I don’t do film reviews on this blog (yet). I don’t do film reviews because the world of film blogging has plenty more worthwhile voices in it, without mine adding to the clamour. But on Wednesday I saw a film so awful that I wanted to lash out physically. That film was Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch.
I want to make it clear that I quite like Zack Snyder’s previous work. 300 was silly enough and pretty enough to be watchable, and Watchmen is epic. But Sucker Punch is unfor-fucking-givably bad. It substitutes plotline for plotholes, and everything past the first 15 minutes is completely unwatchable. I have never, ever walked out of a film at the cinema, but I came damn close this time.
There is a point around half hour into the film when Sweet Pea says that dancing should be about more than just titillation, that it should tell a story, and that sums up Sucker Punch better than anything else. You can’t make a film with no clear plotline work using eye-candy and titillation. It turns out there’s only so far $82m worth of special effects and farcical amounts of bondage gear can get you.
And don’t even get me started on the semi-intelligible pretentious bullshit monologue that closes the whole affair. It made me gag. I’m not even joking. Sucker Punch almost became the second film this year I’ve thrown up in (the first being Black Swan, which really wasn’t helped by me feeling ill before we even went into the cinema). Seriously, whenever you think it can’t get any worse (and it gets bad quickly, right when The Pixies’ Where Is My Mind kicks in), it surprises you with some twist or badly-delivered one-liner that just drags the whole thing to a new level of awful. And the final 30 seconds take it from “Well, that was shit,” to, “Oh my god I can’t believe I paid money to see this monstrosity and supported this arsehole’s career.”
Now to the casting. I get it. Sex sells. But they might as well have called the asylum ‘Lennox House for the Unfeasibly Attractive (and Mentally Insane)’. Abbie Cornish couldn’t deliver a line if she worked for FedEx, Vanessa Hudgens did nothing but cry, gasp and have a hairstyle, and the token minority character was just that – relegated to pilot’s duties for the most part.
Emily Browning wasn’t terrible as Baby Doll, but she’s very, very one-dimensional. There’s something really sexploitation-y about the incarnation of this virginal, child-like character who basically jiggles her bits around to distract men on a regular basis throughout the film. It’s the big male myth of that chaste virgin who’s secretly pure filth. And given that the cleavage-ridden dream-sequences in the film are supposed to be hers, we have to conclude that she is ultimately no more than a hyper-sexualised masturbatory prop.
Segueing nicely into the issue of feminism… I’ve heard some people describe Sucker Punch as a feminist flick. It’s not. Not one fucking bit. All the “ass kicking” and “girl power” is: a) done in short, short skirts and high, high heels, and b) restricted to a fantasy realm in Baby Doll’s head. The central message is, “Yes, girls, have your fun, but sooner or later you have to live in the real world.” The real world where three of the five die, one is lobotomised, and the other is only saved by a completely random act of overwhelming kindness from a (male) bus driver. It’s not feminist – quite the opposite, it’s downright misogynistic and almost offensively so.
This film is all kinds of awful. I haven’t ever left a cinema wanting to punch someone before. It’s so bad, the hate kept me awake for 4 hours. It’s worse than anything I’ve seen on VHS or late, late, late on Film4. I would honestly rather watch live torture. I would rather be punched in the mouth than watch it again. Please don’t see it. Please don’t give your hard-earned money to a project which, in being made, has set cinema back 25 years. It is an obscene sexploitation flick which cost a staggering $80m to make kind of cool-looking.