With Gordon Alexander and Ian Freeman as two of the leads and Danny John Jules sterling action sequences with Wesley Snipes in ‘Blade2’, action was always going to be an integral part of ‘Sucker Punch’ but everyone involved had firm beliefs about what they did and did not want to see from the action set-pieces.
All were unified in being tired of wire-work, cranking (speeding up the action), triple somersault spin kicks and unrealistic reactions to shots, where stunt men were catapulted across the room from the simplest punch or kick. To the cast and crew of ‘Sucker Punch’ the modern action film had become over-stylised and totally over the top and they wanted to bring back a healthy dose of reality.
‘Action films don’t tend to have a dramatic content and we wanted to get the balance right so that you believe in the characters and care about them. It’s important to realise that whilst our action is important, the set pieces do link the story-they’re not the plot, they serve the plot and that is the big distinction between what we’re doing and other people are doing at the moment.’
Director Malcolm Martin led the way, by pointing everyone in the direction of ‘Hard Times’ the Charles Bronson/James Coburn 1970’s classic that features Bronson as Chaney, a bare knuckle fighter in the depression era. The fights were, by modern standards, simple and basic but they were hard, brutal, and believable and still resonate today, over thirty years later. The fighters involved in ‘Hard Times’ also looked like real bruisers, with a history etched on their battle-scarred faces. With so many tricks being utilised in modern action films the fighters have to be more of a gymnast and acrobat, so they tend to be younger and fresher faced, the result that a supposed bar-room brawl looks more like a scrap in a school dinner hall.
Whilst everyone involved with ‘Sucker Punch’ wanted the fights to be great and still have a certain style to them, they also wanted a raw, believable brutality that would ground the action in truth. Thus, Buchinsky gets hurt, he feels the punches, he bleeds, he is physically sick with fear. His opponents are rough and ready types, genuine tough guys and this is reflected in the action, where every unblocked kick or punch, knee or elbow, causes damage and fights can be over almost before they’ve begun.
Similarly, the ‘Sucker Punch’ team were tired of watching films where the villain’s henchmen run around mob-handed in sharp suits and sun-glasses, tooled up for World War 3, managing to wipe out three quarters of the cast, yet somehow missing the hero and failing to draw the attention of the local police. There’s suspending disbelief and there’s taking the piss! ‘Sucker Punch’ is grounded more in reality, where ‘mobsters’ only ever grab a gun if they are going to use it, as gun crime means a far heavier sentence to a professional villain if caught. There are loose cannons and contract killers in real life but gun gang warfare and shootings on the streets of London are still front page newsworthy rare events and our urban slice of life story reflects that fact.As a result, the action in ‘Sucker Punch’ harks back to the gritty days of the 1970’s, an era the film openly pays homage to, as the makers feel that the film-watching public are ready to go back to their roots and be emotionally involved with the action because it actually serves the plot and is not simply vacuous eye candy of the more is better variety.