Suckerpunch. Directed by Zack Snyder. Starring (maybe featuring better): Emily Browning (the one with the bee-sting lips stuffed into the crevasse-seeking spandex outfit) ; Abbie Cornish (the one with the bee-sting lips stuffed into the crevasse-seeking spandex outfit); Vanessa Hudgens (the one with the bee-sting lips stuffed into the crevasse-seeking spandex outfit); Jenna Malone (the one with the bee-sting lips stuffed into the crevasse-seeking spandex outfit); Oscar Isaac ( I think he actually paid them for a part in this one); Carla Gugino (putting up a good fight at 40-something I’m guessing and not to be forgotten for her stark naked walk-on in Sin City, which Snyder did not do but if he didn’t, should have… though based on subsequent would not have altered much); Jon Hamm (over-exposed these days in a spate of second-banana parts); Scott Glenn (Ouch! Somebody left the phonebook out in the rain).
Whoa! Every hot new post-pubescent “bulging Aphrodite” on the B-List, crammed (unsuccessfully, Lord love them) into an ever-increasing array with ever-diminishing coverage by ever-more-revealing camisoles, bustiers, culottes, bas de soie, and framboiseries (dunno what this last one is exactly, but sound French and likely erotic) of ever-so-adolescent ( I presume all the act-trices are in their 30’s) pink viand (the other white meat). Curiously for the prurient among us there’s skin but no skin, if you catch my drift… and only the one that I recall more or less chaste kiss. Into this cauldron of gynicity we drop (drip might be better) Scott Glenn as Zen sensei-cum-Yoda, squatting manfully on a prayer mat and disencumbering himself of incomprehensible Hollywood koans. Hamm draws the short straw, gets to fetch up a bespectacled lobotomist; guy has to snag some representation before he gets type-cast as the stiff (see Ben Affleck’s The Town, for instance).
This thing is just plain old visually spectacular, no use mincing words. Computer-generated effects range from the inevitable fireballs and detonations to brooding fields of ruin in a post-apocalyptic world to outer-planetary vistas and sinister robotic lunks, not the least of these a sort of streamlined WWI Sturmmann, unearthly in his coal-scuttle helmet and goggle-eyed gasmask, shooting pssssshhhht jets of released vapor as our girls slice up his filter tube with samurai swords or blow holes in his thorax with their trench sweepers. Kinda cool. And noisy… since it’s all accompanied by max-gain, threshold-of-pain headbanger music of what I guess is classic vintage…thumpa thumpa thumpa. The reigning coloris is a sort of flat wash of sepia, ocher, sienna, umber that flattens the images, stylizes and abstracts them, much as we saw in Sky Captain (not Snyder), Sin City (not Snyder), Watchmen (Snyder), 300 (Snyder). The spectacle compels, makes it difficult to avert the eyes even to score another handful of gummi bears. It’s just that beyond the eyeful there, there’s not a whole lot of there there. If, on the other hand, this guy Snyder ever links up with a writer of talent (he’s credited himself as writer on this one, more’s the pity) or a tale worth telling, he can do some real damage, I’m thinking. The money’s to hand, the art, too… just not the wit or the heart.
In Snyder’s defense, be it noted, he troubles us with neither dialogue nor story. Small blessing.
Well, what happens? Babydoll, a vacant but sybaritic Browning (whom the camera laps up in an unending string of close-in shots… of vacancy writ large, alas), has plugged step-dad for molesting little sister, but he manages to recount the incident his way and have her incarcerated in Brattleboro, Vermont (the horror, the horror!) at the Lennox Institute, where in a lugubrious Shutter Island warren of cells and alcoves, a maniple of young (and halfheartedly-clad) houris practices to put on a show for the locals. Babydoll, first scorned by her coreligionnaires, contrives to win them over with her siren-dance (which we never see, by the bye: evidently Ms. Browning’s talents lie elsewhere than with Terpsichore), during which she astral-projects into bizarre Satori-quest trials under the guidance of David Carradine-Scott Glenn-Dali Lama in a mishmash of Eastern wisdom leavened by aphorisms from Deepak Gupta or whatever his name is this week (“You have all the weapons you need. Now, fight…”). Each out-of-body (and we never get far from that body, if you catch my drift) experience leads to an article in the Quest (map, fire, knife, key, rope… in the library with Colonel Mustard) the quest being liberation from the brothel-institute-cabaret. Lesson coming! Sacrifice is noble. Book-of-Job-like, a single survivor swims away (uh… sorry: that’s Moby-Dick-like) to tell the tale (and deliver the lesson).
Aw, man. With all that money and all those people (several of whom are bright and capable… that’s the odds, anyhow), couldn’t somebody tell somebody it wouldn’t work? …that it was a tragic waste of precious resources? By that I intend, of course, not money nor craft nor talent wasted, but rather frittered away the good-will, patience, respect of grown-up theater-goers (not that I’m one… I’m there for the crevasse-seeking spandex). This is getting serious, though. What they’ve accomplished with these brutish, throbbing impulses, explosive images, humorless expositions is to raise the threshold of perception, to desensitize judgment, notably among the young so that—I speak as one having daily commerce with adolescents, not to mention the 50-some years I spent as an adolescent—those same young remain almost numb to any effect mere words might work, ripe targets for the vulgar oratory confected these days by our purported leaders (who cater to a circumscribed radius of comprehension) or (and this troubles me more) numb to the literary heritage left us by the best spirits of the past. Worser yet, there seems to be no joy in the stuff whatsoever. Worser still, no humor. Only flickering light as—oh, say—from a campfire around which savages sit gnawing raw meat that by one of Fate’s ironies they have not the wit to expose to the flame.