For the first 15 minutes of being on screen for almost every frame, Emily Browning doesn’t speak a line of dialogue. The background of her character and set up of the simplistic story is told entirely in the unique visual flair of which we are accustomed to from director Zack Snyder (‘300’, ‘Watchmen’) for being able to tell a story in a unique and fluid way. Babydoll, played with pathos by the talented Browning, accidentally kills her younger sister when defending her against her abusive stepfather and is committed to the Lennox House for the Mentally Insane. There she meets fellow inmates Amber (Jamie Chung), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), Rocket (Jena Malone) and her older sister Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish). To escape further abuse and mistreatment at Lennox House, Babydoll retreats to a fantasy world in which she meets a Wise Man (Scott Glenn) who instructs her that she can escape if she collects five items: a map, fire, a knife, key and an ‘unknown’ item. In the first ‘mission’ she fights three demonic samurai alone and then after convincing her fellow inmates to join her, engages in ‘missions’ battling zombie German soldiers in the trenches of WWI, a fire breathing dragon in an orc laden castle and boarding a futuristic train to disarm a bomb guarded by deadly robots.
At times the film, which is set in the 1960’s, seems anachronistic in it’s depiction of each of the fantasy ‘missions’. It also feels as if the film suffers from too many eggs in one basket syndrome, with too many styles and genres (anime and steampunk to name a couple) in the one film that it often overwhelms the viewer. The action sequences are good but feel as if it is too much style over content and there are only so many times you can watch a fight scene without thinking of ‘The Matrix’ which raised the bar so high for action films way back in 1999. The film has good intentions though and is a story about freedom, friendship and hope. The non-action scenes with the quintet of girls are the films strength and such are the likeability of their characters and sympathy of their plight that the film could have been made and perhaps worked better without any of the action scenes at all.
The action also seems to be superficial with the story and each ‘mission’ feels like a mini movie in it’s own right which will no doubt be pillaged by Warner Brothers for the inevitable reboot/reimaging. Though over-stylised in it’s action sequences, credit must go to production designer Rick Carter for his incredible visual backdrops, along with Animal Logic and Moving Picture Company for their visual effects contributions in realising Carter’s magnificent designs. The cast are engaging and feature some nice cameos by John Hamm and Carla Gugino. Along with the excellent Browning, Jenna Malone particularly shines in her role as Rocket.
At the end of the day, this film hits with an emotional rather than a sucker punch.
“Sucker Punch” is on general release and rated M