starring Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Scott Glen and Carla Cugino
directed by Zach Snyder
Warner Bros. (2011)
Judging by some of the reviews I read for this movie before finally seeing it for myself, I was expecting something far more offensive. As it stands, Sucker Punch is more offensive in terms of depictions of women than half the anime and other action movies I've seen over the years. The movie is a mish-mash of genre pastiches that are given a fresh coat of glitz and hurled at the audience's eyes at a hundred miles per hour.
Emily Browning plays Baby Doll, a twenty-year-old orphan who is locked in an insane asylum after accidentally killing her sister while fending off her evil stepfather. Inside, a crooked orderly forges a doctor's signature to have Baby Doll lobotomized at the behest of the evil stepfather. At the moment this occurs, she escapes into a dreamworld of her own design that has her imprisoned in a burlesque show that traffics women. Like The Wizard of Oz's Judy Garland, Emily Browning's character inhabits this dreamland with the inmates, orderlies, doctors, and others she has interacted with inside the asylum. The psychiatrist (Carla Cugino) becomes the dance instructor, the evil orderly becomes the burlesque's promoter, and her fellow inmates become her fellow dancers. The girls devise a plan to escape by gathering items like a map, a knife, and a key. But to do these things, they need to create distractions. For these girls, the distraction comes in the form of Baby Doll's dance routines, which the audience never actually sees--perhaps Emily Browning just can't dance.
The acting is ... passable. Scott Glen as Baby Doll's version of Yoda was a nice touch, though it takes a while for his character's presence to come together. And Carla Cugino is at her sultry best in her role. As for the girls led by Emily Browning, I suppose you could call them a cross between The A-Team and Sailor Moon. They kick a lot of ass and look pretty doing it. The weightier aspects of the story kind of get thrown under the bus for the sake of visual magic tricks, but I wasn't expecting much more than that anyway.
Honestly, if I was supposed to be offended by the movie, I must be a horrible human being, because I actually rather liked it. I don't know if I'll be in a hurry to watch it a second time, but it was fun the first time around.