– for thematic material involving sexuality, violence and combat sequences, and for language.
Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Vanessa Hudgens, Jena Malone, Carla Gugino
Running Time: 1 hours, 50 minutes
Theatrical Release Date: January 14, 2011
Blu-Ray Release Date: June 28, 2011 (Amazon.com)
Sucker Punch is an epic action fantasy that takes us into the vivid imagination of a young girl whose dream world provides the ultimate escape from her darker reality. Unrestrained by the boundaries of time and place, she is free to go where her mind takes her, and her incredible adventures blur the lines between what’s real and what is imaginary. She has been locked away against her will, but Babydoll (Emily Browning) has not lost her will to survive. Determined to fight for her freedom, she urges four other young girls–the outspoken Rocket (Jena Malone), the street-smart Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), the fiercely loyal Amber (Jamie Chung) and the reluctant Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish)–to band together and try to escape their terrible fate at the hands of their captors, Blue (Oscar Isaac), Madam Gorski (Carla Gugino) and the High Roller (Jon Hamm). Led by Babydoll, the girls engage in fantastical warfare against everything from samurais to serpents, with a virtual arsenal at their disposal. Together, they must decide what they are willing to sacrifice in order to stay alive. But with the help of a Wise Man (Scott Glenn), their unbelievable journey–if they succeed–will set them free. (from MovieWeb.com)
Zack Snyder has swiftly made a name for himself in Hollywood with his surreal, stylized films that often utilize the restricted film rating to allow for all kinds of violent and sexual content (like 300 and Watchmen, for example). Sucker Punch is Snyder’s first PG-13 outing, offering a bizarre action/adventure film that was clearly intended for an R-rating before being cut down by 17 minutes for the theatrical release. Sucker Punch centers on a young, 20-year-old girl who is checked into a mental hospital after attempting to kill her abusive stepfather and accidentally killing her sister in the process. Once inside the asylum, the girl begins to envision the asylum as a brothel of sorts, with her caretaker being a sexually abusive pimp and the hospital psychologist being a trainer for the girls’ exotic dances. Nicknamed “Babydoll” in this other world she’s created within her mind, Baby finds confidants in four other girls who join her in an attempt to break out of this twisted prison. She devises a plan that requires the girls to steal four objects to escape. For each “mission,” Baby envisions another fantasy (yes, within this whorehouse fantasy), and the girls are either fighting WWII zombies, dragons and knights, or robots. The action sequences themselves are the most uniquely orchestrated and most engaging parts of the film, but Snyder has otherwise created a rather disturbing film that is kind of like Girl, Interrupted and The Secret Window meets an action film done in the style of a music video.
I’ll be honest, the subject matter and resultant content of the film kept me from seeing it in the theaters, but upon receiving the film to review on Blu-Ray, I figured I’d check it out for the purpose of reviewing it for the JFH readers. After watching it, it felt like I’d just viewed a semi-edited R-rated film with pretty mature or disturbing subject matter that you wouldn’t normally see targeted at young audiences. But with a PG-13 rating and a core cast that involves young, scantily-clad girls in outlandish fantastical action sequences, it wouldn’t be too surprising if a bunch of young guys had wanted to check out this movie. Aside from topics that include abuse, molestation, lobotomy and prostitution, there’s a great deal of reality-twisting that happens within the film that make it a bizarre experience and one that shouldn’t be too appealing to the average or casual moviegoer. The whole plot taking place in an imaginary brothel makes this a sexually charged film in that sense. While there isn’t anything explicit when it comes to sexual encounters, there are a lot of implications, especially sexual abuse (and especially if Babydoll is imagining her asylum superiors as pimps?), and the main characters dress like hookers in the movie.
The bottomline is, Sucker Punch is a truly dark and twisted film. While the visuals – the action and special effects – are often stunning and imaginative, it doesn’t make the core subject matter any less… icky, really. It’s a deep film while also being a popcorn film, but in the end, you will have good reason to wonder just what in the world Snyder must be “on” to make a movie like this (and the fact that he’s been chosen to direct the next Superman movie is unnerving). Along with the sexual content, however, is a handful of swearing, including the character Amber screaming at a dragon, calling it a “mother–” with her mouth clearly saying the following strong expletive, even if we don’t hear it. There is also a great deal of action violence that involves the girls shooting up and slicing up all kinds of imaginary creatures with various guns and swords throughout the film. Some of the violence spills into Baby’s brothel fantasy which turn out to be a version of what really did happen. A few surprise character deaths happen on and off screen, including one character dying from being stabbed, one being shot in the head just off screen, and another shot ambiguously to death just off screen. The finale has some disturbing imagery and ideas that will be unsettling to some viewers, including the lobotomizing of a character.
As a movie, Sucker Punch was well acted and intriguingly directed, but the subject matter is disturbing and pretty twisted. There’s nothing about the movie that merits recommending it, so I suggest steering clear from and altogether avoiding Sucker Punch.
– John DiBiase, (reviewed: 6/25/11)
Blu-Ray Special Features Review
I didn’t see the movie in the theaters, but in its Blu-Ray presentation, the high definition format really is ideal for the crazy visuals in the film. In the Blu-Ray “Extended Cut” package are a PG-13 Theatrical Version Blu-Ray disc, a rated R Extended Cut Blu-Ray disc and a DVD/Digital Copy Combo Disc of the PG-13 version of the movie.
Sucker Punch Animated Shorts – These are animated shorts/promos for the film that give a little back story to each action/adventure fantasy that Babydoll dreams up during the movie. For example, the first one tells of how the evil Samurai warriors that Babydoll encounters on her own came to be. These cartoons are interesting for anyone who might want to delve a bit more into the mythology of the story.
