April 7, 2011 by 1 Comment
Remember Emily Browning’s innocence as Violet in Lemony Snicket’s “ A Series of Unfortunate Events?” Then, she graduated to a more disturbed role as Anna in “The Uninvited.” Her various other roles have proven how underrated she is as an actress, and now in her twenties and much more grown up, she is the definitive main attraction of Zack Snyder’s latest reality/fantasy film “Sucker Punch.” Based on an original concept unlike 300 and Watchmen, Snyder’s pic chroni- cles the hard life of Browning’s Babydoll who is forced into a mental institution by her pervert stepfather to be lobotomized ( Mad Men’s Jon Hamm is the cautionary surgeon). Snyder’s use of subdued noir like lighting intensifies the tragic circumstances surroun- ding this injustice. But at the same time the story allows Babydoll to use her imagination, in plotting an escape along with four other female inmates. At Browning’s side on this perilous rollercoaster is a talented cast of ladies with colorful names. There’s Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), her younger sister Rocket (Jena Ma- lone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung). All of them attractive and resigned to their present dismal situation as pleasure givers to frequent visitors to the in- stitution. Until Babydoll enters the picture. Their prime antagonist is the sadistic Blue played with sharp witted cleverness by Oscar Isaac. Like the late great actor Paul Newman, he’s “Nobody’s Fool.” As head honcho, he oversees everything with an investigative acuteness that makes you believe he had to be some sort of detective before ending up as a crazy house manager/pimp. His im- pact on everyone at the asylum is quite formidable. Let’s face it, our heroines may be bold in their efforts, but they can always use some help. And it comes in the form of veteran Scott Glenn as “The Wise Man” who is their only outside support and mentor. He maybe a mere figment of Babydoll’s imagina- tion. Or maybe not because he convinces you of his reality and roughly guides them through all the chaotic mayhem Browning’s dream world conjures. Another ally, rather duplicitous but considerably more real, is Carla Gugino’s Madame Gorsky. With her fancy updo inflating her importance in this mental zoo, she faithfully and firmly instructs the girls in the theatrical arts, pushing them to show their inner talents. She knows she must obey the wishes of her boss or face dire consequences and simultaneously keep these fine ladies in the land of the living if Blu wants repeat business. Babydoll’s talent is apparently dancing. But unfortunately you never get to see her actually cut a rug. It’s replaced by her flights of fancy as she and her cohorts battle zom- bies, samurais, World War I zeppelins and ferocious fire breathing dragons; all in an ef- fort to find five items that will guarantee their escape. Snyder’s visuals, as they were for his Spartan epic 300 and provided by such f/x magicians as Animal Logic, are quite stunning. When Sucker Punch lulls a bit, he reener- gizes the movie with another thrill trip, literally tossing his female quartet into nail biting bedlam. There’s nothing surprising about them because you know when their coming - and you anticipate them. If you have watched the trailers, you know Scott Glenn’s Wiseman reveals every item except the fifth, which is a mystery. It’s here of course where Snyder’s movie be- comes intensely dramatic. Kind of reminds me of Dorothy’s revelation in The Wizard of Oz courtesy of Glinda. You may even figure out what this elusive mystery is before Sucker Punch rolls it’s final credits.