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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Vanessa Hudgens
Abbie Cornish
Jamie Chung
Jena Malone
Emily Browning.
Directors
Zack Snyder
Deborah Snyder.
Screenwriters
Steve Shibuya
Zack Snyder.
Running Time
110 minutes

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Sucker Punch
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest in suspenders...


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Plot
Vermont, the 1960s. Babydoll (Browning) has been interred in a mental institute for young women after attacking her evil stepfather with a gun, and accidentally killing her younger sister in the process. Together with four fellow inmates, Babydoll plans an escape which, via the power of her imagination, involves battling zombies, dragons and robots.


Review
Sucker Punch
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From debut Dawn Of The Dead to last year’s Legend Of The Guardians, working exclusively in adaptation has played to director Zack Snyder’s greatest strength: fashioning impressive and distinctive visual constructs from rich source materials. With Sucker Punch, though, we finally get to see what Snyder can make with self-mined ore. In some ways, this is his own Inception (although Christopher Nolan, of course, had also self-penned his debut, Following). And the results are… Well…

A charitable view is that Sucker Punch is Moulin Rouge refried as an action movie. It even opens with a red curtain — suggesting that the opening ‘reality’ scenes, which play out a melodramatic montage in silent semi-slo-mo, are themselves little more than a performance. Then, once Babydoll’s (Emily Browning) perception has mentally tweaked her grim surroundings from asylum to bordelo, we have a faintly titillating milieu of mascara and fishnets giving way not to inventive song-and-dance numbers, but to furious action sequences which throw just about every fantasy/sci-fi/war cliché at the screen. This happens almost literally: each set-piece (there are four) is framed within a dance, which begins with Emily Browning’s Babydoll stiffly swaying her hips as we dive into her eyeball and the action, then pulls out again to find her sweaty and exhilarated while her astonished male audience pant almost post-coitally. (We mean her male audience within the film, although after each of Snyder’s dervish whirls, you wonder if he’s hoping the the same will be true of the kids in the multiplex.) As in Moulin Rouge, anachronistic cover versions — selected for the signpost-value of their lyrics — dominate, and some of these are even (as in Moulin Rouge) sung by a cast member, albeit only on the soundtrack: Browning trills The Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This), The Pixies’ Where Is My Mind and The Smiths’ Asleep.

One could alternatively describe Sucker Punch as Brazil for teenage videogamers. Similar to Terry Gilliam’s dark, fantasy satire, a significant segment of the film plays out in a character’s mind during its traumatic dissolution, fragments of memory and conscious impression melting like snowflakes (a favourite image of Snyder’s) in the blast of a broiling, vivid subconscious. Snyder even brazenly echoes one of Sam Lowry’s demons in Brazil, here triplicating that movie’s giant samurai and having it bleed light rather than fire. But while, for his own dream sequences, Gilliam drew on the kind of broad mythic imagery with which you’d have expected this main character to be familiar, Snyder indulges his love of Heavy Metal magazine, also drawing from manga (Browning fights in a pleated skirt so short it barely covers her butt-cheeks), Tolkien (orcs and dragons feature), steampunk (clockwork steam-powered World War I German zombie-cyborgs!) and high sci-fi (gleaming killer robots on speeding bullet trains). None of which particularly feels like the sort of thing you’d expect to find whizzing round the head of a young woman in the ’60s, but hey, you never know.

The result, as encouraged by the (double) framing device, the soundtrack and Snyder’s own journeyman years in promo-making, feels less like a stream of dream sequences and more like a series of preposterously overblown music videos, thick with the heavy desaturation and pitch-bend slo-mo that dominates all Snyder’s other pictures. Which is fine, but to truly blow us away, all this sense-assaulting pizzazz requires both strong connective tissue and an emotional anchor.

Which, sadly, it lacks. The story, it turns out, is so dizzied by the artifice of its construction (be that Snyder’s film-making technique or Babydoll’s fevered Rabbit Hole-digging) that we’re encouraged to treat nothing as real, and thus feel no sense of jeopardy — only urgency. Unlike, say, The Matrix (you die in The Matrix, you die in The Real) or Inception (you get killed, you get trapped in Limbo), there’s no reason to fear death in Babydoll’s battlegrounds.

And it doesn’t help that each of the characters is only a sketch, both in terms of writing and performance. Abbie Cornish’s Sweet Pea is The Reluctant Cynical One. Jamie Chung’s Amber is the Dim Sweet One. Jena Malone’s Rocket is The Young Enthusiastic One. Vanessa Hudgens’ Blondie is The Other One. And Babydoll is, as the name suggests, little more than a petite mannequin, a mere plot facilitator who even has to delegate the exposition, such as it is, to an avatar (Scott Glenn’s grizzled Wise Man). If only as much attention had been lavished on the characters themselves as on their combat training and costume design.


