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A young girl is institutionalized by her wicked stepfather. Retreating to an alternative reality as a coping strategy, she envisions a plan which will help her escape from the facility.
For more about Sucker Punch and the Sucker Punch Blu-ray release, see Sucker Punch Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on June 18, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Vanessa Hudgens, Jon Hamm, Carla Gugino, Jena Malone
Director: Zack Snyder
» See full cast & crew
Sucker Punch Blu-ray Review
Snyder's extremely divisive but visually striking actioner earns an excellent Blu-ray release...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, June 18, 2011
Who knew a visually dazzling, CG-encased, all-girls-all-guns 'splosion fest could fall so flat? Apparently, a lot of people. Sucker Punch -- an aggressive, hollow, ultimately tasteless genre flop disguised as a not-so-empowering female empowerment flick -- failed miserably upon its release, scraping together a mere $36 million at the US box office despite a trailer designed to lure young male moviegoers into theaters with a siren song of skin, swords and gunplay. It seems original material is Zack Snyder's kryptonite. Previously, the well-received director had only explored pre-existing worlds and adapted pre-established storylines. Dawn of the Dead was a decidedly decent remake of George Romero's zombie masterpiece. 300, a mesmerizing tour de force, was a faithful adaptation of Frank Miller's Dark Horse Comics limited series of the same name. Watchmen, a breathtaking, slowburn spectacle, drew from writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons' acclaimed DC Comics 12-issue masterwork. Even the clumsily titled Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole, a passable CG-animated adventure in its own right, was based on a popular book series by Kathryn Lasky. Sucker Punch, though, represents the first film in which Snyder has forged his own path, and suggests the daring filmmaker is more of an artist than a storyteller.
Sucker Punch attempts to tell the tale of a young woman named Baby Doll (Emily Browning, The Uninvited) who descends into a variety of fantasy worlds to cope with the treatment and abuse she suffers in a 1960s mental institution. Unfortunately, Snyder and co-writer Steve Shibuya lose themselves in the madhouse. Sucker Punch begins to unravel the moment Baby Doll realizes her "dancing" is so alluring that she can distract the institution's guards and caretakers while her newfound friends -- Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish, Limitless), Rocket (Jena Malone, The Ruins), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens, Beastly) and Amber (Jamie Chung, Grown Ups) -- acquire a series of five items they need to escape. Why did I place the word dancing in quotations? Shortly after arriving at the institution, Baby Doll enters a shared delusion of sorts in which all five girls envision themselves as dancers at a high-roller brothel in the '30s. The dancing, as it were, is actually a series of thinly veiled rapes and abusive sexual encounters Baby Doll subjects herself to while dreaming up worlds of evil samurai demons, steam-powered German-soldier zombies, fire-breathing dragons and futuristic robot assassins. There's even a "dance instructor" (Carla Gugino, Sin City) who teaches her how to "dance" for the men. As murkier and murkier symbolism, imagery and implications mount, it all grows ugly, repulsive and... well, icky (for lack of a better word).
Regardless of Snyder's insistence, nothing that transpires in Sucker Punch is empowering. Not in the slightest. Baby Doll and her cohorts, clad in everything from schoolgirl uniforms to tight leather sex-shop costuming, look as if they've stepped out of a middle-school boy's sketchbook. The fantasy sequences are testosterone-fueled videogame melees; bristling weaponry, rock soundtrack, whirling swords, coughing miniguns, explosions and all. Even Baby Doll's guide is a grizzled old sage (Scott Glenn) who gives her just enough "go get em, kiddo" to inspire her to some measure of male-induced greatness. Make no mistake, Snyder's fiery heroines may be female, but nothing about them is remotely strong, fierce or feminine. These poor femme fatales have been cranked off the production line of a very masculine machine, and little about them rings true. The idea is that Baby Doll is using her sexuality to gain the upper hand, but in becoming a willing participant, she only plays into the hands of her abusers. It not only strikes an uncomfortable tone, it sullies what would otherwise be four thrilling fantasy sequences, undermines Snyder's well-intentioned but mishandled message and, frankly, doesn't relent, doesn't turn out well for the girls, and doesn't end with any sense of relief. As my friend's bewildered girlfriend so eloquently uttered as she left the theater: "so... much... rape..."
Snyder remains as visually arresting a filmmaker as ever but, for perhaps the first time, his distinct style is at odds with his story's themes. Here, his patented slow-motion shots feel misogynistic and self-gratifying, particularly during the brothel sequences. His lingering cameras feel voyeuristic, and his scenes are strangely gratuitous for a PG-13 film. (And I'm not even a prude.) Worse, his supple-skinned beauties become victims at the hands of their captors and Snyder and DP Larry Fong's aesthetically beautiful yet thematically revolting photography. Sorry gents, but objectification does not equal empowerment. Presenting sexual violence as such a casual means to an end -- five ends, if you count all five items the girls have to endure torture and torment to gather -- is not telling a story of a young woman overcoming her male captors with the only tools at her disposal, especially when her encounters are filmed with the same provocative elegance Snyder applied to violence in 300 or consensual sex in Watchmen. But even placing all that aside, Sucker Punch isn't a good film. Incoherent at times and incohesive on the whole, its story is as disjointed as it is riddled with plot holes, its characters are as woefully underdeveloped as they are shamelessly simplified, its performances are as shallow as they are uninteresting, and its dialogue is as stilted and overwritten as it is derivative and, sometimes, downright laughable. And the end? Ugh... don't get me started on the film's final pair of non-twists.
