As many of you know I had been nursing death on a stick for the better part of the last two weeks. This is a state I always refer to as being on the V.O.D. (Verge Of Death) And on the day I got my eyeballs on this script my imminent death came with 102 degree fever, ingestion of enough meds that I could legally pronounce myself my own pharmacologist, five minutes of sleep in seven hour intervals, a deranged pug puppy hell bent on humping my leg for the better part of his day in what can only be described as the death knell of his testosterone induced post ball removal frenzy, a vengeful ex-wife enjoying my suffering, a 13 year old daughter who just broke up with her first girlfriend, and enough phone calls to put the local 911 board to shame post 9.0 earthquake.
So when my doorbell rang and one of my BFF's showed up with the Sucker Punch Script along with this long ass story involving Zack Snyder, 3 Cheerleaders, 2 Circus Clowns and a box of Strawberry Flavored Pop Tarts wanting to borrow my Green Room for the day, I just assume not bother. On a normal day I would have killed at least the neighbor's dog for a peek at that thing. But I just wasn't in the mood. And who could blame me as I had my own funeral to plan. In the end however I came to my senses and took the barter. (For the record: He's a Sound Engineer. They are doing post on Sucker Punch for the next 3-4 weeks.) From there the rules of this transaction were simple. I could take one page of notes and if i tried to so much as leave the room with the script in my possession I would be beaten and flogged for the effort. He then took my phone and laptop with him downstairs. I can't be sure, as I could barely move to begin with, but I am pretty sure there were to bruisers on the other side of my bedroom door. Just in case. Even half dead any self respecting individual would have to at least contemplated making a run for it. Which I did for just long enough to realize I wasn't wearing any pants and the closet was entirely to far away on the other side of the room.
So here it was Me, the script, one sheet of paper, a pencil and black paint on the walls. Which seemed like such a good idea at the time and now was just one more situation where I should have listened to my mother. Bitch. I tried to jot down the facts but the pages kept losing focus on me. It took me about 10 minutes to figure out I had accidentally dropped three vicodins instead of the medical strength Tylenol horse pills my pediatrician neighbor had given me. Everything is getting foggy. It's like I am stuck gliding up and down a skateboard ramp with no skateboard. And what is the deal with the neighbor blasting Eminem's Greatest Hits at one o'clock in the afternoon. She is a 67 year old card carrying member of Focus On The Family for fuck's sake. La Di Da Di Da. La Di Da Di Da.
Get yourself together. Suck it up. Page One. Better write it out. If you don't start strong you might as well not even bother:
INT. CLOUD SKY - DAY
Fade in to white, then the edge of the cloud is revealed and
we see down to a small ribbon of shiny, two-lane blacktop, a
rain slicked road, which winds through a forest of leafless
trees. The road turns out of view and looking straight down,
we reveal carved into the forest made of meadows and cut
trees like a crop circle, the Warner's Logo pulling slowly
by, beneath. A wisp of cloud, and again the road turns back
into view. We see a car, a tiny dot. Clouds wisp by as we
drop impossibly fast 'til we stop in front of the 50's era
sedan. Rain pounds, the chrome grill grins like a shiny
black demon. We move up to the driver. Windshield wipers
reveal the image of a man in his late 50's, scratch marks
across his face. This is the STEPFATHER, short, fat, dark
hair and grey skin. His left forearm bandaged, fresh blood
soaks through the gauze. Following his nervous glance, we
slide across the windshield to his sleeping passenger.
It's a young girl, 18, for the purpose of this story we call
her BABYDOLL. She is dressed in dirty pink flannel pajamas
She's wrapped in a grey wool blanket. Pale skin, blonde hair,
in ratty pigtails. Beautiful. We rotate until we look into
the passengers window. Streams of water run like veins
across the glass. The Stepfather's watery eyes move across
her form. He takes a deep breath and returns his gaze to the
road. The car moves slowly past us and heads down the road
through a forest of winter trees, like a forest of bones.
The trees yield to open fields of yellow grass, and they
drive on towards the dark shape of a massive brick building
sitting on the top of the hill. Lightning Strikes.
2 hours later I finish decoding that. Or at least that is how it seemed. The good news is I am better now. I feel a bit more put together. The bad news is I wasted one entire side of paper writing the above. So I need to really button down or write smaller. I dive right into it.
Wait..... I almost forgot something very important.
Title: Sucker Punch
Writers: Steve Shibuya & Zack Snyder
Draft: Prod. White/Full Rev.
