In Sucker Punch, director Zack Snyder's "Showgirls meets Doom" debacle, all that glitters is not gold. But there is plenty of glitter, gold, glitz, glamour and garbage. I saw it about a week ago, and I am still in a lingerie-induced state of shock.
Emily Browning plays Babydoll, a survivor of child abuse, a lobotomy, and worse. Plus, she loves to sing and dance! Think of her as Frances Farmer in a garter belt and tap-shoes. Babydoll's been locked in an asylum that makes Bedlam look like Disneyland, but luckily she's got several insanely hot allies — rebel Rocket (Jena Malone), toughie Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), sweet Amber (Jamie Chung) and cautious Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) — to help her plan an escape. From here on out the lines of reality, dreams, and fantasy blur. In one life, Babydoll is a wrongfully incarcerated inmate. In another, she is a cabaret performer in a shady but stylish brothel. And in yet another, she is a dragon-slaying videogame superhero.
The cheeky young hookers draw up a chalkboard checklist and get to work on collecting certain tools and weapons which will aid them in attaining freedom. (This overused device makes it particularly painful to sit through: "They're only up to #3…?") As the film unfolds Babydoll and company slip in and out of reality, through imagination and back again, with bad-guy Blue (Oscar Isaac) on one side and good-guy Wiseman (Scott Glenn) on another. While each man could not be more different from the other, they do have one thing in common: cliché quoting.
Speaking of clichés (hey! There's one now), the tagline for Sucker Punch is, "Close your eyes. Open your mind. You will be unprepared." If you take just that first line as gospel, you might enjoy the film more — the soundtrack is pretty good. The songs White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane, Love Is the Drug by Roxy Music, Asleep by The Smiths, and Pour Some Sugar on Me by Def Leppard, are remixed and redone. Browning takes lead vocals on some, while notable guest voices include Björk and Alison Mosshart. The visuals are up to Snyder snuff, but the scenarios are so incredibly repetitive that once you've been through the first 20 minutes, you have seen the entire film.
Let me put it this way: having seen Sucker Punch once, I'd rather watch Bitch Slap 10 times in a row. Snyder knows genre (having gotten his start in horror with the Dawn of the Dead remake, and also for presenting Watchmen with much of its delightfully wretched nihilism intact), but here he seems lost an abyss of vapid video vixens, CG zombies, and too many machine gun rounds.
The premise is reasonably interesting but the characters are so black and white, it's hard to stick with Sucker Punch. While some may say it's misogynistic (good girls are killed, raped, belittled, and exploited), I found it equally an exercise in misandry (wicked men are the killers and violators). There is not one moment of humor, no risks are taken, nor is there any texture. Our fallow femme fetales' makeup, costumes and settings change, but they do not. So when redemption does finally come (what?, you thought it might have a twist?), all you're left with is another forgettable film checked off the list.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson