Sucker Punch (2011)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #577


Number of Views: One
Release Date: March 25, 2011
Sub-Genre: Fantasy/Steampunk
Budget: $82,000,000
Box Office: $89,800,000
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 109 minutes
Director: Zack Snyder
Producers: Deborah Snyder, Zack Snyder
Screenplay: Zack Snyder, Steve Shibuya
Special Effects: Scott R. Treliving
Visual Effects: Andy Brown, David Burton, John ‘D.J.’ Des Jardin, Rainer Gombos, Bryan Hirota, Guillaume Rocheron
Cinematography: Larry Fong
Score: Tyler Bates, Marius de Vries
Editing: William Hoy
Studios: Legendary Pictures, Cruel and Unusual Films
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Stars: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Carla Gugino, Oscar Isaac, Jon Hamm, Scott Glenn, Richard Cetrone, Gerard Plunkett, Malcolm Scott


Suggested Audio Jukebox

[1] Yoav & Emily Browning “Where Is My Mind?”
[2] Emiliana Torrini “White Rabbit (Sucker Punch Remix)”
[3] Björk “Army of Me”


Of all the tokens I give thanks for on a daily basis, none swell me with appreciation more than my over-active imagination. I’d rather that than my thyroid any day of the week, especially when it provides me with my very own GPS packing magic carpet and the speediest route to the closest brothel. As I glide above the clouds watching all those sorry freeway rats ducking down in their seats while Michael Douglas strolls past them with a gym bag overspilling with semiautomatics, I thank every one of my lucky stars personally. That’s Doc, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy, Dopey, and I even offer a respectful nod to Grumpy, even though I’m fully aware that he won’t appreciate it one iota. I guess what I’m saying is that life would be far more boring without a smattering of inventiveness and I nourish each seed until it blooms in the hope that, one day, I actually may grow that tail rapier I’ve been begging for since mince pies started mysteriously vanishing from the doorstep. For the record, if I’m ever not in my room, then I believe one of my fairies has the Glympse app downloaded on her Android.


So we’ve ascertained that creativity is a friend to my thoughts right? Well another of my mind’s besties is mild perversion and this is where the film I’m about to slide into my mental toploader becomes all relevant and shit. We’re only talking nominal mischief and, I promise, there’s not an anal bead in sight (keep ’em well hidden see). Granted, the sight of gorgeous girly girls in the altogether has been known to have my knee a quiver, but clothes are welcome to be worn as long as knee-high socks and personalized M1911A1 pistols are in the kit list. Indeed, I once went as far as to release an article by the name of Chicks With Guns as homage to this kind of unruly inventory. Women and firearms just so happen to go together like peas and carrots, and provide my junk monster with two portions of its five-a-day in the process. I really can put it in no plainer terms than that Grueheads. It’s not that I endorse war, more that I endorse my own imagination to create a saucy slide show each time my lids seal. Anyhoots, perhaps I have left the ladies waiting for too long now so, without further ado, shake ‘it off girls and Amber put down that Chupa Chup at once. Actually, you’re good. Just drool a little into your cleavage.


Babydoll + Sweet Pea + Rocket + Blondie + Amber x Semiautomatics and Katana blades by the shit tonnage =


Yes siree it does. Between this and Harmony Korine’s similarly rambunctious Spring Breakers, I can finally offer my imagination an array of blessings to take that trip to Mauritius I’ve been denying it for four decades. Masturbation is key to Zack Synder’s Sucker Punch and the kicker is that you won’t be required to mop up afterwards as these five feisty firecrackers are only too happy to be on junk disposal duties. Five spunky vixens equates to no less than ten cheek dimples and, if that doesn’t incite some knee tremors, then you clearly haven’t hung out in my cranium. Come now, there really is nothing whatsoever to be ashamed of here; if girls just wanna have fun then it’s perfectly acceptable for us guys to wanna watch girls have fun. That’s all we really want. With Babydoll, Sweet Pea, Rocket, Blondie, and Amber blowing down the barrels, seventh heaven suddenly pops up on the TomTom and my pickle thanks them enthusiastically for every last playful tickle.


Somewhat predictably, Sucker Punch didn’t receive the kindest response from critics, many of whom clambered to their putrid pedestals to blast it for being misogynistic. These buzz kills just can’t resist throwing in their two cents worth, dripping poison into the ears of the movie-going public, while attempting to come across all intellectual. In their blinkered eyes, there appeared some confusion as to whether the film objectifies or empowers women, where it actually just wishes to entertain the hell out of its audience and does so free-handed. Others suggested that Snyder set out only to satisfy his own seedy little fantasies about young women in ridiculously short skirts wielding guns and swords, making it little more than a tick box exercise for his own sexual gratification. Whether he had a hoot and holler filming it is by the bye as the most critical factor is that the audience get to boot down for 109 minutes and enjoy it for precisely what it is – pure bubblegum. Sure you can dig deeper and search for any underlying subtext if you so wish but you’re kind of missing the point if you do.

