Directed by: Zack Snyder
Written by:Zack Snyder, Steve Shibuya
Starring: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Carla Gugino, Oscar Isaac, Jon Hamm, Scott Glenn
Released: April 7, 2011
Grade: C

Sucker Punch is what you’d get if you mixed Mulholland Drive, Showgirls and Tomb Raider and then turned it into a music video.  It’s an audacious effort from director Zack Snyder but unfortunately, it doesn’t work.  It’s actually quite boring.

The film begins with a lengthy musical montage.  We see a teenage girl (Browning) being locked up in a mental asylum by her vindictive step-father.  He wants to make sure she never gets out.  He has bribed the doctors and asked them to perform a lobotomy.

As the doctor gets ready to insert his scalpel, the film completely changes.  The girl now finds herself as a prisoner in a brothel.  In five days time, a wealthy guy known as the “High Roller” will be coming to collect her.  She realises that her only chance of survival is to escape.  It won’t be easy given the tight security but she will helped by four new friends and her show-stopping dancing ability.

This is a strange movie and the early reports from the United States suggest that it isn’t sitting too well with audiences.  Shot on a budget of roughly $80m, the film has pulled in just $29.8m over its first 10 days.  It slipped a staggering 68% during its second weekend – a clear sign of poor word of mouth.

I feel somewhat harsh in criticising the film because at least it’s trying to be something different.  As evidenced by 300 and Watchmen, Zack Snyder is continuing to push his own distinctive style of filmmaking – heavy on special effects, music and lengthy slow-motion sequences.  Dialogue is not in his repertoire.  He’d prefer to let the visuals do the talking.

Sadly, that technique doesn’t work here.  I was intrigued by the opening but as the film progressed, I realised that there wasn’t much to the story at all.  I felt like I was just watching fantasy sequence after fantasy sequence.  It’s hard to engage with the characters and connect with the story when you’ve no idea what’s going on.  I wish I could have video taped the audience’s puzzled facial expressions at the preview screening.

It’s worth mentioning that the two leading actresses in this film are both Australian – Emily Browning (A Series Of Unfortunate Events) and Abbie Cornish (Bright Star).  Both look stunning on screen but it’s a shame that the screenplay doesn’t require more of them.  I could say the same for the whole cast – particularly Jon Hamm (Mad Men) in a ridiculously tiny role.

Sucker Punch is too much style, not enough substance.