Friday, March 25, 2011


SUCKER PUNCH is Zack Snyder unleashed. After a long string of adaptations, the man was finally given free rein to do something original. With the chain off the collar, Snyder delivers a film chock full of all of his favorite genres. PUNCH is a war film, a quest, and a fantasy movie; full of zombie-Nazis, dragons and orcs, topped off with sexy women in mini-skirts fighting with swords and guns. It is 12 movies all wrapped up into one, taking elements from SHUTTER ISLAND and INCEPTION and adding tons of style and video-game level action.

Wrongly sent to a mental institution after the death of her mother and sister, Baby Doll (Emily Browning), is taught to escape within her own mind and imaginations by Ward psychiatrist Madam Gorski (Carla Gugino). Baby Doll discovers a gift of sexy and hypnotizing dancing, which also allows her to retreat into her fantasy worlds, where she searches for items to help her escape her confines. Baby initially re-imagines the hospital as a brothel, and then takes her fantasy a level deeper, taking along with her new friends and fellow inmates Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), and Amber (Jamie Chung).

The world of SUCKER PUNCH exists on three levels; the first being the real world, the second being the brothel that Baby imagines, and the third are the war-zones and battlefields she conjures up while she dances on level 2. Sound confusing? It really isn’t. The bulk of the film centers upon 2 and 3, and they are meshed together nicely. The audience is challenged to think now and then and the results are mostly fun.

And level 3 is where the film really shines. Led by the mysterious Wise Man (Scott Glenn), the gals take on missions directly related to their semi-real world surroundings. The action sequences are a blast, even though most of them look like cut-scenes from video games. The gals battle oversized robot-samurai while the camera ogles up their skirts. The sexiness, while obvious, is still managed to be done tastefully.

Probably the smartest thing about PUNCH is that we never get to see Baby dance her hypnotizing routine, as the movie shifts right into her imagination just when she begins to gyrate. The audience is left to use their (ahem) imaginations. And perhaps the weakest thing about PUNCH is the lack of a real villain. Oscar Issac turns in a good role as Blue (an abusing orderly), but he comes off as an annoying intrusion more than a real threat.

The finale, while wrapping things up neatly, manages to grind the film to a near halt. It unfortunately cannot overcome the spectacle of the first two action sequences. The ending is only moderately satisfying, and one has to wonder if there were alternate endings the filmmakers might have had in mind. Still, SUCKER PUNCH is a great watch; toying with the eyeballs and the imagination throughout.


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