Sucker Punch holds together pretty well under its own crazy internal logic (3 stars)

Sucker Punch holds together pretty well under its own crazy internal logic

300 director babes with blades fantasy is a guilty pleasure

(12A) 109min

At first glance Sucker Punch might be Zack Snyder’s female-focused flipside of his swords and sandals testosterone workout, 300. The co-writer and director has suggested as much, and, indeed, this babes-with-blades (and higher-tech firepower) blow-out is very a much female-centric affair. Whether it’s the female empowerment fantasy it purports to be or whether it is a teenage boy’s fantasy is, however, far less clear.

A slo-mo opening sequence (which recalls Snyder’s back-story credit-roll briefing in Watchmen) establishes the film’s Gothic styling and shows in lurid detail how Sucker Punch’s initially nameless heroine (the soon to be dubbed Babydoll and played Australian actress Emily Browning) receives one of those big time when her mother dies and her wicked stepfather fits her up for the murder of her sister and interns her in a mental hospital that makes Arkham Asylum look like Butlins.

Unable to cope with her new nightmarish surroundings, Babydoll retreats into a fantasy world. That turns out to be a retro-styled brothel where the bewildered and now underwear-clad girl and her new friends (fellow Aussie actress Abbie Cornish plus Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Chung) are forced into the service of slimy pimp Blue Jones (Oscar Isaac). The girls are also trained to dance by Russian teacher Vera Gorski (Carla Guigno), and it’s during these erotic showcases that Babydoll escapes into yet another layer of fantasy: a series of ultra-violent video game-styled action adventures – martial arts, WWI (complete with Hun zombies), dungeons and dragons hack ‘n’ slash, futuristic sci-fi – in which she and her now fetish-wear-clad comrades, led by a sensei-cum-military commander (Scott Glenn), search for the five items that will enable them to escape from the brothel/mental hospital.

It’s an ear-splitting, eye-gouging mash-up of pop-culture references that moves along at breakneck pace and holds together pretty well under its own crazy internal logic. Yet the various layers of titillating fantasy don’t ring true as those of a young girl. And they’ re not, they’re Snyder’s, whose fifth film is the first he’s originated himself. It’s a CG-heavy blockbuster reinvention of that old exploitation movie staple the women’s prison movie. One for the boys, then.

General release from Fri 1 Apr.

Sucker Punch Trailer

Sucker Punch

  • 3 stars
  • 2011
  • US / Canada
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Zack Snyder
  • Cast: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Carla Gugino, Oscar Isaac, Jon Hamm, Scott Glenn

Epic action fantasy that takes us inside the vivid imagination of a young girl.