If there's any light at the end of Snyder's dim tunnel, it's his four glorious fantasy sequences. (Thankfully extended in the film's R-rated, 128-minute extended cut.) Taken on their own, separated from the rest of the film, each one showcases the potential promised in the director's theatrical trailers. Lumbering warriors swing bone-shattering spears with all their might, mechs hurtle through the air firing at World War I biplanes, girls cut swaths through undead soldiers with any weapon they have at their disposal, dragons break through the walls of a burning castle, and bio-assassins flip from wall to wall in a speeding future-city train. Snyder's CG is fantastic, his hyper-realized visions are breathtaking, his pulsing soundtrack is fierce and effective, and his action is undeniably stylish, undeniably cool, undeniable fanboy fodder. Until it all bleeds away, that is, leaving Baby Doll and her fem-bots to meander through another long, exhausting session in Snyder's empowerment asylum. There is good in Sucker Punch, there really is. And Snyder has plenty of talent; his previous films didn't emerge from a talentless vacuum. But this is Snyder off the beaten path, and he never quite seems like he knows where he's going.
Sucker Punch Blu-ray, Video Quality
Sucker Punch may fizzle, but its 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer does no such thing. When the film is dark and brooding, director of photography Larry Fong's dingy greens, rusty browns and foreboding blacks are perfectly somber and sobering; when the film erupts with color -- be it by way of fire, explosions, crashing dirigibles, dragon's breath or futuristic cityscapes -- the screen lights up with eager ease. Skintones, of course, are warm, lifelike and attractive; contrast, while heavily stylized, remains strong and stable throughout; and primaries pack dazzling power. Sucker Punch is a bleak actioner, though, and shadows aggressively swallow detail. Otherwise, every misplaced hair, pulled thread and blazing shard of shrapnel is present and accounted for. Clarity is nearly impeccable, fine textures are crisp and refined, and delineation is as revealing as Snyder allows it to be. Better still, significant artifacting, banding and aberrant noise never make an appearance, and the crush that does traces back to Snyder and Fong, not the encode itself. The filmmakers' digital color grading and CG flourishes bully the practical photography, wiping away minute facial textures here and there, but fans shouldn't confuse the results with DNR applied by the studio. (The same anomaly, negligible as it is, was clearly visible in the film's digital theatrical presentation.) All in all, Snyder's latest makes the most of its Blu-ray debut. Those who enjoy the film will be thrilled with Warner's efforts.
Sucker Punch Blu-ray, Audio Quality
But even Warner's video presentation can't top its DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, a sonic sucker punch if there ever was one. LFE output is unbridled and untamed, infusing every enormous demon-Samurai weapon, thundering minigun, firing booster rocket, exploding biplane, deafening dragon roar, speeding train and devastating bomb with weight, power and ferocity. Meanwhile, the rear speakers rarely relent, raining all-too-entrancing destruction down on an already immersive soundfield and lending full support to Tyler Bates and Marius de Vries' score and Snyder's chosen classic-rock-song covers. Directionality is precise enough to split hairs, pans are silky smooth, and dynamics are both combative and commanding. And dialogue? Voices weather Snyder's most chaotic storms without flinching, meaning every line, whether whispered or shouted, comes through loud and crystal clear. When it comes to Warner's lossless track, I just don't have anything to complain about.
Sucker Punch Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray edition of Sucker Punch features two versions of the film on two BD-50 discs: a 110-minute PG-13-rated theatrical cut and director Zack Snyder's 128-minute R-rated Extended Cut. More importantly, Disc Two offers an excellent Maximum Movie Mode experience in which Snyder meticulously and methodically details the film's production and dissects his extended cut.
Sucker Punch Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Sucker Punch lost me early on and never managed to pull me back in. Snyder calls it female empowerment, but I call shenanigans. At least its Blu-ray release makes the most of its namesake. Its dazzling high definition video transfer is terrific, its DTS-HD Master Audio track is aggressive and absorbing, and its supplemental package -- well, its Maximum Movie Mode experience -- is far better than the film itself. Sucker Punch may not have worked for me, but it should be noted that it's an extremely divisive film that has its share of fans. I adore 300 and Watchmen, but they too have their detractors. Perhaps Snyder is simply a divisive director skilled in creating divisive art. Love it or loathe it, Sucker Punch is certainly worth watching, if only to participate in the discussion that will surely follow in its wake.
Sucker Punch: Other Editions
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Sucker Punch Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Sucker Punch Extended Cut Blu-ray - May 17, 2011
Warner Bros. has released more information on the Blu-ray release of Sucker Punch, which will feature an extended cut offering 18 additional minutes of footage. June 28th is the official street date for the blu-ray combo pack.
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