Review: Sucker Punch (2011 movie)

Sucker Punch is a strange film, self-consciously and intentionally so, with a title that makes no particular sense. Lovely Emily Browning (who was a mental patient at the start of The Uninvited) is here a troubled young woman dumped in an insane asylum circa 1960 by her abusive stepfather, who bribes the staff to lobotomize her to ensure she won’t turn him in.

Things are not what they seem, not at all. The other inmates are all young women, and like them, Browning’s character is given a new name (Babydoll) and a sexy costume to wear. She forms an alliance with some of the others (Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Chung) in hope of escaping. In the meantime she has to dance for men (to anachronistically recent music played on old reel-to-reel tape recorders), during which she fantasizes about being a warrior in various fantasy-universe scenes. In one they battle zombie soldiers reanimated by steam and clockwork. In another they take on a dragon with the aid of a World War 2 bomber while orcs storm a castle. In the daydreams she and her friends are sent on these missions by a mysterious Wise Man (Scott Glenn) and have superhuman martial-arts skills.

The film is violent, dark, odd, and occasionally pretentious, but to my own surprise I ended up mildly liking it, in part because Browning is appealing even when not given much to work with. (Roger Ebert said something similar about her.)

Incidentally, according to Browning, the MPAA objected to a scene in which she starts making out with a male character. They didn’t object to the making out as such, only to her being the initiator. Director Zach Snyder decided to cut the scene rather than change it.


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