prostitution-infused vaudeville theatre of the first fantasy level is a direct analogy for the asylum, director's (Oscar Isaac) exploitation of his patients, and the second level is her violent reaction towards it, it’s not clear why they take these particular shapes? We simply don't know enough about Babydoll's true character to fully understand these connections. It is also unclear what part her fantasies play in the real world, if indeed they play a part at all! In the end it appears they were done simply because Snyder thought they would be pretty cool. And they are pretty cool.

All that being said, as a fetishist action adventure, Sucker Punch is a hoot and its effective use of music from the Eurythmics' Sweet Dreams to The Beatles' Tomorrow Never Knows keeps the tension and excitement thumping along. We can only hope, however, that the films not inconsiderable drawbacks are corrected in a future 'director's cut'; that would be a movie worth seeing.

Stuart Jamieson

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