Welcome To The Punch

Welcome To The Punch

***1/2

Reviewed by: Stuart Crawford

You could be forgiven for thinking that another London-centric crimeheist adventureromp is the last thing this planet needs. Welcome To The Punch is a little bit different, though. Instead of Danny Dyer and the ever-diminishing stable of actors willing to work with Danny Dyer, it has a cast list that reads like a directory of quality British acting talent. Mark Strong and James McAvoy top the bill, while Andrea Riseborough, David Morrissey, Daniel Mays, Jason Flemyng and Peter Mullan round out the sort of supporting cast that could beat up your dad's supporting cast. This fine array of actors is charged with safeguarding a plot as weak and confused as a newborn kitten, shepherding it through 90-plus minutes of gunfire and explosions. They more-or-less succeed.

Mark Strong plays Jacob Sternwood (no, seriously), a super-suave master criminal who ends up being a little more sympathetic than your average villain. Determined to hunt him down at any cost is James McAvoy's Max Lewinsky, a cop with a chip on his shoulder, a grudge in his heart and a gunshot wound in his knee. Sternwood, of course, is responsible for all three. We find out how in a beautifully slick opening sequence that'll have you wondering if this is really only director Eran Creevy's second feature. The film is visually spectacular throughout, shot with a confidence and a comprehension of physical space that would impress even in a much more experienced director. Action sequences are masterfully coordinated, and the only slight visual let-down is that everything's buried under a grade so heavily shifted towards the blue end of the spectrum that it's practically ultraviolet[1].

Copy picture

So, back to that helpless plot kitten, its eyes and ears still sealed shut, oblivious to the world outside. Every good crime movie needs some police corruption, so we have some here. The only thing that motivates characters is other characters dying or being threatened with death, so supporting cast members obligingly die at appropriate moments. Crimeheist adventureromps don't need female characters, so Andrea Riseborough's Supporting Cop quickly stops being interesting and winds up as another cipher. Perhaps the villain and the hero will be forced by circumstances to work together. It's just barely possible that along the way they'll find out that they have more in common than they think. I wouldn't bet against there being a conspiracy plot so risably nonsensical that James McAvoy essentially explains it directly to the audience in a 30-second purge of horrible expository dialogorrhoea.

Dialogue is a big problem with this film, exposition doubly so. It's treated as a sort of minor inconvenience to be dealt with before the next gunfight in a container yard. Not that there's anything wrong with gunfights in container yards, but it would be nice to have a bit more invested in their outcome. That said, Peter Mullan gets some great lines, but it's throwaway stuff rather than anything that moves the plot forward, in its cardboard box that someone's carefully poked some airholes in.

Welcome to the Punch: an elaborate concoction of sophisticated ingredients with no higher purpose than to get you absolutely trolleyed. Serve at room temperature.

[1]Not to be confused with Ultraviolet, which was, ironically, graded to a different palette for almost every major scene.

Reviewed on: 22 Mar 2013
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Welcome To The Punch packshot
When his son gets in trouble, a retired criminal is forced to return to the city where a detective is still determined to catch him.
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Director: Eran Creevy

Writer: Eran Creevy

Starring: James McAvoy, Mark Strong, David Morrissey, Andrea Riseborough, Peter Mullan

Year: 2013

Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: UK, US

Festivals:

Glasgow 2013

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