Sucker Punch
This movie feels more like a video game. All the characters are caricatures, the action defies all laws of gravity and physics, and we’re striving toward an end result that leaves the battlefield littered with bloodless bodies, but the heroine is saved. The big difference is that she has to save herself. And we’re not even sure, until the end, which one she is.
Emily Browning plays “Baby Doll,” a teenage girl abused by her stepfather, framed for the murder of her little sister, and institutionalized in an asylum for the criminally insane where they throw away the key, and lock her inside with a bunch of cowed patients and psychopath handlers. She learns to survive by retreating to a fantasy world, where she is a powerful superhero, armed and dangerous. She slays scores of World War One Germans streaming out of the trenches in gas masks (note to movie producers: these soldiers shouldn’t be villainized like the Nazi SS in World War Two, and to do so smacks of a racism probably unintended). Then she slays some unknown knights guarding a castle (note to producers: more neutral choice, but doesn’t provoke anything visceral in the audience). And all this time, the “girls” in the asylum, somehow all young and pretty, are portrayed as involuntarily working in some kind of “dance” club (feel free to infer what that means, because they don’t spell it out).
Speaking of being left to the imagination, Baby Doll is supposed to be so enormously talented at “dancing” that all who watch her are completely mesmerized----a nod to the ancient mythology of the sexy Sirens alluring the hapless sailors toward the rocks---but as viewers, we are instead transported to her fantasy world, where she and her gun-toting lovelies must somehow come up with a map, a knife, a lighter, a key, and something unknown, in order to make good their escape in the “real” world. All this instruction was solemnly intoned to them by the mysterious guru (Scott Glenn) who later appears as a kindly bus driver. The reason he’s important is because he’s the only male figure who’s not a complete villain. But still, this flick could be more aptly titled, “Girls Kick Butt.”
Target audience? We’re not entirely sure. Adolescent girls might root for the almost-invincible women warriors, but they’re in the next theater, watching the romantic comedies. The young guys might be enamored with the cute young actresses in the skimpy outfits, and with the whole video-game aspect, but they’re not the ones pushing the control buttons, and on this screen the men are criminally evil.
Yes, “Sucker Punch” is inventive, but it’s also relentlessly violent, and the only love is the martyrdom kind, and the only goal is escape. Its attraction will be confined to a very limited cinematically adventurous audience.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Co-Pastor, United Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas