Sucker Punch 8/10
Sucker Punch (PG-13) 2011
Reviewer's Tilt (9)
Sucker Punch tells the story of Baby Doll (Emily Browning). After a series of unfortunate events leaves both her mother and sister dead, Baby Doll’s depraved father sends her away to an insane asylum. Baby Doll copes with her incarceration by creating her own reality and plotting her escape. Fellow inmates (Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone and Jamie Chung) become Baby Doll's fellow mercenaries in adventures ranging from a steampunk World War II, to a medieval world of fire-breathing dragons and asylum guards (headed by Oscar Isaac) transform into a smarmy Rat Pack of abusive sadists. As Baby Doll’s “escape” becomes more imminent, the line between fantasy and reality blurs.
Much like its main character, Sucker Punch creates its own reality, heralding in a new genre of movie, a kind of adrenochromatic reverie. The film not so much pushes the boundaries of visual stimulation, as uses its stunning visuals to convey a continuous and satisfying flow of cerebral stimulation. The dialogue is sparse, the acting intentionally overwrought and the story is one we have seen before. What distinguishes Sucker Punch is not its pedestrian parts, but the three-dimensional emotional excitement the sum of those parts convey.
The manifest aspects of the film, the deeply troubled woman creating an escapist alternate reality, the burgeoning camaraderie of her hardened fellow inmates and the cliched evil of the caretakers, conceal a latent, but ultimately powerful, beauty. Sucker Punch’s gratuitous action, carnage and sexuality function merely as cables, uploading emotion directly to our Limbic systems. From wrath, to gluttony, to greed, to sloth, to pride, to lust, to envy, and, ultimately, to pleasure, the film does not miss a bit.
To view Sucker Punch as a superficial, gratuitous extravagance misses its underlying beauty. Zach Snyder’s stunning visuals and pastiche of homages to directors ranging from Victor Fleming to Quentin Tarantino, rewards the receptive viewer with a strangely addictive series of emotions. Had Snyder been content to create a typical big-budget action movie, Sucker Punch would not leave one with such a strong desire for another fix. The desire stems not from the story, or from a need to make sense of the somewhat cryptic ending, but from the rush of intense feelings Zack Snyder’s new genre brings to the big screen and to his richly rewarded audience.