Sucker Punch

Year: 2011
Production Co: Cruel & Unusual Films
Studio: Warner Bros
Director: Zack Snyder
Producer: Zack Snyder/Deborah Synder
Writer: Zack Snyder/Steve Sibuya
Cast: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Jamie Chung, Vanessa Hugdens, Oscar Isaac, Carla Gugino, Jon Hamm, Scott Glenn

There's a whole essay to be written about roles for girls in Hollywood and much better gender politics thinkers than me have done so already. To even put yourself in a position to enjoy this film you have to just ignore the sad truth about roles for women – seemingly the only time girls headline movies is when they're dressed like strippers or hentai porn stars, wield weapons and fight. If not, it's a chick flick hardly deserving of a cinematic release for the critical and box office ignorance that ensues.

I watched Abbie Cornish introduce it at a premiere and shook my head sadly to myself. Here was one of our finest actresses reduced to another porn-Ripley amalgam pretending it was a great part because she probably wanted to pay her house off.

Snyder could have made it a bit better to digest, but maybe that was his plan - make the symbolism so impenetrable you didn't have time to think about how sexist it all is. A young girl (Browning) is put in an asylum on trumped up charges where she meets a few of her fellow inmates and what appears to be a therapeutic theatre troupe before she's promptly wheeled in for a lobotomy.

In the time it takes the doctor (Hamm) to raise the hammer she seems to dream a whole multi-levelled existence. She's actually a stripper (so not too much symbolism) in an exclusive club, her co-inmates dancers, the mean prison guard the pimp who runs the show and the doctor running the theatre troupe the show choreographer.

But it gets more confusing. Whenever Babydoll (no, still no sexist symbolism to be had) starts to dance, she and her friends enter some fantasyland where they battle dragons, gas and clockwork-powered German troops in the First World War or robots aboard a speeding train on an alien planet.

In each world they have to complete some task – which they do after the help of some sort of enigmatic overseer (Glenn) – which will see them survive longer in the first level dream-world... I think, or was I watching Inception with strip shows? It's all apparently got to do with escaping reality by dreaming up cool battles to fight to help you escape – but that's just what I got from the supertext during the trailer.

The plot might all make sense if you sit down and think about it, but Snyder's frenetic pace doesn't give you a chance. The battle with the robots aboard the train is a microcosm of everything he does both right and wrong in the whole film – technically perfect but with far too much style over substance.
When it's all over you'll have seen a few cool action sequences attached to a plot buried deeper than the subtlety of the girls' outfits.

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