By Mark Bell | March 26, 2011

This is an actual conversation I had with my wife after we caught an early opening day screening of Sucker Punch:

Wife: What’d you think?
Me: I can’t wait to play the video game!
Wife: There’s a video game!?!
Me: No, but there should be… and did I miss something? Why is it called Sucker Punch?
Wife: Because we paid to see it. SUCKER PUNCH!

If you can’t tell, my wife wasn’t too keen on Sucker Punch… and neither am I. The film is a visual feast (and moves slow enough for you to look at it quite a bit), but the story is a straight-up dramatic famine. It felt like I was watching a music video compilation that had jammed in a “plot” in an attempt to seem like it was more than just eye candy.

Sucker Punch is a fantastical tale of sheer depravity and bleakness. In an attempt to take down Up for most depressing and disturbing first 5-10 minutes, Sucker Punch introduces us to Baby Doll (Emily Browning) by showing her reaction to her mother’s death, her step father’s lecherous grin that turns to anger when he finds out he’s not in his wife’s will (her two daughters are), Baby Doll being forced to defend herself and her younger sister from said step father (resulting in the tragic death of the younger sister) and Baby Doll’s forced incarceration in a mental health hospital that’s as sick and depraved as the step father committing her there. After being committed, it’s a countdown to doomsday for Baby Doll, as a corrupt orderly (Oscar Isaac) is on the take from the step father to get Baby Doll lobotomized within the week. Oh, and all of that set-up occurs predominantly in slow motion with moody Eurythmics and Pixies covers running underneath.

While in the mental hospital, Baby Doll’s imagination turns her world into a brothel/nightclub, owned and run by the corrupt orderly, now called Blue, and Baby Doll is forced to dance to survive. We never see her dance, however, as each dance becomes an imaginative departure from the already imagined world of the brothel, where Baby Doll is no longer powerless dancer but now kick-a*s warrior woman, set on breaking free, which eventually brings in other patients/dancers/warrior women, such as Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung).

Beyond the set-up, the film is essentially just an excuse to show us scantily-clad women kicking a*s in various fantastical scenarios, from battling samurai, an undead Nazi battalion, dragons… this is where the music video compilation comparison comes in. Each battle scene consists of a guide, played by Scott Glenn, setting up the mission the ladies need to accomplish while more cover-cum-remixed songs play underneath. Which is cool, and I actually liked the covers because they were fresh takes on some songs I also adore, but… after a while, it actually got boring.

I honestly never thought it could get boring, but the film suffers from countdown syndrome, which is when a film sets up a series of tasks and numbers them so that the audience can keep track and then, in even the best of films, the audience can’t help but have a running countdown in the back of their head going, “we’re 2 tasks down, 3 more to go.” Or, in the case of this one, after the first task goes on a bit too long, “are they REALLY going to do this for every task!?!” Scott Pilgrim came up with a novel approach to this syndrome, by mixing it up and moving through it all fast, but Sucker Punch just languishes over EVERY SINGLE DETAIL.

I get it, the action is bad-a*s, the ladies are gorgeous, the world is incredibly stylized… but I don’t need to see the whole damn thing in slow motion! At a certain point, the eyes and brain just check-out and it’s a case of, “yeah, neat, robots, blah.” And if you try and step away from the fantastical elements and just decipher what each imagined scenario means in the real world, the movie buries itself in its own bleakness. The only positive aspects in the film’s conclusion feel like they were jammed in there because, had it stayed its dark course, it would have even less redeeming value.

To bring this full circle, my wife and I were not the only ones discussing the movie after it ended. As the credits began to roll, a woman behind me, who had been quite actively engaged with the film throughout (I know this because she was commenting as she watched), summed it all up thus, “What the f**k was that!?!”

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  1. veronica says:

    I read the criticism before I watched it, and I must say, it was way better than I expected. I have seen far worse movies in recent weeks, this one isn’t so bad. But I can understand why the critics dont endorse it. I suspect it will become a cult favorite.

  2. john Lindauer says:

    shark sandwich…

    s**t sandwich.

  3. eyeresist says:

    This discussion of what “really” happened in the film suggests there may be something to it. And from what I’ve read, a large part of the negative reaction to the movie is due to the bleak ending. But I’ll withhold my verdict until I’ve seen it.

