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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sucker Punch

Some of them want to abuse you. Some of them want to be abused.

The thing that makes Zack Snyder such an important director in this day of modern cinema is his fearlessness. Obviously, there are hundreds of fearless directors out there right now. Recently, a film about a psychotic tire was released onto the public. Yes, a tire. Firestone, most likely. But Snyder's fearlessness is a bit different - he can make the films he wants to make, do them how he thinks they should be done, and do so without ever alienating his audience. He's brash, he's all up in your comfort zone, and he takes charges that make me think every time I watch one of his films. 

Except for Legends of the Guardian. But, we don't talk about Legends of the Guardian. 

More after the cut --

The first thing that will always come to mind when I look back at this film is its opening sequence. The second will be Quentin Tarantino's obvious influence from his Kill Bill series (a series which, in its kind, will never be topped). But, even at that, Snyder's voice is loudly heard. I can consider him a conductor of some sort - his musical choices propel his action, and his action is in a way much like music. It's all very hand in hand. Employing his lead star Emily Browning to sing the title track of Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) in the opening scene was his best move - that scene stayed with me throughout the rest of the flick. It's, for my money, the best movie moment of the year so far. If you've seen it, you'll know what I'm talking about. But, for those of you who haven't yet witnessed the glory of Sucker Punch, I'll only say this - she gets put into an insane asylum, for apparently a very good reason. The rest is all open to interpretation. Bjork, Queen, and Janis Joplin also make (remixed) appearances on the soundtrack. 

The film, as previously stated, is part Kill Bill, part The Neverending Story, and part The Wizard of Oz. All in one gloriously trippy hybrid. One horrific tragedy leads to a horrific crime, which leads to the awakening and mental redemption of a young girl trapped in a horrific place. Our lead, known as Baby Doll, is orphaned and placed in an institution for the criminally insane. 

Unfortunately, I can make a few key complaints regarding the film. Emily Browning doesn't have the screen presence necessary for us to fully commit to this journey with her, Vanessa Hudgens isn't the best actress for her type of role, and the screenplay runs a bit dry for about half an hour in the middle. But, the supporting cast and Snyder's inventive direction keep the film's head way above water. The standouts are as expected, Abbie Cornish and Carla Gugino (who never gets the credit she deserves) and Scott Glenn. The surprise of the cast, however, is the villain of our story - Blue, played with genius and sleaze by Oscar Isaac. I recognized him from his turn as Joseph in The Nativity Story, and I have since remembered that I saw him once on Law & Order: Criminal Intent. He plays Blue, a club owner/prison ward who watches over the girls in more ways than one, and so becomes his character that you forget you're watching an actor do his job. 

The ride of Sucker Punch is, however, only half of the experience. It's an action film for thinkers. Of course, some will dismiss it immediately, but this is one of the most unfortunate things about audiences today. Some won't give it a chance, and the ones who blindly go into it will love it for the wrong reasons. Obviously, it's a film meant to entertain. But, it's also a film with a large message and one sucker punch (!) of a twist ending. The kind of ending that will linger in your skin for hours after watching it. God knows it had that effect on me.