So poor Babydoll (Emily Browning) has been bought to Lennox House Institution For The Mentally Insane after a bit of an incident. (Or sold into it for $2,000 depending on how you look at it.) Seems that she became despondent after her mothers death and may or may not have then killed her sister and then tried to kill her stepfather. It's a situation the evil bastard refers to as complicated. Either way he doesn't want her to remember a thing and fortunately for him the head muscle of the institute, Blue (Oscar Isaac), couldn't careless. Just one slight problem. The normal guy that does the brain wipe is gone for another 5 days. But it's not really a problem as he's "placed" girls here before for longer periods of time. In the end all the stepfather gives a shit about is her not being question by the police so his story holds up. Whatever it takes.
Now this is were it gets a bit confusing. The exact line in my notes says: AND WITH THAT WERE SOMEWHERE ELSE. I am pretty sure Babydoll overhears all of this and gets scared. Then as a coping mechanism she simply goes to a happy place. Or something to that effect occurs. The auditorium they were in to meet the head shrink, Mrs. Shultz (Carla Gugino), gets turned into some kind of 50's era Burlesque Club masquerading as an Orphanage which it will later turn out is actually a brothel. Blue is now a gangster. The Stepfather is a priest that it seems has sampled all the goods in the place and taken a cut to go with them. (Any guesses besides the obvious what else dear old dad might be hiding.) Mrs. Shultz, who before was teaching dance to "calm" the inmates, is now doing full on choreography. It's also here were we meet Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) & her sister Rocket (Jenna Malone) who are also "orphans." Sweet Pea is the leader so to speak. But she's losing her appeal fast and hasn't been doing "it" for quite some time. There isn't much to Rocket. She more or less takes her under her wing and shows her around before they eventually heading back to the Dance Hall for rehearsals. It's at this point that we meet Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) & Amber (Jamie Chung).
Now you know that point where I usually say that I feel like if I keep going I will be telling to much? Were on page 24 or so now. And according to my notes with a arrow going from here to there if I tell you why all the girls are here it will totally fuck it up for you later. Your better off not knowing. It's then got several circles over character facts. My guess is that was what I was going to use for structure. Only problem here is you can't really give that much structure without again giving away to much. This would be an impossible script to review even if I did have it in front of me because it reads exactly like a hyperactive dream. Which for the most part is basically what it is. Imagine if you smashed Girl, Interrupted & Inception together. Then decided to add mass metaphors derived from what can only be described as live-action Anime Style Violence. A fight for survival played out in the most stylistic way possible. But you can't ever really consider it just pointless violence because everything that happens has a specific meaning. It is all a piece of a puzzle and the puzzle with missing pieces isn't going to make any sense. Now imagine your trying to navigate this gigantic crazy structure. And in the middle of it all you forget what is real and what isn't real. I think the true greatness behind this script is that about 60 or so pages into it I had no clue what was supposed to be real and what wasn't. I started to question everything flipping back and forth trying to figure out what I missed. It wasn't until a bit later when we finally get to see the High Roller (John Hamm) for the first time outside of shadows and it blanks back to "reality" that I really figured out where I was. He is nothing like described by Blue and shortly after that nothing like advertised at all. But I haven't even told you who the High Roller is yet, have I?
Back where we left off: It doesn't take long for Babydoll to figure out she is in a whore house. Specifically made clear when Blue informs her that the High Roller will be back in 5 days to take her virginity. And if this wasn't enough she is about to be forced to dance in front of everyone. I don't know if she has no skill and fears this or what the hell is supposed to happen but the next thing we know she is Japan and it's snowing. This is where we meet The Wiseman. (Scott Glenn) She is given a gun and sword and told she has to locate five items to basically escape this world both real and imagined. They are a knife, a lighter, and a key. The last two I should likely not mention. One is obvious and the other is something else entirely. Needless to say it's a blink and a re-focus before she is battling some seriously over sized Samurai's. One of which has a gigantic mini-gun type thing. The whole sequence reads utterly spectacular. And it's the first of four to come pretty much everytime she has to dance. In the random world, were told whatever her dance is that it's so captivating that everyone is focused directly on her. Thus allowing the other girls to collect what is needed for the escape. But again, I am getting ahead of myself.
Once she lays waste to the uber-samuari's she is back to her Dance Hall Days. To make a long story short she realizes she can't make this escape alone and befriends and enlists the girls to help. They form a dance group together and go about planning their getaway. Everyone has their reasons. None more so than Sweet Pea who Babydoll later overhears in an argument with Blue telling her she is getting pretty close to "retirement." Seems she hasn't been "doing" much of anything lately. Her profit is non-existent, her dances are weak, she is on the way out. And Babydoll is the new pink. Literally. Of course keep in mind that explanation is directly related to why she is in the Asylum. To it's credit nothing is really left hanging character wise here. Which I have heard from a few people is now a lingering problem with the first cut of the movie. But I will touch on that a bit later.
From here it really is just a dance/fantasy sequence followed by various attempts to escape that go rather badly for the most part. We have three more hyper dreams. I am not going to go into detail here because it will ruin the fun of it should you get to ahead of time. The first one is in the trenches of World War 1 with Mutated German Soldiers and enough air and land damage to keep my brain toasted at the prospect. Next we are treated to some Dungeons & Dragons type destruction. This one involving a dragon, a castle, and whole lot of fire. How Babydoll eventually dispatches the winged beast is likely to catapult Emily Browning to the top of every geek and dorks lusted after list. In a script full of badass moments that seems to be the ultimate money shot waiting to happen. Next we have the futuristic Nuclear Train Heist with drone robots and a nuclear bomb that is supposed to be stolen. I emphasis "supposed" to be. The Wiseman was very specific here. Of all the fantasy sequences this is the most elaborate and best of the dreams as it is set in a futuristic time and just reads awesome. Plus we lose one of the girls in rather dramatic fashion. Technically twice. The truly impressive thing here is that every last one of these sequences reads better than the one before it. You see some glimpses of these sequences in the teaser and trust me when I say it reads just as awesome as it looks. Of course the real key here is how they are all related to what is going on in the real world. And thankfully it all connects very nicely.
While I have already decided not to talk about the girls, I really have no problem talking about the bad guys. I have previously mentioned the High Roller with no real explanation. He is the head of it all. The supposed big bad of all big bads. Which is saying something when you consider it seems like even Blue is afraid of him. For pretty much the entire first 2/3 of the script he is pretty much mentioned as being a fat, slobbering, evil presence that will kill anyone that tries to escape his reign. Slowly however this image fades. We keep seeing him always in shadow and the image each time gets smaller and less apposing. Then finally, when we do see him for real, he is nothing as advertised. I enjoyed the mystery of it all. This was a near perfectly written character as you never ever know what to expect. The same can't be said about "Don" of the institution. Blue Jones is nothing but sadist. He beats the girls, he taunts the girls, it's all sinister and froth. I don't know who in the hell Oscar Isaac is. I can tell you if he pulls this off he will literally steal the show. Which is saying something.
Now before I close this out I need to mention a few things. First, Ms. Shultz is now Madame Gorsky and Gugino supposedly plays it with what my BFF describes as the most annoyingly bad foreign accent taken straight from hell. This being a production draft I can only assume this was a bad decision made on set. Gugino's role in the script is really non-existent. She really only exists to keep the girls in check and keep dancing. Utterly clueless to everything else going on. I can only assume this was a character concession on the part of Snyder. Whatever the case is the whole switch does nothing to really enhance my appreciation of the character. So why bother? Second, the movie now begins with what happened that led Stepfather to bring Babydoll to the Mental Institution. I am really strongly against this. I never questioned once if the Stepfather really was a sick pedophile. But I did find myself questioning multiple times if Babydoll did really just snap. As I said before there are lots of little things buried in this script you have to pay attention for. And one of the things I kept coming back to was if anything that was happening was real at all. I really liked not knowing. But I guess Snyder worried about sympathy for the character. So he moved that and the lobotomy scene up to the front. Maybe it will play out better. But I kind of enjoyed the explanation being a random buried flashback as it was in the draft I read. Oh, and the time line has been shifted from 5 days to 3. A minor change at best.
Over all the only other thing I can't figure out is how they expect to get a PG-13. Even if he shot this two ways there is a lot of vital stuff in this script that doesn't fit into a PG-13 mold. First and foremost in my mind being the High Roller's seduction of Babydoll. His speech about why this has to happen alone is laced with enough profanity and sexual imagery to get a Hard-R. Not to mention the fact that housemaids are slowly stripping them both naked the entire time. And don't get me started on the pop that leads to the pop. If this was just a random draft I would think nothing of it. You can likely get away with the violence in the fantasy worlds as it's never really a slice and dice of human flesh type deal. But the violence against women inside the institute and brothel, good luck with that one. That character death I mentioned before is especially brutal in the brothel world. Not sure how that is going to work but I am beyond interested to see how this all works out.
I just hope this isn't too smart for it's own good. Of course, I said that same thing about Inception several months before it was released. And we all know how that turned out.
P.S. It only took me 10 days to recall enough details to put this review together. Never again.