Review: Sucker Punch (2011)

Sucker Punch (dir. Zack Snyder, 2011) – An attempted escape from the mental institute puts five girls in scenarios where fantasy and reality blurs.

Verdict

Stunning and refreshing, Sucker Punch presents a commendably unconventional effort that could do with a little more character depth.

3/5

Review

Imprisoned in a mental institution thanks to her stepfather’s bribery, lobotomy awaits Babydoll (Emily Browning). Her survival depends solely on her escape plan with four other girls. Behind the walls of the desolate asylum, she escapes into her imagination of a brothel’s grandeur that leads her deeper down the rabbit hole.

Director Zack Snyder’s multi-layer design provides a unique storytelling device with surprising coherence. Each layer imaginatively cross genres from sci-fi to horror, incorporating steampunk designs into fantasy backdrops. Heavy on escapism, the novel technique slips traces of video game elements into the visually-accomplished film.

On the surface, Sucker Punch looks no more than sensual fetish. But beneath all that leather are five strong female characters at the forefront putting up a fight for themselves.

There are also many ways to read into the story, if you believe there is more to what is seen on the surface. The invisible stratum of the real world seems to imply darker themes of sexual abuse, where fantasy becomes a sanctuary for those pained by cruel reality.

A perfectly curated soundtrack fits right in with both larger monster-slaying sequences and quieter moments. Emily Browning lends her haunting voice to Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams that is bound to sear in mind.

What the story suffered most from is lacking characterisation. In a movie that could otherwise both excite and connect, the influence of a video game goes too far. The five girls felt like two-dimensional characters on gaming selection screens, whose personalities we seldom get to know beyond their fight choreography.

Despite underdeveloped personalities, Sucker Punch is chock full of eye-candy and energetic action. The genre-blending adventure engages with thrills, leaving CGI safe in the hands of Zack Snyder.

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