Friday 17 November 2017

Movies: Sucker Punch **


Paul Whitington

The storyline for Sucker Punch might have sprung from the fevered mind of a 14-year-old boy who needs to get out more, but, in fact, (and rather worryingly), it's the brainchild of two middle-aged men.

Zack Snyder and his co-writer Steve Shibuya dreamt up this strange and frenetic story while Snyder was preparing to make Watchmen. It operates as a kind of story within a story, and Snyder has rather grandly described it as "Alice in Wonderland with machine guns". And if I get confused while trying to describe the plot, it's not half as confused as you're going to get watching it.

'Baby Doll' (Emily Browning) is a most unfortunate young woman who has grown up in 50s Vermont. After her mother's death, she's left in the care of her abusive and violent stepfather, and when she's defending her little sister from one of his drunken assaults, the younger girl is accidentally shot and killed.

The stepfather takes this opportunity to confine her in an asylum, and pays a corrupt inmate to make sure she's given a lobotomy. Understandably traumatised by all this, Baby Doll retreats into the recesses of her imagination, and as her appointment with the surgeon's knife looms she invents an alternate world to inhabit.

It's not a particularly happy one, because in her other world Baby Doll is the new girl at a high-class brothel where the ladies dance and more besides for rich and powerful customers. And here comes the tricky bit, because when Baby Doll dances she disappears to another reality where she and the girls do battle with dragons and monsters to win their freedom.

It's bonkers, quite frankly, and the wonder of it all is that in Snyder's hands this frenetic plot gets ironed into something noisy but overwhelmingly bland. Once it gets up a head of steam, Sucker Punch turns into something resembling a humourless shoot 'em up video game. Done up like distressed Barbie dolls, Browning and sidekicks Abbie Cornish, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung and Jena Malone strut coolly through CGI battle scenes sporting mini-skirts and giant guns.

The Freudian undertones of all this don't bear thinking about, and meanwhile we're subjected to the trademark Snyder CGI overkill that quickly becomes wearisome. There are some who think Snyder is an interesting filmmaker, but I think he makes very ugly movies.

Teenage boys may relish the sight of scantily clad young ladies laying waste to all around them, but even they will soon get bored with this mess.

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