So, Sucker Punch: bold leap forward for female empowerment or leering game-porn for teenage horndogs and closet S&M freaks?
The debate will doubtlessly rage. However, the more pressing concern for witnesses to Zack Snyder’s latest conflagration of flesh and fantasy will be: when will I stop feeling dizzy and get my hearing back?
The barrage begins when pig-tailed Babydoll (Aussie starlet Browning) is committed to the madhouse by her stepfather who wants to get his hands on her inheritance... and her little sister.
A crooked orderly (Oscar Isaacs, honing his villainous skills after Robin Hood) is paid to ensure that she never leaves. But just as doctor Jon ‘Mad Men’ Hamm is about to deal the lobotomising blow, Babydoll performs a little self-inception...
And suddenly she’s the latest ‘performer’ at a cabaret club run by evil pimp Blue (Isaacs again) and his Russian hench-vamp Madam Gorski (Carla Gugino).
But before Blue can sell her to his best client (also Hamm), Babydoll masterminds an audacious escape plan with her fellow sex slaves: up-for-it Rocket (Jena Malone), raven-haired Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), gutsy Amber (Jamie Chung) and Rocket's feisty if rather less enthusiastic sister Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish).
See, every time Babydoll starts to dance, she is transported to an even crazier fantasy realm where a wise mentor (Scott Glenn) guides she and the sisterhood of the distracting pants on a five-step path to freedom which involves finding a map, fire, a knife, a key, and the solution to a mystery.
But while each task takes place in Blue’s club, in Babydoll's parallel universe they must engage zombie Nazis in trench warfare, face down orcs and dragons in a medieval castle, and battle androids on the moons of Saturn.
Packing enough attitude and eye-liner to bring down a zeppelin, this is definitely all about the ladies. Whether it’s for the ladies is a different matter, because the lasses get their asses kicked almost as often as they kick ass.
Obviously mindful that the parade of perspiring cleavage and video-gamery could also be construed as a bit facile, Snyder and co-writer Steve Shibuya try to bring philosophical meaning to Babydoll’s journey.
So, like The Matrix trio, Sucker Punch delivers its awesome visual payload with a touch of verbal diarrhoea.
The aural bombardment is equally heavy, with Bjork’s Army Of Me clattering eardrums alongside astutely timed versions of Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams, The Cure’s Asleep, and Pixies’ Where Is My Mind (though the soundtrack would have been way cooler with the originals).
It’s a lip-smacking piece of action burlesque, pulling one surprise after another from its wondrously filled fishnets. Like any good sucker punch, you never see it coming.