I’ve seen 79 films this year and have written about 11 of them. Can I catch up?

12: Sucker Punch (cinema)

sucker punch ~ n.
1. a sudden surprise punch, esp from behind
2. a sudden unexpected defeat or setback

Whilst there is much wrong with Sucker Punch as a film, there area also enough grubby hands over its structure that you get the feeling that blame needs to be spread. Its near total failure at all levels of course makes it an extremely fascinating film, the very name of the film being an example. Why exactly is this film of nested fantasies called Sucker Punch? When you look at the definition of a Sucker Punch, there seems only tangential relationships between the plot and this kind of unexpected twist. So is it?

a) The unexpected setback to Zack Snyder’s career, which up to now had been commercially and artistically* successful

b) The damage done to original auteur led action films. For all the good Inception may have done to the cause of telling original stories expecting the audience to keep up, Sucker Punch clearly undoes. Like Christopher Nolan, Snyder plunges the audience into his multilayer, multi-leveled story which takes place in the characters mind. Unlike Inception it never justifies its multi-leveled hallucinations, its arbitrary computer game structure and viewers don’t even have any source material to refer back to if they want it all to pull together.

c) The unexpected punch in the guts of its own “twists”. It probably means this, but having a plot which is similar to Shutter Island with extra skimpy dancing girls (who we never see dance) means any twist about which realities are real end up meaning next to nothing to the audience. We certainly don’t care about the characters.

d) The unexpected blow it deals to the corrupt and barbaric 1950’s US insane asylum system. Unexpected one assumes due to the fact that said system had been dismantled fifty years ago.

For me what is fascinating about Sucker Punch is that it is basically a musical (akin to Chicago or Dancer In The Dark) where all the musical numbers have been replaced by fantasy action sequences. Indeed Chicago has very similar transition sequences into songs. Why Snyder does this is unclear, but there could be an equally messy if much more satisfying (and cheaper) version with the songs in and the action sequences out. And actually mentioning Dancer In The Dark brings up the final key point, that all films which significantly feature Bjork’s Army Of Me are terrible. It was written for the Tank Girl movie you know.

*Even if you think his films have been all flash and no heart, you have to say he has handled the flash well.