Verdict
Ambitious and visually impressive as a pop-video mash-up, but, lacking a strong emotional core, it doesn’t quite cohere as a fully satisfying movie.


Reviewed by Dan Jolin


Related Reviews
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Sucker Punch: The Art Of The Film
 
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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Sucker Punch
Empire Star Rating

RE: Terrible

L: jobloffski The best metaphorical post ironic parable for female enslavement/emancipation as a personal choice, not something in the hands of 'the system' ever directed by a game influenced pervert. Kind of taking the mickey there, but I actually really enjoyed this, much more than I thought I would, given the trashing it has received. The Empire review relates the red curtain opening to Moulin Rouge, but I'd go somewhere else for the comparison, Club Silencio in Mulholland Drive, ... More

Posted by Emyr Thy King at 13:11, 26 April 2012 | Report This Post


RE: ahhhh!....I get it now!

A five star rating? I salute you, sir! this film really is a masterpiece... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by YouWillBeUnprepared at 06:43, 26 April 2012 | Report This Post


ahhhh!....I get it now!

"Let go your conscious self", as one old Confucius impersonating Jedi once said. First viewing at the cinema I totally poo-pood this film. Brash, shallow, non-sensical pop-video. 2 of 5 stars was my rating (and I felt I was being generous!) My second viewing was on blu-ray at home (followed shortly by my third and forth watch) and low and behold, I can now see the light. This film has so much depth, and has an emotional resonance once you connect with Babydoll that is overwhelming. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by danielthompson99 at 21:04, 10 February 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Awful

Noisy, shiny and shallow. As Father Ted would put it, chewing gum for the eyes. And nothing, at all, for the brain. ... More

Posted by bozo at 21:04, 21 October 2011 | Report This Post


Awful

A visually stunning glorified mess of a movie! So incoherent it doesn't know what to do with itself! Vanessa Hudgens is wasted and doesn't have allot to do. It just jumps clumsily from scene to scene with little justification! However, a bloody good soundtrack though! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by fraser1978 at 13:55, 03 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Sucker Punch: Review

This is one of the worst films iv ever seen! I actually thought id like cos any film that has hot lookin babes kicking ass has to have something going for it right? Wrong.The film makes absolutely no sense.The acting is horrible and despite throwing everything at the screen during the dream sequences,the film is just one complete and utter bore.Snyder has a flair for showing comic book action but he overdoes the slo mo and should never be allowed to ''write'' anything again.I would actually be ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by darth silas at 10:57, 14 August 2011 | Report This Post


Sucker Punch Sucks

Honestly? 3 stars? This movie sucks big time and its an abysmal show of snyder's other work. There is no redeeming value, the action sequence are dull and uninspired, and the motivation limp and non-engaging. Its as if snyder rewrote his fantasy plucked from his pre-teen years and re-imagined it for production. A complete waste of time, money, effort and an affront for so-called female empowerment. He should stick to other people's work and not go indulge himself. I'm still wondering how the stu... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by megatishak at 19:14, 10 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Terrible

I liked it. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by The REAL Bozz at 22:53, 09 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Terrible

The best metaphorical post ironic parable for female enslavement/emancipation as a personal choice, not something in the hands of 'the system' ever directed by a game influenced pervert. Kind of taking the mickey there, but I actually really enjoyed this, much more than I thought I would, given the trashing it has received. The Empire review relates the red curtain opening to Moulin Rouge, but I'd go somewhere else for the comparison, Club Silencio in Mulholland Drive, where what is real a... More

Posted by jobloffski at 10:26, 09 August 2011 | Report This Post


Terrible

Monumentally atrocious. Went into this with very modest expectations, which this movie didn't even come close to meeting. The action scenes, which I hoped would be the saving grace of this mess, were a complete disappointment. One of those movies that makes you feel dumber for having watched. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Turd Ferguson at 19:21, 08 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: I wish I never watched it

I liked it. It does drag in the middle a bit and the end feels wrong for what seems like such a dumb action movie but the more i think about it the more i want to see it again. ... More

Posted by genejoke at 14:53, 01 July 2011 | Report This Post


RE: I wish I never watched it

Erm....Oh dear. While it looks pretty and is very imaginative its also very poorly structured and un-involving to a point that you're thrown into a "fantasy" within a "fantasy" without any introduction to what you're seeing. It ends up just being a series of video game trailers of different games back to back for an hour and a half. The acting is poor in places that reminiscent of Showgirls but without the "classic" unintentional LOL dialogue uttered in that eye-opener of a film. Th... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by kenada_woo at 20:19, 28 June 2011 | Report This Post


RE: I wish I never watched it

Quite possibly the worst film of all time. Not even so bad it's good, just absolutely bad. I loved 300, I really did, and was looking forward to finally catching up with this, but very annoyed I bothered. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jonson at 12:11, 28 June 2011 | Report This Post


