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Cruel and Unusual Punishment: Sucker Punch lives up to its title 

Sucker Punch's premise of Catholic-school-meets-Victoria Secret girls fighting demons, dragons and kicking ass was somewhat appealing.

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Unfortunately, Zack Snyder, the guy who brought us the fast-paced Dawn of the Dead redux and the intriguing Watchmen, has softened to PG-13 territory. I went into the widely anticipated Sucker Punch wondering, will this film deliver or not? The previews looked promising. The premise of Catholic-school-meets-Victoria Secret girls fighting demons, dragons and kicking ass was somewhat appealing. Well, Sucker Punch not only doesn't deliver, it's a wretched mess. I can only assume the reason for its title is that it lands a roundhouse blow to the back of the audience's skull for not anticipating how incredibly lame it would be.

The extremely ridiculous plot unfolds in music video bravado and I half expected some titles in the corner to tell me which horrid rock band was doing "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)."

Wrongfully locked away in an insane asylum, a young woman named Babydoll (an extremely pouty Emily Browning) spends her life between two fantasy worlds: a brothel and her "Video Game Island." She accesses the latter place by dancing (a feat we never see her do). As soon as she closes her big-lashed eyelids we are transported to a video game-type sword battle and/or shoot out. Determined to fight for freedom, she enlists four women - Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), snotty bitch Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) and Amber (Jamie Chung) as background filler to try to escape the terrible phoney fate that awaits them.

A parallel universe is a cool idea, if executed correctly. This is not a dream within a dream or anything like that. This is a futile attempt to tell three separate stories to interlace the plot. Yet, I couldn't tell which of the three versions was the worst: the unbelievable reality, the insipid brothel version, or the hideously contrived video game battle sequences.

This is Snyder's first attempt at a graphic novel-type script, but without any real attempt at social commentary. It's all action fluff and unoriginal to the max. Sucker Punch lacks any spunk in a virtual sea of promising spunkiness. This flick also lacks any vampiness - the heroines are dressed in schoolgirl-ballerina-slut outfits intended to entice male fantasy, but they don't come across as the sexpot dancers or tough fighters they're supposed to appear as. Instead, they emerge as inept hookers and vulnerable crybabies.

The production values are immensely artistic, but the choreography of slow-mo acrobatics is just old hat. We're so overexposed to the tired Matrix-like fight sequences that we've become numb to them. If a flick is going to go overboard with computer graphics, let it explode with originality. Here is a list of things in Sucker Punch that have already been done more than once in other flicks: Nazi zombies... check. Shiny glass-jaw fighting faceless robots ... check. Man-in-machine rock 'em sock 'em robots... check. Big Japanese samurai warriors straight out of Kurosawa's Kakgemusha... sorry, check. Really cool-looking fire breathing dragon... check. Doomsday time bomb on a train... check. Scott Glenn as a Zen master... wait, that's never been done before. Glenn dishes out fortune-cookie wisdom to the orphan chicks like Karate Kid meets Charlie's Angels.

Sucker Punch has plenty of dull moments. The dialogue is atrocious, the characters are never developed and the acting is as cardboard as it gets. The exceptions are Carla Gugino rattling off a Polish accent and Isaac Otis (the overacting king from the recent Robin Hood) hamming it up as Blue, the pimp and/or head nurse, depending on the scene.

With such a fresh look and the girls-in-prison concept at his disposal, Snyder drops the ball and makes one long, boring, high-tech ambush. Somewhere in here is a Russ Meyer flick dying to get out. As an aside, I noticed Sucker Punch was a "Cruel and Unusual" film production. I concur. Sucker Punch made me feel like I got punched in the brain. All the distracting action still can't mask the stupidity.



Starring Emily Browning, Abbie
Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa
Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Oscar Isaac,
Carla Gugino , Scott Glenn

Directed by Zack Snyder

Rated PG-13


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