Sucker Punch: Behind the Soundtrack – This is a brief featurette that talks about the music featured in Sucker Punch. It’s a little too short in length, but Snyder and some of his production team share some thoughts on how they chose music for the film and had Emily Browning, who played Babydoll, provide some of the vocals for the songs.
The Extended Cut Blu-Ray disc includes a never-before-seen rated-R version of Sucker Punch that includes over 17 more minutes of bonus footage added back into the film. In addition to the extended film is a picture-in-picture commentary of the Extended Cut provided by director Zack Snyder and includes all the behind-the-scenes type footage that is absent from the first Blu-Ray disc (Personally, I decided to pass on watching the rated-R version of the film for this review).
– John DiBiase, (reviewed: 6/25/11)
Parental Guide: Content Summary
Sex/Nudity: A man grabs his stepdaughter rather violently, tearing the top buttons of her shirt open, but she escapes. The same man then kicks down the door of a closet where his other stepdaughter is hiding (possibly to abuse her); The asylum turns into a sort of brothel and Rocket shows Babydoll around, taking her to a suite with a rotating bed. A few girls talk about her before she enters the next room and Blondie makes a remark that Babydoll “is no virgin;” Most of the girls are scantily clad throughout the film; We don’t see the dance Babydoll does for her “class,” but Sweet Pea later complains about “all that gyrating and moaning” and it needing to be more than just “titillation;” We see some of the girls in their dressing room getting ready for their dances; Blue suggests Babydoll dances specifically for the Mayor (but “nothing touchy-feely”); Amber wears a small corset and cleavage-revealing outfit for the Mayor; We see Babydoll in a small outfit when she gets ready to dance for the Mayor; Blue threatens to sexually assault Babydoll but she escapes before he can; There’s a sexy stage dance music video during the end credits
Vulgarity/Language: 1 mouthed “F” word (after an audible “mother”); 5 “s” word,” 3 “h*ll,” 3 “d*mn,” 1 “g*dd*mn,” 3 “G-d,” 1 “J-sus,” 1 “a” word, 1 “b*tch”
Alcohol/Drugs: We see a man drinking from a bottle; It’s implied that Babydoll is drugged during her stay at the asylum
Blood/Gore: A man has some bloody cuts on his face; A girl holds her little sister and finds blood on her hand from her sister’s body; We briefly see the scarred faces of some zombie soldiers; We see full views of the scarred heads of some zombie soldiers, including their leader. It is creepy/gross looking and may be unsettling to some; Babydoll slits a baby dragon’s throat and we see her pull open the wound and extract two rubies from it, which are covered in gooey guts; One of the girls has some blood on her side after being stabbed; We see a little blood on a man’s shoulder after he’s been stabbed; We see a flashback of some blood on Babydoll’s fingers; We see a bloody lobotomy tool dropped in a tray of water; A patch on a man’s shoulder has some blood seeping through it
Violence: We see that a woman has died and briefly see her corpse lying on her bed; A man trashes his desk; A man grabs his daughter’s shirt, but she pulls away and scratches his face; A man kicks down the door where his daughter is hiding; A girl holds a gun on a man and shoots a light bulb. She then finds her little sister dead in a closet; A couple girls briefly fight in the asylum; We see a doctor holding a sharp blade and small hammer over Babydoll’s face. Before it hits her eye, we see it’s Sweet Pea in the hospital chair instead and she stops the procedure; Cook smacks Rocket and throws her to the ground violently when he finds her stealing something. Babydoll then takes a chef’s knife and holds it to his throat, rescuing her from him; A huge Samurai warrior kicks Babydoll through a wall and the two begin a large fight. She eventually cuts its knee and head, with light spilling out, defeating it. The next warrior fires at her with a huge chain gun. She runs away from the bullets, throws her sword at it and misses, then jumps on it and shoots it in the eye point-blank, till it falls (more light spills out of its eyes). The building behind her collapses; In another fantasy, we see something that resembles a distorted version of a WWII battle. We see lots of gunfire, zombie-like soldiers being shot/shot at and blown up. We also see Amber in a mech robot shooting down planes and such; Zombie soldiers with gas masks are shot up and stabbed with smoke coming out of their bodies; One of the girls gets beaten up by a bunch of soldiers before another girl shoots all of them to save her; Babydoll fights a room of soldiers and throws a sword that pins a human soldier to the wall; A zeppelin burns up, throwing a human soldier into a wall. We think Babydoll stabs him, but we see that he’s fine as she takes something from him. Then more soldiers show up, holding them at gunpoint, but the girls shoot them down; In the next fantasy, we see Lord of the Rings-style Orcs as the girls raid a castle. Amber shoots an Orc in the face and uses a chain gun to shoot at the creatures; The girls slit open a baby dragon’s throat and pull out a couple rubies; Amber shoots at a pursuing large dragon; Babydoll slices at some knights in armor with swords; Babydoll jumps on top of the dragon and drives her sword into the head, killing it; Blue roughly grabs Blondie by the hair and pushes her into a vanity table; The girls enter some kind of base where they kick, punch, shoot, and slice up a number of robots; A robot attacks Rocket and pushes her against the wall. Later, another punches her; Cook attacks the girls and stabs one of them with a kitchen knife, killing her; In the robot fantasy, a train blows up, killing one of the girls; Blue backhands Gorski in the face and grabs her chin, threatening her; Blue points a gun at a girl’s head and shoots her off-screen. Then he shoots another girl dead off-screen; Blue pushes Babydoll up against a vanity mirror to sexually assault her and she pulls out a knife and stabs him in the neck/shoulder area, then kicks him over; Babydoll kicks a man in the crotch who then punches her (he punches at the camera which then cuts to the present). We see a little hammer hit a sharp tool that apparently went into a person’s eye; Blue grabs a girl by the throat and forces a kiss on her; Police carry off a man, kicking and screaming