Despite that Sucker Punch was directed by the very same man that did The Watchmen, one of my all time least favorite films, the cover really sold me.
The description was about girls in an insane asylum (or perhaps just their own minds) have to break free from something something cast includes occasional-haver-of-a-real-career Abbie Cornish, usually-credible Jena Malone, disgraced Disney tween star/sexter Vanessa Hudgens, some other people, and JON MOTHERFUNKING HAMM. I had to see it to believe it! What is at the apex of his career Jon Hamm doing in this movie with these B and C list teen babes in fetish gear?! MUST FIND OUT. Rented! Done and done.
It’s pretty amazing, to wit:
A stage curtain pulls back and we are cast into a greyed out close up on a young girl, teenage, heavily made up and looking like a cross between 60s/70s Dolly Parton (white blonde Lolita ringlet pigtails, wide face and eyes) and contemporary porn star/Paris Hilton. She is wearing so much make-up and batting huge fake eye lashes I could not figure out whether whomever conceived her look for this film is either a gay man with vast experience doing drag make up or the straightest straight man ever, such a caricture of innocent blonde femme fuckability is she. She looks anguished for approx two seconds and then, along with the pumping slow burn cover of shit–I dunno, it felt like “Janie’s Got A Gun” but it wasn’t–we see her sprint down a hall way in slow mo in a tight pastel onesie to the bedside of her dead mother. She looks up, her fat sweating stepfather looks at her lasciviously and begins to loosen his tie, and flashes classic “I’m going to rape you” foreshadowing. In runs the little sister who trips and falls and grabs the bedsheet, only to reveal their dead mother. Jump cut the funeral where he gives here the up and down. Jump cut to a close up of the mans hand opening an envelope labeled “My Last Will And Testament”, where we read that everything has been left to the two daughters. The man sweeps everything from the top of his desk in a rage. Jump cut to him chugging brown liquor. The music is pumping and everything is still in slo-mo–nothing so far of the movie is in real time.
The creepy man comes up stairs to do his raping and the blonde girl (who we will soon find out is named BABYDOLL) attacks his face and slams the door and then reverse shot into a video-game quality CGI of Babydoll’s eye looking through the keyhole, reflecting the scene outside–the man is going after her sister who, in a particularly sick turn, is like, all of 8-9 years old. He is going to punish the dead mom and her sassy daughter now and shows us by cackling. So Babydoll does the only thing she can–and she jumps out the window and shimmies down the the side of house (in the torrential downpour that’s been in every scene and will continue for quote a few more) and goes for the gun which we know lives in the drawer alongside the will. she runs back inside, gets it, runs upstairs as the man is trying to kick in the closet door of the little girl and he sees Babydoll and smirks to say he doesn’t believe she will pull the trigger, but AVAST ye rapey dad, she does, but! but! the bullet goes into the closet, richochets off a pipe and instead she has shot and killed her own sister and the stepdad thinks it’s so funny.
Ok, so that there–that’s basically the first 90 seconds of Sucker Punch. ACTION PACKED. What a way to start a film, no? Defenseless children about to be raped will really get you on the edge of your seat.
Babydoll’s step dad fetches her from the police and takes her to THE GIRLS HOSPITAL FOR THE MENTALLY INSANE in Brattleboro VT (all of this on the hospitals sign). Every orderly is an gross rapey man like this one who brought her, and there is a lot of foreshadowing going on and finally, at about 3 minutes in, everything stops being in slo-mo music video style, but as soon as she is getting locked up in the hospital, a bad slow-burn electronica version of the Pixies “Where Is My Mind?” begins, and via the first dialogue we hear is the evil mustachioed orderly explaining to the rape-dad that for the $2000 he’s bribing him (that’s a steal for a surgical procedure, even post healthcare reforms) with he will make sure no cops can get an answer out of her and that in 5 days the illegal lobotomy doctor will be here and that’ll take care of her. He is dumb and whispers this into Babydoll’s hair and NOW SHE KNOWS! She furrows her brow so we know she knows!
