out of Five
Running time: 100
Watchable British thriller enlivened by stylish direction, some impressive production design and strong performances from a superb cast, though it's slightly let down by a predictable plot that's both convoluted and underwhelming.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by Eran Creevy (who made Shifty), Welcome to the Punch is set in present-day London and stars James McAvoy as Detective Max Lewinsky, who's obsessed with catching master criminal Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong), who shot him in the knee during a post-heist escape three years previously. When Sternwood’s son Ruan (Elyes Gabel) is hospitalised after a shooting, Jacob comes out of hiding to investigate, which puts a revenge-crazed Max back on his trail, accompanied by his partner Sarah (Andrea Riseborough). Meanwhile, mother-loving thug Dean (Johnny Harris) is making waves in the criminal underworld, while Max's boss (David Morrissey) is less than keen for him to resume his vendetta against Jacob.
Writer-director Eran Creevy's stated intention with Welcome to the Punch was to create a glossy-looking, high-action British thriller that could hold its own with similar genre fare from America or Hong Kong. To that end, the film achieves its goals, thanks to some impressive production design work (all gleaming chrome and shining glass) and Ed Wild's sleek cinematography.
The performances are suitably hard-boiled too, with McAvoy and Strong sparking intriguing chemistry together and there’s strong support from Riseborough (underused but effective), Morrissey and Harris, as well as colourful turns from the likes of Peter Mullan (as Jacob's mentor), Natasha Little (as a press agent) and Daniel Mays (as a fellow cop). On top of that, Creevy orchestrates some impressive shoot-out sequences that might not quite live up to their obvious inspiration of Michael Mann's Heat, but get the job done nonetheless.
The film's biggest problem is that the script is both ridiculously convoluted and entirely predictable, plus everyone in the film is so shady that it's more of a surprise when someone turns out to be on the level than when they turn out to be corrupt. The film is also guilty of wasting its most interesting supporting characters and it's hard to shake the conclusion that a straightforward cop versus criminal revenge story might have been more effective than the tangled web we eventually end up with.
Despite some plotting issues, Welcome to the Punch is an entirely watchable, fast-paced and well acted thriller that confirms writer-director Eran Creevy as a British talent to watch. Worth seeing.
Welcome To The Punch (15)