Monday, March 28, 2011

Sucker Punch

Review by Pete Roche

SUCKER PUNCH, the latest stylized thriller from director Zack Snyder, borrows from Tarantino’s vengeful blonde template (KILL BILL) with mixed results.  Snyder even executes the unrealized “Fox Force Five” premise mentioned by Thurman's character in PULP FICTION, dropping a team of corseted babes with guns and bad attitudes into heavily-guarded parkour obstacle courses.  But instead of Thurman’s “Bride” we get “Babydoll” (Emily Browning), and pinch-hitting for late David Carradine is Scott Glenn, her “Wise Man” sensei master and guardian angel.

It’s a trifurcated tale of a young woman sent to a Vermont asylum in the 1950s by a surly stepfather.  Our heroine (Emily Browning)—known only by “Babydoll” nickname—can’t protect little sister from despondent step-dad after Mom dies, but her violent intercession compels Pops to have her committed.  The madhouse administrator, Blue (Isaac Oscar), assures him the girl will be dealt with; a bribe puts Babydoll on the lobotomy specialist’s to-do list.  But she finds a confidante in Mrs. Gorski (Carla Gugino), a Polish therapist who uses theater to help the female patients cope with their anxieties.  Baby’s imagination soars, her delusions of grandeur the likely byproduct of various pharmaceuticals.

Two new simultaneously-unfolding realities emerge as Babydoll envisions the asylum as a front for a whorehouse run by Blue, wherein the inmates become sultry entertainment for his lasciviously-minded guests.  Blue’s all-star harem includes Blondie (Vanessa Hutgens), Amber (Jamie Chung), and sisters Rocket (Jena Malone) and Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish).  But both Blue and Gorski are delighted by the newcomer.  Indeed, Babydoll’s dancing is so hypnotic it awakens an even deeper fantasy world where—at least in her mind—she and her friends are sent on high-risk military adventures.

The missions are metaphors for an escape plan Babydoll hatches to bust them out of the prison-hospital.  Their attempt to steal a map from Blue’s office is played out as an assault on steam-punk soldiers in mucky World War I trenches.  A plot to swipe the mayor’s Zippo lighter is realized as a dragon-slaying quest.  Their scheme to nab a kitchen knife becomes an operation to defuse a bomb hurtling toward a city on a bullet-train.

These dark vignettes pack all the eye-candy we’ve come to expect from the man behind 300 and WATCHMEN.  Color-saturated landscapes and ashen skies are populated by people, vehicles, and weapons hailing from separate (or fictitious) historical eras: think giant samurai with Gatlin guns.  Mud and blood commingle in No Man’s Land.  Spent casings flit through the air in glorious slow-motion.  Steam gusts from lead-punctured “clockworks” troopers. 

The women pirouette and somersault out of airplanes and over corpses, skirts flapping and bodices flexing.  They are strong, athletic, and aerobic in these kinetic environs—and untouchable.  This empowerment contrasts their absolute vulnerability in the dream-brothel, where (as in reality), they are routinely subjugated.   But none of the multiple realities has enough substance to stand alone.  Juxtaposed, they become something of a beautiful mess—an eye-popping  pastiche of midriffs, machine guns, and mayhem.  2 out of 4 stars.

1 comment:

  1. I was SO disappointed by this film. It was the first time I was hardly able to write a review on something without my personal feelings getting in the way.

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