Sunday, November 27, 2011

Review: Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch is a live-action anime with pretty actresses in sexy cosplay taking down samurai monsters, dragons, robots, medieval knights and even the Nazis. It has most of the right elements to indicate a fun time at the movies, but all it got were lacklustre reception at the box office and poor reviews from a majority of critics instead.

As a movie for the masses, it is a failure, primarily because the filmmakers opted for a tone that is a little too bleak and depressing, despite its PG rating. The lead, played by Emily Browning, who starred in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, goes through another series of unfortunate events in Sucker Punch. She escapes the clutches of an abusive stepfather, only to accidentally kill her own sister, which lands her in a nightmarish asylum surrounded by constant threats of sexual abuse or lobotomy, which she re-imagines in her mind as a brothel-cum-burlesque-club. Not exactly the kind of stuff you expect in a blockbuster movie.

Wait a second, you say. How exactly does all the crazy anime stuff come in? In order to "escape" some of her sordid predicaments, she dreams up an elaborate fantasy world where she and her asylum inmates are mercenaries with exceptional skills in gunplay and martial arts; at times a combination of both. It is in these sequences where the movie really shines, as director Zack Snyder shows great relish in mimicking John Woo's gun-fu without constantly shaking the camera. (There was one particularly noteworthy awesome use of an assault rifle.) Such qualities are so rare in action sequences nowadays that I easily soften up to any movies with great action, even if they don't deliver quality stories. See Mortal Kombat, Dead or Alive, the Resident Evil movies, etc.

I think what Snyder was trying to do here is to create an action movie with hot chicks and a little bit more substance than is usually associated with the genre. However, I don't think the seriousness and dark elements go well with the Hong Kong-anime-hybrid-style, but it's no more subversive than any Quentin Tarantino films. The problem lies in the management of expectations. If Snyder had marketed his movie as a homage to exploitation flicks or even as an unapologetic action flick, I believe the backlash wouldn't have been as bad. Personally, I would have dumped the "real world" elements entirely and go for an all-out fantasy setting, throw in some much-missed humour, and the traditional action flick one-liners, of course.

Great if you have a predisposition towards action chicks.
Better, if you're a fan of Jena Malone (a.k.a. "Rocket").
Not so great if you hate dark, depressing movies.