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Sucker Punch by Warner Bros., Zack Snyder (dir/wr)
Review by Drew Bittner
Warner Bros. Pictures  ISBN/ITEM#: B004EPYZU8
Date: 05 April 2011

Links: Movie Trailer /

In a mental hospital, a young woman waits to be lobotomized so that her evil stepfather can inherit a fortune. She must escape. But the only escape here lies through a grand fantasy where she must fight her way to freedom.

CAST:
Emily Browning ... Baby Doll
Abbie Cornish ... Sweet Pea
Jena Malone ... Rocket
Vanessa Hudgens ... Blondie
Jamie Chung ... Amber
Carla Gugino ... Dr. Vera Gorski
Oscar Isaac ... Blue Jones
Jon Hamm ... High Roller / Doctor
Scott Glenn ... Wise Man

In Zack Snyder's new movie Sucker Punch, Baby Doll (Browning) is facing the equivalent of a death sentence. Having tried to protect her little sister from her stepfather (Gerard Plunkett), Baby Doll is committed to an asylum in Vermont--where, in five days, she will be lobotomized.

She takes refuge in an elaborate fantasy, where she is the new girl at a club/bordello run by Blue (Isaacs)--who is the orderly arranging her lobotomy, back in the real world. Her coach is Madam Gorski (Gugino), who is really a psychiatrist using music to help her charges open up to therapy. She befriends Rocket (Malone), who ran away from home and whose big sister Sweet Pea (Cornish) is the star of the club's nightly show.

Baby Doll is going to be given to the High Roller (Hamm) in five days. She needs to get out, but the way is shown when she dances for the first time--and enters a sub-fantasy, where she meets the Wise Man (Glenn) and is given weapons. He also gives her a list of items she will need, then vanishes, leaving her to battle a trio of gigantic samurai robots armed with katanas and .50 caliber machine guns.

Once the dance is over (and the robots are overcome), Baby Doll recruits Rocket, Sweet Pea, Amber (Chung) and Blondie (the very brunette Hudgens) into her plan. The accomplices will acquire the objects Baby Doll needs while she distracts them with her dancing. They need a map, fire, a knife, a key...and one more mystery object that only Baby Doll can discover.

Each dance leads to a mission. In the first, Baby Doll and her friends invade a World War I style trench full of zombie German soldiers, who bleed steam, in order to acquire the map (which is really a map of the club itself, from Blue's office). The second sends the girls into a castle where a monstrous dragon lurks, in order to gain two fire-producing gemstones.

But the plan starts to unravel as Blue picks up on clues (no pun intended) and Gorski learns something important. It becomes a race against time for the girls to gain the last few items, even as the danger escalates and death's shadow falls over them.

Heartily reviled by the critics, I enjoyed Sucker Punch. The movie is not without its flaws, but the experience of watching it on the big screen was entertaining. The effects are astounding, for one, with a concatenation of geek tropes (Fokker triplanes? Dragons? Mecha versus zombie soldiers? Oh yeah!) and five hot girls fighting for escape from servitude and exploitation.

Browning, oddly, does not have much dialogue through the early part of the movie, with Baby Doll instead somewhere between a startled fawn and a big-eyed victim until she begins to see that salvation will only happen if she fights for it. Once she's engaged, she becomes an effective field commander, directing the others in an increasingly desperate plan with an improbable outcome.

As Sweet Pea, Cornish is the group skeptic, protecting her sister Rocket even as she is convinced Baby Doll's plan cannot work. She comes around, in time, but has the toughest emotional arc of any character.

The other two girls get less attention and less characterization, with Amber becoming the group's pilot and Blondie... well, doing stuff too. Chung and Hudgens are good for what they're given to do, but it isn't much. Although they both have key moments late in the movie, the lack of grounding earlier on subtracts from what could have been a huge emotional punch.

Isaacs is fine as a slimy weasel, both in the asylum and the club, while Gugino does her best with the contradictory roles of madam and doctor. And Glenn seems to be having the time of his life as the Wise Man, showing up to give their girls their missions and spout one-liners as they plunge into hideous danger.

This movie will not be for every taste, but then, that's never been Snyder's goal. Give it a try and see what you think.

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