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Sunday, 3 April 2011

Sucker Punch (2011)

For some time now we have been hearing about 'chick flicks' -- movies designed to lure young and older gals back to to the pictures, to which boyfriends and husbands must be dragged screaming. You know the sort of film; they are meant to attract 'wimmin' without those hallmarks of modern cinema -- bodily functions, coarse humour, and the flashy pyrotechnics that appeal to the current mainstay of cinema-goers: pubescent teenaged boys. I think the best name for their movie preferences would be 'dick flicks'. "Sucker Punch" illustrates this in spades. It is an adolescent male's wet-dream feminist fantasy -- hot girls kick ass.

 The lead female Emily Browning (a little-known Australian actress with very limited emotive skills) plays a young woman called Baby Doll (think back if you can to Carroll Baker's classic character of this name), whose wicked stepdaddy has had her committed to an institution for the 'mentally insane' so that he can usurp her fortune. As she waits for her upcoming lobotomy -- a common practice of course nowadays! -- her mind fills with fantasies. Of course all of the other patients are nubile young totty and Baby Doll makes friends with girls with the equally unlikely names of Sweet Pea, Rocket, Blondie, and Amber. These roles are taken respectively by Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, "High School Musical's" Vanessa Hudgens, and TV actress Jamie Chung. Now Cornish is quite a decent versatile actress and Malone is no mean slouch either, but all five ladies, as well as the other inmates, are fetishized into lust objects with low cut tops, skimpy skirts, and mid-thigh stockings. The roles could just as easily have been filled by a selection of playmates of the month.

 Director Zak Snyder has attracted some following with his successful films "300" and "Watchmen", but working here from his own original material he has created a big-budget slice of schlock. Browning's method of coping with the impossible situation in which she finds herself is to create worm-holes into various dreamworlds, where she and her pals battle an assortment of giant samurai, robot monsters, and zombie Nazis -- all of these straight out of the playstation of Snyder's mind. I will admit that these sequences are both imaginative and fairly well done, but they in no way compensate for the fact that the director has failed to provide us with a coherent screenplay or story or much in the way of acting talent.

 Carla Gugino dressed like a brothel's madam, with a phony eastern-european accent, embarrasses herself as the facility's leading therapist, and a weathered Scott Glenn as the guru of Browning's escape fantasies is too laid back for words. It would be a mug's game to argue that the action is really very profound and meaningfully symbolic, as some of the movie's fanboys would have it. It is truly a case of not caring about the fates of the sleazy ciphers on display; the denouement (such as it is) with its offhand deaths, brutal mutilation, and a single escape makes as little sense as the preceding flights of soft-core fancy. Of course this grade-Z movie will probably make a load of cash -- but that's what 'dick flicks' are all about.
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