Flashforward into her her eyeball or her fantasy brain and suddenly the UNMISTAKEABLE SILHOUETTE OF JON HAMM IS PRESSING AN ICEPICK TO BABYDOLLS FACE. Jon Hamm who is listed perhaps sixth in the credits, for appearing as a backlit lobotomist (though apparently he has a full on role later on). A slow-burn electro cover of “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane begins. In lieu of dialogue, they play horrible songs for explanation.
So then, we flash again into Babydoll’s fantasy brain or her Thorazine dream or perhaps her reality and DUN-DUN-DUN it turns out that this girls hospital for the mentally insane is also actually a strip club as well as a whorehouse where the girls are being held against their will. Jena Malone, sporting a bright red 90’s Reba McEntire hairstyle, a push up bra, leotard, tap pants and thigh highs and going by the name “Rocket” shows Babydoll the ropes and then, like maybe 1-2 minutes later Babydoll saves Rocket from being raped by the hulking bald chef of the hospital-whorehouse. Lucky for her Babydoll is so brave and experienced with fighting off sweaty old rapers!
At some point around here, Babydoll speaks for the first time–and we are roughly 10 minutes in. I forgot what she said but it was really apparent she has not acted before.
Shortly thereafter, like, as in the very next scene she leads Babydoll to the stripclub/prison’s BALLET FUCKING STUDIO where Vanessa Hudgens and Abbie Cornish and the Asian character who may not have a name are stretching at a barre in what I imagine the script suggested as “slutty workout clothes and/or whatever is on clearance at Victorias Secret”
There, a woman who is a cross between Debbie Reynolds’ character from FAME and Natasha from Rocky&Bullwinkel, (the “therapist” in Babydolls other reality) is the dance instructor. They explain that Babydoll has to come up with a special dance for the important man she is going to be pimped to in 5 days. The dance instructor lady turns on Bjork’s “Army of Me” but Babydoll can’t get down to that. The lady pounds her cane on the floor and commands in an accent that is Russian-y but flirts with being German-y “DANCE! DANCE! DANCE!” The orderly/pimps are there watching to see if she’s got the right stuff to make it as a virgin sacrifice/Lolita stripper bait/lobotomy victim. But Babydoll can’t move. The Natasha comes over and whispers some bullshit about if she dances that is the only way she will be free, and starts the music again. We reverse into her heavily made up eye and SUDDENLY WE ARE IN AN ANCIENT JAPANESE TEMPLE WHERE BABYDOLL IS HAS AUDIENCE WITH THAT CRAGGLEFACED KEITH CARADINE, FUNG FU MASTER.
“What is it you want Babydoll?”
“I don’t know?!”
“Why is it you are here?”
“I want to get out of here?!”
“You want to be free then you will need these five things: a map, fire, a knife, a rope (I forgot, maybe it’s a gun? a ladder?) and A MYSTERY OBJECT.”
Babydoll should just locate a game of Clue and she could have a candlestick as well, for her fire. He gives her a sword and then for about 2-3 minutes she then has to fight what amount to 8th century Japanese Transformers and she is green screened into what looks like a very fancy video game.
Flipping and spinning over the swords she goes, in slow mo again.
It’s so stupid I felt embarrassed to be watching it even with my own husband.
She is returned to her unreal world, out of her fantasy within her stripperjail fantasy, and we are shown her panting and sweaty (oh and she’s been wearing a micro-skirted sailor dress and torn thigh highs since arriving at the hospital, which is now a midriff bearing outfit somehow)–and the whole room is slackjawed and does the slow-clap to thunderous applause. Even the pimps are super impressed. She has danced up a sensual storm, she’s the new strip club contender, escaping her imprisonment through sexy dancing, though clearly they will need more than that to get away.
Thats roughly the first 22 mins of the movie. By 30 minutes in there is a war with NAZI ZOMBIES where the whole crew of girls fight in fetish gear and Vanessa Hudgens is basically a pint sized Tura Satana, all commando strut, tits and a bouffant. That’s as far as I made it. I am totally content with leaving it there, at least for now. That’s about all the Sucker Punch I can handle.