On the surface, Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch is the ultimate guy flick: it's got hot chicks in skimpy outfits wielding high-powered rifles, and its protagonist Baby Doll is dressed up as a prepubescent schoolgirl fantasy. But as you go deeper into the film, it dawns on you that you have never seen a film quite like this.
After her mother dies and being left in the care of her abusive stepfather, Baby Doll (played with deadpan innocence by Emily Browning) is sent to a mental institution for accidentally killing her sister. In five days she will be lobotomized, and so she uses her dreams and imagination to escape her inevitable reality. There she draws up a desperate plan to escape. Helping her are the other female patients of the hospital: the spunky Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), the sweet Amber (Jamie Chung), action-girl Rocket (Jena Malone) and the reluctant Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), all of whom in Baby Doll's mind become badass soldiers in the war for their freedom.
Most of the film's plot hinges on the events that happen in Baby Doll's vivid imagination, and so we're treated to some really stunning visuals. This is the Rule of Cool ramped up to 11, where girls in mecha suits fight zeppelins, and a katana-wielding schoolgirl throws down with minigun-toting samurai. Once action sequence in particular, where the girls lay siege to a moving train full of killer robots, is a dizzying yet insanely awesome display of bullet time, gun-kata, extreme close-ups and Snyder's patented "slow down then speed up" technique all at the same time. If something's worth doing, it's worth overdoing, and Snyder gets absolutely high marks on following that mantra alone. We were all WTFing on ever single action scene, and if we were paying to watch all that stylized violence, this film is considered a steal.
But as the film juggles between Baby Doll's reality and the fantastic worlds her mind makes up, the story gets even more incoherent. The lines between fantasy and reality are blurred, and we're left to wonder where it's all happening. The movie boasts of female empowerment, but the girls are ultimately powerless. Evil practically gets away with it, while the good is left to suffer the consequences. As the atrocities in the hospital grow worse with the abuse heaped on them by the slimy warden Mr. Blue (Oscar Isaac in a frighteningly over-the-top performance), you're hoping, cheering for the girls' escape plan to work. But things grow bleaker and bleaker until the film just saps the hope out of you , and in the end you're too tired to really care.
In the end, the only thing Snyder promised that came true is the movie's tagline: you will be unprepared. This movie is a literal sucker punch to every preconceived notion on what a film that looks and feels like this should work. In this case, it doesn't. Watch the movie for the girls in chaps and miniskirts kicking metric tons of ass, and hope it dulls you enough to forget the rest of it.