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The Independent Critic

Abbie Cornish, Emily Browning, Vanessa Hudgens, Jena Malone, Carla Gugino, Jon Hamm
Zack Snyder
Zack Snyder (Story), Steve Shibuya (Screenplay)
Rated PG-13
120 Mins.
Warner Brothers
Motion Comics;
"Feudal Warriros";
"The Trenches";
"Distant Planet";
Sucker Punch: Behind the Soundtrack

 "Sucker Punch" Review 
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There are a few things that I absolutely love about Zack Snyder's new film, Sucker Punch.

I love, absolutely love, that the under-rated Jena Malone finds herself in a big budget project with a chance to reach a bigger audience.

I love that Abbie Cornish, as well, is able to reach out to a wider audience.

I can get a kick out of a big budget Hollywood production that has a female-dominated cast, even if it is essentially a soft-core sci-fi male fantasy female-dominated cast.

Finally, there's an inventiveness and visually hypnotic presentation to the film that would be nearly possible to not admire. Love him or hate him, you simply cannot dismiss a Zack Snyder film.

Unfortunately, as happy as I was to see the always wonderful Jena Malone and the equally delightful Abbie Cornish, Sucker Punch offers practically zilch to anyone beyond the film's compelling visuals and unique style. What could have been a sci-fi/fantasy master reel is, instead, yet another reminder of how difficult it is to blend the required techno-genius of a sci-fi/fantasy flick with the elements of story and dialogue so incredibly necessary to make the cinematic experience a relevant one.

Truthfully, if you adored Snyder's 300 and Watchmen, then there's a darn good chance that there's enough material here to offer you a couple hours of meaningless escapist fun. There's absolutely no substance whatsoever contained within Sucker Punch, but has there ever actually been substance in a Zack Snyder film?

I'll give you a clue. The answer is "No!"

If you've seen the trailer for Sucker Punch, you should have a good idea as to whether or not the film will work for you. Myself? I laughed throughout the trailer, with its faux dramatics and linguistic style coming off as a godawful blend of Wachowski meets Shyamalan meets, well, Snyder. But, I have literally no doubt that some of you, even among my readers, were dazzled enough by the trailer that you found yourself mouthing the word "Awesome" and thinking "I can't wait to see it."

More power to ya.

Sucker Punch would actually be a better film if Snyder hadn't catered to the whims of Warner Brothers and produced a PG-13 rated flick rather than the R-rated film the visuals and pseudo story the project is crying out to be. While Snyder is far too timid of a director to even be mentioned in the same breath as Tarantino, this film is a great example of the difference between the two filmmakers. While there's no denying Snyder's inventiveness and ability to create arresting visuals, there's no way in hell that Tarantino would have allowed this film to be anything less than an R-rated film. Because Snyder holds back, virtually every moment of Sucker Punch feels muted even when he's throwing everything at the screen.

Riffing off the likes of Tarantino, Luhrmann and, perhaps, even a bit of Nolan, Snyder's end result looks and plays out like the 8-year-old's paint by number copy of a Klimt painting with the emphasis on the scream. In other words, Sucker Punch looks stylish and pretty and different in the 50's pin-up sort of way but practically everything in the film feels like it's happening without meaning or purpose. Babydoll (Emily Browning) is framed for the murder of her sister and holed up inside the Lennox House for the Mentally Insane by her father (Gerard Plunkett). Her experience in the asylum is so traumatic that she escapes within her mind with her psychiatrist, Dr. Gorski (Carla Gugino), becoming a madame and a rather psycho orderly named Blue (Oscar Isaac) a pimp. Before long, Babydoll's fantasy life takes off, allowing Snyder the opportunity to create kaleidoscope visuals that are attractive yet so confusing and random that Sucker Punch may actually be nothing but a cinematic Rorschach Test.

Babydoll is surrounded by a cast of kick ass females including Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung). It's hard to say anyone here is particularly "good," but they certainly are visually arresting and they appear to be having a great time. If the film weren't PG-13 rated, you could almost see this turning into one of those really old porn theaters where dirty old men gathered in the back row playing with themselves and each other while watching the screen.

That might be a bit extreme. It might not.

Snyder's story and Steve Shibuya's screenplay are laughably bad, the entire cast being made to utter dialogue that is nonsensical and filled with so much intentional drama that I'd practically challenge you to not giggle throughout the film. Yet, for those who have long been captivated by Snyder's visual gifts and who'd like a couple hours to simply escape into this steampunk fantasy world, Sucker Punch may very well be worth a matinee.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic