If you don’t really pay much attention to the content of the new Zack Snyder-directed film “Sucker Punch” - say, watch it with the sound off - you might be mildly entertained.
The man behind “300” and “Watchmen” has once again created a visually busy film, with an interesting look that captures the graphic novel aura that the film aspires to achieve.
But all the eye candy proves to be a smokescreen for a film with some serious problems. “Sucker Punch” might look interesting, but it lacks any substance whatsoever - continuity is jagged and the plot is equally frustrating and sleazy.
“Sucker Punch” tells the story of a young woman (Emily Browning) sent to an insane asylum by her abusive stepfather.
The institution appears to be a front for a brothel (I say “appears” because in one of the film’s consistent flaws, the story actually cheats its audience by never quite revealing what is real and what isn’t), and the woman joins a group of performers (including Jena Malone, Abbie Cornish and Vanessa Hudgens) controlled by a madam (Carla Gugino) and an evil young man named Blue (Oscar Isaac).
Forced into this dark world, the young woman retreats to a fantasy where she plots her escape with the help of a wise old man (Scott Glenn). But the closer she comes to completing her mission, the more dangerous her journey becomes.
If this sounds a bit convoluted, don’t worry. It’s apparent from the opening moments that “Sucker Punch” is just a series of video game action sequences strung together with insane gibberish that passes as dialogue.
The result is a film packed with action that manages to be rather dull and boring. As the random sequences that had no structure or point continued to pile up, I found it harder and harder not to check my watch, or worse, head for the exits.
Perhaps that indifference was intentional, a way for the filmmakers to desensitize their audience. The fact is, “Sucker Punch” is quite sleazy, with some pretty dark and grim themes watered down to get a PG-13 rating.
If “Sucker Punch” had just pushed all in and explored those dark areas more, it still probably wouldn’t have worked, but at least you could have appreciated the effort to challenge its audience.
Instead, “Sucker Punch” is the worst kind of bad film - a lazy one that never seems concerned about anything more than cashing in at the box office.
Also in theaters
Opening this week after several weeks in limited release is the Sundance Film Festival hit “Cedar Rapids” (B-), a slightly uneven comedy with enough laughs to overcome the lulls.
Ed Helms stars as Tim Lippe, an insurance salesman in Brown Valley, Wis., whose life is turned upside-down when the company’s hot shot salesman dies, forcing Tim to represent the agency at the annual convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Tim quickly finds himself in a crazy new world and seeks the help of three convention veterans - Anne Heche, John C. Reilly and Isiah Whitlock Jr. - who try to guide the naive man through the cutthroat world of insurance sales.
Helms’ character is kind of a dimwit and, honestly, the weakest part of the film. I’m still not sure if the audience is supposed to be laughing at or laughing with his character, who is far too naive for his own good.
Still, the strength - and the laughs - in “Cedar Rapids” come from the supporting characters. Heche is very confident and quite impressive here, while Reilly’s character has unexpected layers - more than just the wisecracking loudmouth the trailers suggest.
Whitlock gets the most laughs as a straight-laced man that is a far cry from his work on TV’s “The Wire” - which is referenced in the film.
Those three characters seem much more grounded in reality than Lippe, giving “Cedar Rapids” a stream of laughs as well as a bit of heart and soul.
“Cedar Rapids” is rated R for crude and sexual content, language and drug use and opens Friday at the Greenwood Mall 10.