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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sucker Punch (2011) - Movie Review

Sucker Punch is a stupid action-fantasy from the Zack Snyder, the director of 300 and the Watchmen. It follows a group of girls who are more or less slaves at a strange sort of strip club. The girls dance for clients under the supervision of a poorly acted eastern-European instructor (Paula Gugino), and a menacing proprietor. The primary focus of the story is Baby Doll. Her dance is supposed to be mesmerizing, so her and the other girls plan an escape with her dance acting as a distraction for the retrieval of five things needed to escape. These scenes take the form of heavily-computer animated action set pieces that more closely resemble a video game than an actual movie. I take it these are meant to be dreams or something, but they really are pointless. While parts of a few of them look okay, they aren’t at all well done, filled with excessive slow-motion and unnecessary posing by the actors. There is an overlying plot that is the focus in the beginning and ending of the film involving Baby Doll’s abusive father having her institutionalized. This seems as though it is completely abandoned after the first section of the film until it culminates in a twist ending so stupid that I found myself rolling my eyes and bouncing in my seat in frustration.

The lead, Baby Doll (played vapidly by Emily Browning), is one of the worst performances I have seen in a major motion picture in years. She stares blankly, mouth either agape or in a pout the entire film. She never really seems to be reacting to what is happening on screen and when she does open her mouth, it‘s to spout out one or two lines with a level of disengaged enthusiasm rivaled only by Tidus from Final Fantasy X, and the fact that she doesn‘t seem to really be interested in anything that is happening on screen makes these lines seem less like they come from a character and more like they come from a six year old appearing in her first stage performance in a school play; It is a big problem when even your lead character doesn‘t seem to care about the plot. Another issue is that the other girls, who are much more lively and interesting (and better acted for that matter), are barely touched on and get very little of the action in the dream sequences. An even bigger offence is that the likeable and talented Jon Hamm is wasted here in a bit part. There really are no good performances in this film, so the blame more or less falls onto the shoulders of the director, and that blame would be well-placed.

Snyder co-wrote and directed this piece with a lot of his signature style, for better or for worse. While there are a few scenes in this movie that look good, most if it is dark and ugly. The low-light style hides the eyes of the actors, making them hard to read expressions from, and it shrouds the performances. It doesn’t help that they are all wearing thick makeup that makes their faces even darker. The action scenes are equally difficult to read. Dark hides the poorly rendered animation and weak effects push the film into style-over-substance territory. This style is also accentuated with a dark soundtrack, and by “dark“ I mean “lame“. Most of the songs are crappy covers and many of them sound exactly the same. They are meant to add to the mood I suppose, but they make the movie look like a lineup of silly music videos. It is just another element of the film that I hated. It doesn’t really further the movie at all, it merely ads more pointlessness to the already meaningless remainder of this movie.

As a whole, this is an incredibly stupid film. I can’t recommended it as a popcorn flick because the action sequences really aren’t all that interesting. There never feels like there’s anything at stake, and they basically boil down to the girls fighting enemies in a fantasy setting that in no way connects to the actual story, they are merely “cool” representations of the girls trying to get one of the five things they need to achieve freedom. Sucker Punch is an utterly empty movie, lacking any real personality or identity. It is bogged down by its lack of a real plot and its inability to draw a connection between the audience and the characters on screen. There are points where the movie attempts to manipulate emotions, but these are forced and really did not yield any reaction from me. It’s hard to care about any of the characters when even the movie treats them like video game fodder.

Sucker Punch is one of the worst movies of the year. It is an empty, exploitative void of a film, that simply shows us things that we are meant to find entertaining but they are so disconnected and ugly that they are little more than forgettable. The scenes that take place in reality are sadistic and push the movie into a realm that makes it both a little uncomfortable and even confusing. It is hard to tell who this movie is for. I can only assume it was meant for older teens and twenty-something men who want to watch girls fight things for roughly two hours, but I would hardly consider that entertaining on its own.

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