The Reel Deal
A Reel Deal Film Review
Film Insight by Tyler Malone
Reel Rating: 0 out of 5
“AND THE SUCKER THAT GETS PUNCHED IS YOU!”
When you go into a movie with no expectations, it’s surprising–and sad–when that movie fails to live up to the expectations that you don’t even have. Sucker Punch is just such a movie: a film so utterly without redeeming qualities that I don’t think my review–no matter how scathing it is–will be able to express the depth of my disappointment. (And this is said by someone who watched it for free, who had no expectations and who generally enjoys films of all types.)
I am an avid filmgoer and movie buff. Even moderately bad movies interest me and I often find them somewhat pleasurable. I might have given a chick flick like No Strings Attached a 2 out of 5 (which if these were grades in school would fall well into the F territory), but I didn’t mind spending my time (or even my money) seeing it. Of course, so long as my life doesn’t veer drastically off track, I have no plans of seeing No Strings Attached again any time soon, and I wouldn’t go about recommending it to people–unless cheesy, predictable chick flicks are their thing–but I don’t regret the time and money spent seeing it. I see over 100 NEW films annually and usually there are only a handful of movies each year that make me wish I had my time back. These are the films to that I give zeros to: films so irredeemably awful that I can’t stomach the thought of even giving them a half reel.
Of that small set of terrible films that don’t even warrant a half reel, this one is most deserving of the no man’s land of zeros-ville. Every film I gave a zero to last year is better than Sucker Punch (with the possible exception of The Last Airbender, which is the best comparison I can make to this film). Actually, Sucker Punch is The Last Airbender in a bra and panties trying to be the prostitute on the corner. So what exactly is wrong with Sucker Punch, you ask? Can you stay a while? Because I could go on and on…
First of all, the best way to explain the film is to just go ahead and say it: this is a film made for 12-year-old boys who love videogames and the soft-core porn they sneak from their parents’ Cinemax. But really, if I were you, Mr. Pre-Teen Demographic, I’d stick with my videogames and late-night sneak peaks of soft-core porn, because even if they have a lesser production value, they can’t really be much worse.
The set-up for the film is that a girl, who gets abused by her step-father, accidentally shoots her sister while trying to protect her from the monstrous abusive father. She subsequently is sent off to a mental asylum, where the girls are further abused and forced to do seductive dances, etc. Baby Doll–that’s her brilliant new name in the asylum–when forced to dance, enters her imagination and creates lame, cut-rate videogame scenarios to distract her from the sexual dance she performs. The magical thing though is that while she seemingly does not pay attention to her moves because she’s lost in her imagination, she manages to be the greatest sexy dancer ever (apparently, though we, of course, never get to witness this because we constantly follow her into her boring head). When she dances, the “bad guys”–I use such a kindergarten term for them because they really are cliché cardboard cut-outs rather than fleshed-out characters–can’t pay attention to anything besides her gyrating hips. They are powerless in the face of this little vamp. I guess we’re supposed to believe she’s like a sexy, lady-Elvis? Long story short: if she dances, and the other girls steal random stuff for their escape while everyone is entranced by the dance, then they can all try and get their freedom. This is a plan that comes to them through some guardian angel that guides Baby Doll in her dreams. Are you starting to understand what I mean? Sucker Punch is starting to sound about as fun as an actual sucker punch, right?
Though the Sucker Punch name is more apropos than they intended, instead of Sucker Punch, the film really ought to be called Cock Tease. Every time Baby Doll is about to do her magic dance–which it seems could rival even Salome’s Dance of the Seven Veils–the story then enters her imagination and we go into the videogame mode of her dream world. We never actually witness this entrancing dancing of hers. It’s the equivalent of going to a strip club and as soon as it is about to get to “the good stuff,” you get up and go play some videogames instead. Honestly, soft-core porn (where they don’t even show any of “the good stuff” either) is more satisfying than this–and it respects the viewer more. What makes the film even more impossible to sit through is that the same thing keeps happening over and over. It’s legitimately like a broken record: real world problems, strip tease set-up, dream world videogame, real world problems, strip tease set-up, dream world videogame, real world problems, strip tease set-up, dream world videogame, real world problems, ad infinitum. You keep hoping something good and satisfying will come next, but really you know the movie is just going to keep disappointing. And oh does it! All the way to the absolutely ridiculous and laughable end! (Except by the time you get to the end, laughing is the last thing you want to do–pulling your hair out is probably closer to the sentiment I felt.)
Besides the fact that the basic plot is completely ill-conceived/boring/atrocious/offensive (you can play Madlibs and put any other negative word you like there), the minute details of the script are even worse. It has the terrible dialogue of a 70s sexploitation B-movie, except it has none of the intentional fun camp to go with it–or if the movie is meant to be fun and campy that was completely lost on me. Maybe opening with an overdramatic mom-dying/dad-abusing/sister-murder scene coupled with an overly moody cover of The Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” is not the way to go if they want this to be a fun action-sex-romp? But if they want this to be dramatic or emotional, which it seems at times they do, then they need to work on the writing. And then work on the acting. And then work on the directing. Actually, pretty much all aspects of the film need work. Can they just start all over? In fact, why don’t they just make a mediocre rom-com instead? It’d cost less, and I’m not lying when I say I’d watch No Strings Attached ten times in a row before I’d subject myself to watching this shit-fest again.
When I left the theater, I turned on my iPhone to see if anyone had texted me or emailed me in the two hours previous. After that I went on twitter and read a tweet by Patton Oswalt: “Should I go see SUCKER PUNCH or jerk off to Sailor Moon while reading Mein Kampf and save $15?” I laughed out loud–which was one time more than I had in the theater. The only laughs this movie got were those sad, shake-your-head-in-disbelief laughs that don’t so much make a sound, except perhaps a tiny whimper of disappointment. The film was full of those non-laughing laughs that seem to simultaneously say both “How did they get away with this travesty?” and “What else could I be doing right now?” I’d rather have been doing lots of things–almost anything, in fact–even simultaneously brushing up on my Sailor Moon, self-pleasuring and Mein Kampf as Patton Oswalt suggests (which is an appalling activity that literally only sounds desirable in comparison to seeing this ugly, awful film).
All I keep coming back to is thinking: How much did this movie cost? How many millions? How many great art films could have been produced with that money? Give P. T. Anderson that money! Please! He’s trying to make a movie and can’t get the funding–yet his last film (There Will Be Blood) was up for a Best Picture Oscar, and was one of the best films of the last decade. I guess it comes down to me thinking that it should be harder to make a really bad film than a really good one, instead of vice versa. Yeah, you need talent to make a good one, but people should want to put their money behind talented people. Instead, they fund bullshit like this. And that’s the real sucker punch for a cinephile like me–not only did I waste my time in seeing this damn film, but Hollywood wasted WAY TOO MUCH time, effort and money on this crap, when they could have been funding some cinema that’d be worthwhile, a movie that’d be remembered in twenty, fifty, a hundred years. They could have funded the next film masterpiece. Why set the bar so high? Actually, all I would have wanted would have been for them to just produce something that’d make me think, or make me laugh, or make me cry, or make me smile…make me do anything besides feel like I just got sucker punched in the crotch.
Sucker Punch is a film directed by Zach Snyder and written by Zach Snyder and Steve Shibuya. It stars Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Chung. A young girl is institutionalized by her abusive stepfather. Retreating to an alternative reality as a coping strategy, she envisions a plan which will help her escape from the mental facility.
Written by Tyler Malone
Photography Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Design by Jillian Mercado