Whether or not it lives up to expectations, 'Sucker Punch' is succeeding in striking a blow for one of the most maligned subgenres: the girl-gang movie.
Here at Moviefone, we can't figure out why girl-gang movies like 'Sucker Punch' are such a rarity. If one sexy, kick-ass babe is good, more are better, right? So why do they seem to come along so rarely?
Sure, there were a couple of 'Charlie's Angels' movies a decade ago, but those were based on a pre-sold title and featured three popular actresses, so they're no indication of the health of the girl-gang movie. Besides, other than those two, what else is there? 'D.E.B.S.'? 'Set It Off'? 'Mi Vida Loca' (more of a serious, realistic drama than the fun exploitation movies we're talking about)?
Really, you have to go back to the grindhouse days of the '60s and '70s to find more than a trickle of these films, movies like 'Switchblade Sisters' or the grandmother of all girl-gang films, 'Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!' Or to Hong Kong, where movies featuring martial arts Amazons like those in 'The Heroic Trio' are routine. Still, we wonder, why isn't someone like Robert Rodriguez (an apparent fan of these classics) cranking out a girl-gang movie in his garage every other weekend?
Maybe we're asking too much of Hollywood. After all, they can barely make a movie with one heroic action hottie (let's see, there's Evelyn Salt in 'Salt,' Alice in the 'Resident Evil' flicks, and going back a ways, there's the Bride in 'Kill Bill,'Lara Croft, and precious few others). So why should we expect movies with more than one?
There may be some ingrained sexism at play, disguised as business practicality. (It may be worth remembering -- or not -- that the executives who green-light movies are predominantly male.) The thinking goes like this: Young men make most of the ticket-buying decisions, and they don't want to see girl-gang movies because the fantasy of a bunch of babes ganging up on a guy is too intimidating and emasculating. Besides, the absence of successful girl-gang movies in the marketplace is self-evident. If viewers wanted these movies, studios would be making them, and they'd be hits.
This sort of tautological thinking leads to self-fulfilling prophecies. How do we know girl-gang movies won't be hits if no one is making them? If one or two have failed a long time ago, does that mean none can ever work? If a guy-gang movie like 'The A-Team' flops, does Hollywood stop making those types of movies? But just because the industry has all but given up making movies that tell women's stories in general, much less genre movies centering on women, doesn't mean there's not a huge audience out there of women and men who want to see them.
Go on, Hollywood, make some more girl-gang movies. If they're good, people will go see them and encourage you to make more.
Besides, if the girls-fighting-guys idea is too scary, why not girl gangs fighting other girl gangs? A movie called 'Catfight' would be a guaranteed smash.
Follow Gary Susman on Twitter @garysusman.