Sucker Punch is one of the dullest, most incoherent movies I’ve seen in many moons. The story is so convoluted that it actually took me a good 20 minutes just to unravel what was going on in the opening scenes. Then when I finally got my bearings, I found myself overloaded with a phone book worth of logical questions that I hoped and prayed that director and co-writer Zack Snyder – the man behind 300 and Watchmen (my favorite film of 2009) would be able to answer.
He cannot. What we have here is a muddy-looking music video crossed with plot elements out of a video game and woven together into an odd tapestry of sexual taboos and fetishistic nonsense. Here is a movie made up of quick-cuts, regulation dialogue, pretty faces, pretty bodies and buckets of sleaze. Of that, there is surprisingly no nudity. This is the cleanest dirty movie you’ve ever seen.
The story, once I understood it, involves a PYT known only as Baby Doll (Emily Browning). She’s cute but eternally sad. That’s because the opening sequence reveals that her mother (apparently) died and her incestuous father (apparently) locked her away in an insane asylum when she (apparently) wouldn’t give in to his sexual advances. She hardly gets a look at the institution before she is strapped to a chair to receive a lobotomy. Her method of combating the procedure is to escape to a fantasy world where she is imprisoned in a brothel with four other female inmates: Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens who is a brunette despite her name), Rocket (Jena Malone) and Amber (Jamie Chung). Then, of course, there’s the madame, Dr. Gorski (Carla Gugino, sporting a train wreck of a Russian accent).
The place is run by someone named Blue Jones (Oscar Isaacs), a sleazy wretch who dresses like a night club operator and employs the girls to put together shows to entertain his “high rollers”. Consider this scenario and then consider that this is the fantasy that Baby Doll has conceived in her mind as an escape. Why create a fantasy of even worse imprisonment as an escape from your already horrible imprisonment? Why not fantasize about green fields, happy times or even Disney World? Wait it gets worse. Blue Jones and Dr. Gorski figure out that Baby Doll quite a spicy little dancer. She puts on sexy little dance routines that apparently get the everyone all worked up. That’s terrific, except for one thing: We in the audience never see her dance routine! Whenever she begins to dance she is transported to a further fantasy world where she is in the middle of war zone. There, Baby Doll, Sweet Pea, Rocket, Blondie and Amber go to war armed with heavy metal weapons against ghosts, steam-punk Nazis, Battle Droids and a fire-breathing dragon.
The war zone fantasies take place in Tibet, a dragon cave, a future world and a strange steam-punk re-imagining of World War II. Baby Doll is mentored in these scenes by a wise man listed in the credits as . . . Wise Man. He’s played by Scott Glenn with a wink and a smile and nonsense advice like “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” What that fortune cookie advice has to do with this movie is beyond me.
So too is the fact that the war zone scenes are a fantasy conceived by Baby Doll who is already having a fantasy while strapped to a chair about to have a lobotomy. Are you keeping up with all this? The war zone fantasies are a method by which Baby Doll can hatch an escape plan and get herself and her friends out of Blue John’s prison. My logical question: Why did we need the war zone scenes? Why did we need the brothel fantasy? Why did we need the lobotomy? What time period is this? Why is it always night time? Why are the walls of the asylum grimy when the inmates are always squeaky clean? Was this trip really necessary?