Only geeks bother looking for big meaning in this kind of stuff. Sucker Punch degrades five girls into what is either a psychiatric ward or a club burlesque prison setting where they are forced to perform exotic dances for high-profile gents. Baby Doll (Emily Browning) is the new detainee who is a blow ’em away star dancer, but we never see her dance (not once), because when she performs she goes into a reverie of girl kick-ass videogame battles that are like anime meets Led Zeppelin meets Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.” When it comes to shots of them using machineguns to give WWII droids an ass-kicking then it’s time for you to come up with your own various metaphor. Come on, smart people get the metaphors – there are plenty. But who cares? Geeks do. Hey, the girls are in Japanese schoolgirl uniforms, even in Baby Doll’s own projected fantasy! But without Baby Doll, the other girls – Sweet Pea, Blondie, Rocket, Amber – are defenseless! They turn men on and then look for opportunity to snatch items like a map, a lighter, a knife, a key so they can escape.
Part of me wishes I had spent opening this review by telling you that the beginning five minutes make no sense and yet we kind of know because we have seen enough movies to get what’s going on. Or to tell you that Baby Doll doesn’t speak for at least 15 minutes, yet we know, or at least get the feeling, that she isn’t a mute. So just say something already, goddamn it! “Get your hands off of her, you pig!” are Baby Doll’s first words, she wails after pulling a hideous kitchen chef off of Rocket (Jena Malone). Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung) are routine victims of the club’s proprietor (Oscar Isaac), while Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) is the resilient one. The subtext is that all these girls are being raped, like routinely by the bosses, considering that they are vicious subjugators (for those of you who don’t know what subtext is it’s the underlying and implicit metaphors found in fiction). Two other integral characters: Carla Gugino is the seemingly indifferent doctor / madam of dance. Scott Glenn is some kind of dream samurai / war general.
Zach Snyder (“Watchmen”) knows how to create large environments for battle sequences, he lets you see blown debris for miles. Technically, it’s a whippersnapper but the sequences have no growing psychological value to them beyond the idea that Baby Doll is escaping from reality. Snyder just shows that he likes watching arsenal blow things up. He’s a destruction fetishist.
Snyder also likes being close up on the girls’ faces as well as their torsos. We also always see their midriffs, their gloss on their pouty lips and their eyeliner. Snyder likes to photograph everything in hard high-contrast grain, and because of this, we can see the actresses’ imperfections in skin pores. Except Browning, she has near perfect skin. You could comment that her acting skill is more transparent but she’s as durable as she is aloof. Cornish (“Somersault,” “Limitless”) as Sweet Pea wants to do everything she can to register emotional depth.
Cruelty is offset by camera turn-aways and quick cut edits. When a battered girl starts to exclaim “you mother–!” the rest is hushed in a way that sounds almost bleeped. This is all done so this can stay away from a Rated R, and keep its PG-13. The bloated Russian kingpin who gets a dance is so hideously ugly – like the girl wants to gag just having to rub up against him – that it should have been R (my joke, har har). Snyder loves shooting this kingpin pig in as hideous and unappetizing manner as possible. In contrast to the girl’s shiny lips, we see this Russian’s slimy lips. Typically, Snyder underlines his tale of exploited girls with as much disgusting quotient images as possible.
If you’re putting too much thought into this thing you need to go get laid. Or go figure out which movies and books you should be digesting so you can attract somebody to get laid.
120 Minutes. Rated PG-13.
SCI-FI & FANTASY / OFFENSIVE IMAGES / BOMBS AWAY
Film Cousins: “Brazil” (1985); “V for Vendetta” (2005); “300” (2007); “Watchmen” (2009).