Film Review: Packing a punch

 
 

Title: Sucker Punch

Director: Zack Snyder

Starring: Emily Browning, Vanessa Hudgens, Abbie Cornish

Release Date: Out Now

I wonder what Zack Snyder is like in person, but I can’t help but imagine he has a Steve Holt-like tendency to shout his own name at passers-by. Snyder is one of the rare modern filmmakers who really put a unique directorial stamp on everything he touches. 300, despite it’s pomposity, was very enjoyable, and Snyder also probably did the best job one could possibly do adapting Watchmen into a movie. Maybe, beneath his bravado, lies a good filmmaker who can accomplish things beyond the visually arresting. Or maybe not.

Right from the overblown opening, we meet Babydoll (Emily Browning, A Series of Unfortunate Events), a 20-year-old girl committed to an insane asylum by her abusive stepfather. In order to escape the horrors of her situation, she re-imagines the asylum as a burlesque brothel featuring an over-abundance of cleavage and unfathomably fetishised fashions.

The provocative, even exploitative aesthetic belies the fact the film is set in the 1950s, and the sexual issues raised by the film are further complicated given how Browning is made to look many years younger than she actually is. She, sisters Rocket (Jena Malone, Donnie Darko) and Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish, Limitless), along with Amber (Jamie Chung, Sorority Row) and Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens, High School Musical) hatch a plan to escape the asylum, but while doing so they must procure five magical MacGuffins.

Each object must be obtained through various trials and chicanery, most notably a scene in which Babydoll entices an antagonist with a provocative lap dance. Within this lap dance, Babydoll transcends her faux-reality into a further dream state, imagining their quest as a WWII battle or mythical-beast slaying adventure. Quickly, the film becomes Inception with corsets.

In attempting to make the ultimate fan boy film, Snyder throws coherence out the window in favour of, let’s be honest, fetishisms. It’s an action movie that imagines itself as a tale of female empowerment; the rarely seen female protagonists rising up against male oppression through the powers they hold through self-objectification as sexual objects.

In execution, however, their struggle acts as a pointless backdrop for their skimpy hypersexual outfits. Hang on, isn’t this movie rated 12A? Now, I don’t purport to know very much about neo-feminist theory, and no doubt the interwebs will be shortly full of such commentaries on this film, but a troglodyte like myself can see that Synder’s attempts to transition from the hyper-masculinity of 300 to this alleged hyper-femininity is more than a little misguided. It could even be argued that Snyder is a terrible, exploitative storyteller, however, in spite of everything, I really enjoyed this film.
It is, like Snyder’s previous efforts, visually spectacular, and sexual politics aside, not exactly tough on the corneas. If you can detach critical thought from the experience, it’s great fun. But if you attempt to instil logic, sexual commentary or, indeed, coherency into the experience, all is lost.

In a Nutshell: Raucous, ludicrous, crass, offensive and pointless. Good fun, so.

– Breffni O’Sullivan

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