I wish I never watched it

I had high hopes for this film, but it the back of my mind I doubted it was going to be any good. To be honest a movie isn't really a movie if it depends on special effects the ways this one does and at some points Snyders over use of Slow motion really started frustrated me. Furthermore the storyline seemed to have been cooked up by someone high on crack randomly picking ideas from a hat. Empires review is way too generous! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Joelrobinson at 18:30, 17 June 2011 | Report This Post


Sucker Punch

I was strangely excited for this film. I read a few interviews about it and the more I read on the more interested I got in the film. I was excited to see it. A gleaming cast of fantastic yet underrated actors has set this film alight. Intrigue about this film has been mostly from the male perspective as it is women in tight and skimpy clothing running around with big guns kicking ass in a fantasy world. I can’t think of a man who isn’t pleased by the concept. What about the executio... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ashleyrhys at 16:23, 10 June 2011 | Report This Post


Smarter than you think

A story that is layered and invites the viewer to disect the film combining with an stunning arty visual statement makes this completely un-rubbish. The three world idea is great, if you look closer and investigate theories online it makes this more than some action film. It has faults, some characters are bland whilst some action sequences get increasly expected as it went along. Yet with such a creative and intelligent concept there is much to praise - 4 stars (but only just) ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by trainedasninja at 19:36, 30 May 2011 | Report This Post


Background music

This reminds me of Final Fantasy Advent Children. Turn the volume down, have as background during a party. Looks cool, job done. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by danielthompson99 at 20:56, 18 May 2011 | Report This Post


I loved it (not just because i had been waiting over a year for it) but it's about time did a film from his own writing. The effects were great, the music was brilliant. Great characters although Blondie and Amber should have been given a bit more to do. I also wanted to see the dance number which was left out and more of the high roller. I was ready to accept it as a standard asylum pic but Snyder made it much more. Overall I loved it. As they say it's like marmite. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by windsor666 at 15:26, 11 May 2011 | Report This Post


Wasted Opportunity

....Loved the ac tion scenes and the music but ultimately what was the point.Why the crap ending?.We know the Good Guys(and Gals),do not always win, in real life,but is it too much to ask for a feelgood ending, when our heroes(and heroines) have had to endure such hardship and the baddies are so evil.Come on Zack.Get your finger out,and please do not cock up Supes....... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by docksidedave at 20:20, 03 May 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Stunning

Sucker Punch Awesome action sequences, confusing plot (even knowing ostensibly what its themes were about it still didn't make a lot of sense), too many 'music video' moments, dull movie. Being a PG13 doesn't help as the subject matter is pretty 'heavy' (death, murder, rape, insanity, etc.), and I imagine a more adult rating might have helped, although perhaps not. As a fan of Snyder's visual panache, I think this shows that he should leave the writing to others. Disap... More

Posted by KeithM at 23:24, 02 May 2011 | Report This Post


Stunning

Sucker punch was amazing, visually stunning and mind bending film i have every scene, though the costumes were definitly trying to prove zach snyder could make movies for men e.g. half-naked women, guns, gas powered zombies e.t.c but the sound track was amazing and the visual effects were mind boggling. tough the film ended with no hope of a sequal ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Jables55 at 14:20, 23 April 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Sucker Punch To Your Senses

L: jacksoha (p.s. i'm not a gamer) hit, son. You're a fucking plant. ... More

Posted by rebel_scum78 at 23:08, 15 April 2011 | Report This Post


I wish I was 13 years old again

Because this is like a wet dream for 13 year old boys. Sexy totty? Check. Pop Video style crashing soundtrack? Check. Mindless computer game type violence? Check. The (slightly) clever theme of escapism was swamped by a number of scenes that felt like you were looking over your mate's shoulder while he played Call of Duty 45. Visually I liked it and thought the opening scenes were well presented but it felt somewhat smug about how clever and radical it was being. Never thought I woul... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bretty at 14:38, 13 April 2011 | Report This Post


Sucker Punch To Your Senses

i cant believe this movie didn't get 5 stars! it is the most inventive and outside the box movie i have seen for a long time, It stays true to the Manga style and it has an unpredictable plot that leaves you thinking, its not a boring predictable mainstream movie. Sucker Punch had me on the edge of my seat the whole time and gave me the 'wow' shivers not to mention the awesome soundtrack. i left the theater feeling like i had just witnessed greatness and i would gladly pay to this move over and ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jacksoha at 13:32, 13 April 2011 | Report This Post


Sucker Punch To Your Senses

i cant believe this movie didn't get 5 stars! it is the most inventive and outside the box movie i have seen for a long time, It stays true to the Manga style and it has an unpredictable plot that leaves you thinking, its not a boring predictable mainstream movie. Sucker Punch had me on the edge of my seat the whole time and gave me the 'wow' shivers not to mention the awesome soundtrack. i left the theater feeling like i had just witnessed greatness and i would gladly pay to this move over and ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jacksoha at 13:17, 13 April 2011 | Report This Post


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