Sucker Punch

Snyder wastes absolutely no time in setting his stall out as Babydoll (Emily Browning) is wrongfully accused of her younger sister’s death and shipped off to the Lennox House for the Mentally Insane to be institutionalized in a spectacularly slick opening scene that plays out like an extended music video. On arrival she is placed in the questionable care of crooked orderly Blue (Oscar Isaac), and promptly handed over to asylum shrink, Dr. Gorski (Carla Gugino), who also happens to be the institution’s burlesque dance instructor and is tasked with getting her ship-shape for the upcoming visit of the illustrious High Roller. With time running out before her planned lobotomization, Babydoll has no choice other than to mean business and plot her escape from this infernal palace, thus hones straight in on the other kittens in the litter and commences rubbing noses.


This tantalizing troupe comprises Amber (Jamie Chung), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), Rocket (Jena Malone), and her sister and the show’s prize feline, Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) who is understandably a little territorial at first. However, Babydoll isn’t here just to make up numbers, and highlights four items that will be necessary to obtain in order to abscond. The problem is, the bordello’s security is tighter than one of Gorski’s Basques and big wheel Blue has no problem with skipping the passive and going straight for aggressive, should his “happy family” be threatened. With time slipping through the hourglass at an alarming rate and neither pussyfooting or half-stepping permitted, it’s high time that Babydoll reveal her secret weapon to her playmates. And what a secret weapon it is too.


“You can deny angels exist, Convince ourselves they can’t be real. But they show up anyway, at strange places and at strange times. They can speak through any character we can imagine. They’ll shout through demons if they have to. Daring us, challenging us to fight.”

You see, the medium of dance happens to provide a rather delightful vessel for expression and Babydoll possesses moves that would defy any paying client’s laws of penile gravity. In short, she can shake a tail feather or two and, to such an extent, that she is swiftly transported to all manner of outlandish fantasy worlds. From snow-laden feudal Japanese dojos, to steampunk-inspired World War I trenches, and Orc-infested fortresses watched over by fire-breathing dragons with unresolved detachment issues, one wiggle of that tenacious tush and she morphs into a fearsome warrior, under the serendipitous instruction of riddle-me-this Wiseman (Scott Glenn). Sucker Punch then trades those dance shoes in for sheer firepower and enough optical candy to binge ourselves way beyond senseless with.


“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

Each time she gyrates those hips, Snyder slips in a quarter, and it’s all about nabbing those cherries before the dreaded GAME OVER screen gatecrashes the party. Needless to say, power pills are liberally sprinkled throughout each maze and the girls gobble them down like Lovelace, before raining all manner of fire and brimstone down on whatever A.I. is on maze running duties. Anyone familiar with 300 will be only too aware of where Snyder’s reality ends and fantasy takes over, and these fiery intermissions prefer state-of-the-art CGI effects and all the bells and whistles that come with them to anything even vaguely resembling time-honored. We’re talking mountainous samurai, Nazi zombies, overbearing blimps, and runaway steam trains that double up as a production line for dozens upon dozens of skirmish-primed cyborgs. It’s all here and accompanied by the kind of audio confectionery designed to fire up those pleasure pistons and keep them steady blazing.


It’s a shot in the arm for damn sure but, curiously, Sucker Punch is at its most magnanimous when docking us firmly back into reality. Isaac has been squarely on my radar since watching him in Alex Garland’s delectable cyber banquet Ex Machina and he makes for a gloriously impending villain, while all five vixens know precisely when to clench and when to release. Granted, they’re hardly the most developed of characters, but there’s precious little time for chewing the gristle and I still found myself firmly in their corner, although I understand this attachment didn’t stretch across the board as many berated it for a complete dearth of emotional connection. However, while some consider Snyder as little more than DC’s bitch, let’s not forget the likes of the ultra-violent Watchmen and his no shame bringing Dawn of The Dead reboot. He’s not afraid to pull the rug from beneath the pretty feet of our heroines and the ultimate direction that his story takes deviates fairly unapologetically from the projected flight plan.


“For those who fight for it, life has a flavor the sheltered will never know.”

So let’s take a look at the sum of the parts then shall we? Women in peril – check. Deliciously choreographed green screen action – check. Retina bleeding visuals – check. Enough spent shrapnel to construct an alloy Trojan – check. An abundance of style to compensate for lack of substance – check. 109 minutes of techno heaven – check. Will Sucker Punch live long in the memory once those credits roll? Perhaps not but I’m more than appreciative for the five-strong mental screen saver it has imparted. Dig too deep beneath its slick veneer and things soon begin to fall apart so I would suggest just going along for the ride as it sure as shit has velocity to spare. And if that makes me a sucker, then I’m already puckered for the punch. Now if that doesn’t constitute a closing gallery, then I don’t know what does.


Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10

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Read Dawn of The Dead (2004) Appraisal
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Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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