  4. Ty says:

    Honestly after seeing this movie the only way to some what enjoy it is to A. Light a blunt and B. Drink a tall boy. This movie was horrible and a waste of studio dollars. I would rather watch a Chris gore in a S&M outfit getting whipped with a flogger.

  5. The ending is telegraphed exactly 13 minutes, 20 seconds into the film. Zack Snyder is a hack. I’m all for fun escapism, but this movie isn’t it. Hollow and soulless with not a single character who is a real person or can be sympathized with. It’s like Snyder sucked all the life out of Brazil and Jacob’s Ladder and then tried to compensate by casting Victoria’s Secret models. There’s a reason I skip all the cutscenes in video games. I like how the guy above me says
    “Any inconsistencies or plot holes in the story im sure will be rectified in an extended cut.”
    Really? Then why not fix them BEFORE YOU RELEASE THE GODDAM MOVIE? Give me a break. You’re going to PAY AGAIN to see the “fixed” movie. Sucker.

  6. M says:

    I wasnt going to see Sucker Punch thinking it was a Tarkovskiy movie.
    I went because its Zack Snyder & I wanted escapism.
    Any inconsistencies or plot holes in the story im sure will be rectified in an extended cut.
    Theres nothing in this movie that is completely insulting to the average intellect.Unlike a majority of first run movies heaped upoun the masses week after week.
    However that isnt to say that the more high art “films” dont often suffer from a case of the periodical doldrums as well.
    They do.Thats why its best to just partake in a little bit of everything.
    Defy the demographic.
    Thats just my take.Later.

  7. From the PR material I thought this was supposed to be a steampunk fantasy – yes, with girls dressed in minute amounts of black leather, but something like Phil Foglio’s Girl Genius comic book series otherwise.

    Thank you, and thank all the other reviewers, for warning us of the true nature of this film. Some few – some VERY few – are saying this is Zack Snyder’s comment on sexism in entertainment. But the majority are saying it’s simply Zack Snyder shooting a porn movie, without plot or likeable characters or logic. Hopefully this will crash and burn, and wind up on the lousy Chiller channel in a heavily-censored version late at night.

  8. Daniel says:

    your a complete idiot. and this review sucks, not because its inaccurate but because the movie kicked a*s for all the reasons you said it did not.


    In the first 10 minutes you were so disgusted you were rooting for babydoll ….thats the point of the harsh opening to show you the evil that needed to be fought.

    the slow motion was awesome….I dont know how many martial arts movies ive left pissed cause I couldnt actually see the killing moves just blurs.

    The movie was predictable yet totaly unpredictable. Did you guess Blue was gonna shoot them in cold blood? or that the older sister would be the only one to live after all her bitching?

    in referance to the countdown syndrome that was to get you in the countdown syndrome where the girls seemed invincible and then POW everything falls apart…are you this blind???

    In conclusion, the movie was called sucker punch because of the sheer pissed off feeling you should have had leaving the theater knowing she got the lobotamy and all the girls died. and the feeling of damn didn’t see that coming.

    the sound track was epic.

    • Mark Bell says:

      Daniel, re: the ending… I did see it coming. The clue is when it shifts into fantasy world; I was hoping it wouldn’t go so obvious.

      I didn’t dig it, you did. Fine. Doesn’t mean I didn’t get what was going on. I did get it, but I didn’t like it. It happens.

      EDITED TO ADD: And since you’ve got me thinking about it, Daniel…


      Anything that happens in the fantasies is ultimately suspect, from the inclusion of the girls, their names and even their relationships to each other. Why would the Carla Gugino doctor character in the “real” world get upset about the orderly forging her signature on the lobotomy recommendation, but not notice or get upset about three missing, or dead, patients? Why? Because they aren’t actually missing or dead.

      Baby Doll got committed, started a fire, stabbed an orderly, helped a patient escape and got lobotomized. Everything else happens in fantasy world and, again, that is entirely suspect.

  9. Baxter says:

    I noticed that each Zac Snyder movie seems to employ increasing amounts of slow motion. His next movie is going to be shot like the Pixies video for “Velouria”.

    Maybe I’ll save my money with this one after all…

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