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Sucker Punch (2011)

(PG-13) 110 mins

Plot Summary: A young girl is institutionalized by her abusive stepfather. Retreating to an alternative reality as a coping strategy, she envisions a plan which will help her escape from the mental facility.

Directors: Zack Snyder

Writers: Zack Snyder (screenplay & story) and Steve Shibuya (screenplay)

Stars:  Emily BrowningVanessa Hudgens and Abbie Cornish

Best Boy Grip: Rob Brady

CraigMakk:  (Worth Watching)  This movie confused me on so many levels. First off, the commercials convinced me it was a geek’s dream movie. Hot chicks in school girl uniforms, wielding everything from machine guns to katanas to mechs and more, fighting demons and dragons and zombie Nazis and more, all in a multi-level “Inception-esque” dream world to find five trophies very similar to your average video game “Boss Battle” trope. Still with me? Exactly….of course you aren’t. This movie tried to do so much that it ultimately failed at everything. Well, almost everything. I literally lost track of the main characters halfway through the movie, and I’m pretty sure I may have dozed off during some key “character development”  dialogue. But if you are willing to take the plot, the acting, the character interactions, and the  ending out of play, godDAMN this movie has some amazing set pieces! The Visual Effects team makes up more than every other team in the credit combined…including cast. But who cares, because the effects were pretty amazing, the fight sequences were insane, and the chicks…did I mention they were hot? So basically, as far as a movie, this piece of trash is barely a “Don’t Bother”…but as showpiece for your sweet HDTV and sound system, this thing is a definite rental. So to be fair, I decided Sucker Punch levels out comfortably at “Worth Watching”…so hurry up and go watch it, before your brain remembers what a good movie is supposed to look like.

Serious Jest:  (Must See)  Oh boy…did I screw up here…looks like I’m going to have to pull back the curtain a bit on our podcast to explain myself.  If you listened to the 2011 ManCave Awards during Episode 6: Pop Bottles, we selected this film as our Most Disappointing Movie of 2011.  However, I think we admitted on the show at some point that, for some movies, only one of us had seen them.  This was the case for Sucker Punch.  CraigMakk had seen it, and told me how disappointed he was, versus his expectations.  I agreed that I was excited about seeing this film, based on its previews, and if it was as bad a movie as CraigMakk described it, it had to be the Most Disappointing Movie of 2011.    Since I was supposed to announce the winner of this category, I really sold our choice.  I said that the film “ended up sucking” and “fell flat on its face”…then I recently watched it (I added my review to this post in April 2012).  I have to admit that, on some level, I wanted to hate this movie, in order to justify our choice…so I wouldn’t have to eat crow like I’m doing now.  Instead, I ended up a Sucker Punch fan, happily scarfing down my crow pie.

It’s important that you understand from the outset that this film is not about dragons, machine guns, katanas, mechs, demons, or zombie Nazis.  Instead, it is first and foremost about a young woman’s quest to return home from a terrible, cruel place, and overcoming terrible situations through will, introspection, and the power of the mind.  This could have been a much darker movie, focusing on the insane asylum, and a bunch of crazy, disheveled, medicated chicks trying to escape…but Snyder and Shibuya found a much more imaginative and entertaining way to tell their story.  As I said above, the movie isn’t about dragons, machine guns, katanas, mechs, demons, or zombie Nazis…but if you can work those things into it, why wouldn’t you?  Why not infuse the flick with martial arts, bombs, a high-class-whorehouse theme, awesome special effects and camera work, and a cool soundtrack?  Why not transform the girls into sexy, confident, dressed up ass-kickers?

I can see how the brilliance of this film can be lost on some viewers.  If you go in expecting a blockbuster action flick, you may focus more on the great audio/visual aesthetics, and not pay attention to the little nuances and references in the script that are so critical to really appreciating the movie’s intelligence.

Not only was I wrong about the movie sucking, but it didn’t exactly fall flat on its face, either.  It took about $82 million to make this movie, and as of December 2011, it had grossed about $90 million worldwide.

I will concede, however, that the PG-13 rating, a few cliche lines, and the casting choices for the patients gave this movie an intended-for-teenage-girls feel at times.  Also, character development is thin, except for Browning’s character.  According to IMDBAmanda SeyfriedEmma Stone, and Angelina Jolie were attached to this film at some point.  Too bad they didn’t end up in this movie, because I feel that those three would have added credibility, veteran experience, and individual character beyond their roles.

Still, I was pretty impressed with Browning, who capably harnessed passion and non-verbal cues to convey the internal struggle that is so central to this film.  I was completely captivated by her, but I didn’t even realize until later that she didn’t speak a line until about 20 minutes into the movie, despite clearly being the centerpiece of all of those important, telling opening scenes.  Additionally, she sang three of the featured songs on the film’s very strong soundtrack, including the cover of The Eurythmics‘ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).”  This gorgeous young Aussie is very talented.

Another actor who displayed great non-verbal affect was Gerard Plunkett, who embodied greed, callousness, abuse of power, and dishonesty, with very few words, as the evil stepfather.  Also, Scott Glenn was awesome in his David Carradine-like role of the Wise Man.

The clear standout in this film, though, was Oscar Isaac.  From low-budget, fast-talking hustler to ruthless, angry pimp, this guy was everything you could have wanted out of Blue Jones.  I’m mad I didn’t think to nominate him for our list of Top 5 Villains We’d Rather See a Movie About Than the Hero, on Episode 10 of the podcast.

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About CraigMakk

As co-host and producer of the incredible podcast "Live from the ManCave!", I'm also kind of an ass. With that being said, check us out and welcome to the ManCave!

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