Movie Review: “Sucker Punch”


Ever since “300,” Zack Snyder has been the darling of the Warner Bros. lot, left to try his hand at the most famous graphic novel adaptation of all (“Watchmen”) and even given a kids’ movie about talking warrior owls from Australia. And they’ve anointed him the savior of the “Superman” franchise.

But with “Sucker Punch” Warners gave him enough rope to hang himself with. This is the most epic miscalculation since the Golden Summer of M. Night Shyamalan. An unerotic unthrilling erotic thriller in the video game/comic book crossover vein, “Sucker Punch” is ” “Last Airbender” with bustiers.

Snyder rounded up five of the most buxom young actresses in the biz, women who give five of the flattest performances ever in a humorless quest fantasy about Pussycat Doll inmates trying to escape from an insane asylum.

I’d quote a witty line or two, if the script (co-written by Snyder) had any. I’d mention the emotional peaks if the movie managed one.

“Sucker Punch” is a flatly played flat-looking exercise in green screen filmmaking, “Sin City” without the sin. Emily Browning plays a young heiress committed to Lennox House by a hateful, nameless guardian who framed her for the murder of her sister. There, she takes the (striptease) dancing cure of a Polish psychotherapist (Carla Gugino) and joins four other young women in an escape that they plan to carry out in an alternate reality.

Scott Glenn is the “Wise Man” who gives “Baby Doll,” as Browning’s character is known, the marching orders for her quest. She must obtain five talismans to escape. She has five days to get out before a lobotomy is administered (by Jon Hamm of “Mad Men”). So she enlists Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) and Amber (Jamie Chung), her fellow dancer/hooker/inmates, to join her.

Every time Baby Doll “dances” her super erotic bump and grind for the paying customers, the five of them turn up in a different battle zone of their imaginations — a World War I battlefield with steam-powered German zombies, Zeppelins and a battle machine straight out of “Robocop,” a medieval fortress siege with dragons and an oddly configured WWII bomber. They pull out their samurai swords and Navy Seals machine guns and mow down whoever is in the way of their acquiring a map, a key, what have you.

These furies in fishnet stockings are neither convincing substitutes for Uma Thurman in “Kill Bill” (plainly an inspiration) nor involving characters. At times, their digitally enhanced battles look like state of the art (circa 2005) video game graphics. Scantily attired, they still aren’t sexy. In mortal danger, they still aren’t sympathetic.

“If you do not dance,” Dr.Vera Gorski (Gugino) purrs in exaggerated Polish-accented English, “you have no purpose.” Snyder doesn’t let any of his young vixens dance. Or let us see them dance.

The only “Sucker Punch” here is to your wallet if pay non-matinee prices for this. Just be grateful it wasn’t in 3D.  Well, maybe “Superman: Man of Steel” will be Snyder’s comeback. If Warners lets him direct it.

MPAA rating: PG-13 for thematic material involving sexuality, violence and combat sequences, and for language.Cast: Emily Browning (Baby Doll), Jena Malone (Rocket), Jamie Chung (Amber), Vanessa Hudgens (Blondie), Abbie Cornish (Sweet Pea), Scott Glenn (Wise Man), Carla Gugino (Dr. Vera Gorski), Jon Hamm (High Roller)

Credits: Directed by Zack Snyder, written by Snyder and Steve Shibutya, produced by Zack and Deborah Snyder. A Warner Brothers release.  Running time: 1:47

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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