I went to see Sucker Punch with Rustin and Grant this weekend. A few people have asked me how it was and my answer was, “It was exactly what I thought it would be.” You could take this as a sort of “damning by faint praise” but that’s not how I mean it.
Let me tell you about the film.
We meet a young woman and her sister, and they’re crushed because their mother has died. Their step-father is not very nice. He clearly can’t wait to get his hands on them. Making matters worse is that his deceased wife left him nothing. She left all of her possessions to her daughters.
In trying to protect herself and her little sister, the young woman mistakenly kills her sister and finds herself in a Dickensian asylum for the mentally insane. Her step-father doesn’t want the truth of his indiscretions to come out so he pays off the asylum administrator to shut her up permanently. She learns she’s been scheduled for a lobotomy in just five days.
She’s determined to escape before she’s subjected to the procedure. Then things get weird.
The young woman, whom we now know as Baby Doll, undergoes some sort of psychotic break and through her eyes, we see the asylum has changed. The administrator is now also running the place as a brothel, and she has the ability to put men into a trance by simply dancing for them. While dancing, she’s taken another step away from reality through a series of fantasy ‘missions’ she must undergo to make her escape.
Back in the brothel, she shares her plans with four other inmates and they agree to a plan by which they can all escape. The plan involves collecting four items, each in a separate mission.
Frankly, I’m conflicted about the film. In general, as a film, it’s not very good. Let me break it down into three parts.
The story is merely a means to link the fantasy missions. Further, the more you think about the story, the less sense it makes.
The ads for the film make it pretty clear that you’re going to see plenty of short skirts and stockings. If you enjoy those things, the film certainly delivers…particularly Baby Doll’s combination of a short skirt and stockings.
The fantasy missions are an inventive mixture of genres. One involves the women crossing a WWI no-man’s land, entering the enemy’s trenches to find the command post, and stealing a map. In this world war gone mad, it seems that the war has gone on for decades and there’s nearly nothing left on the landscape. Even soldiers are in short supply so the bulk of the enemy forces are dead soldiers reanimated with clockwork mechanisms powered by steam. How’s that for a twist?
Another mission involves an air-drop from a B‑25 into a castle where they must kill a baby dragon. Things go awry when the women wake the mother dragon and they have to deal with her and the force of armoured mediaeval warriors are attempting to breach the castle gate. Part of the battle involves the dragon attacking the B‑25.
I found the missions a great deal of fun both with the action and the inventive mixing of genres. This alone made the film worth watching.
The downside is the story, as I mentioned, which is nothing but a thinly veiled excuse for the fun. But still, part of me wonders if there might be more hidden in the multiple layers of reality. Probably not, but it holds together just well enough to make you wonder of there’s more to it. That’s perhaps the most amazing accomplishment of the film.
I can’t recommend it without conditions, but if the women, the action, and the mind-bending settings appeal to you, it’s a fun two hours.
Stills and marquee poster © 2011 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures