WELCOME TO THE PUNCH

Director: Eran Creevy
Cast: James McAvoy, Mark Strong, Andrea Riseborough, David Morrissey, Jason Fleming, Peter Mullan
Running time: 99 minutes

Set in present day London, this action thriller from second time director Eran Creevy follows police officer Max Lewinsky (McAvoy) as he takes his relentless hunt for criminal Jacob Sternwood (Strong) into his own hands, gradually unraveling truths about his pursuit and discovering that not everyone around him is what they seem.

Welcome To The Punch really does welcome us with a punch.  The whip-cracking opening chase sequence slaps us awake and sets the electric tone for the rest of the film, which is furiously paced and only gives us more mad and adrenalin-fueled action sequences that are all shot with real style and panache.  Everything about it is loud, bloody and shocking.  The problem is this is when it really works best; when it’s being an action movie rather than a police drama, but it wants so desperately to be serious.  There’s barely a smile to be seen throughout, with McAvoy perhaps going just a little overboard with his scowling, hardened police officer.  I always enjoyed myself most when it wasn’t trying to be too clever or dark or serious, but just let loose with fun chase sequences and firefights.  The reason for this is probably because when it does go for the more serious stuff, it slips into many of the generic police thriller tropes.  The plot, while solid enough, is nothing we haven’t seen before, and the generic dialogue and relationships are lifted from every other cop movie around.  None of it is bad, just at times unremarkable.

Of course, having said that, there’s nothing worse than when a film forgets about plot and characters completely and just bombards us with explosions.  So in that respect, it deserves credit for at least trying to do something more.

One of the first things you notice with this is just how great London looks.  It’s vibrant, shimmery and stylish, resembling more a flashy American city like New York than somewhere from Old Blighty.  I don’t ever remember it looking so good.  Too often London, and the UK in general, looks so grimy and derelict on film, so the lighting department and cinematographer Ed Wild have done a really great job with it.  Maybe we’re beginning to see a change in the way people see the UK, at least on film, what with this and Skyfall last year, which also shed London in a much brighter light.

London looking fantastic

Before the first frame even rolls we already know we’re in pretty safe hands with this cast, with David Morrissey, Andrea Riseborough and Peter Mullan stepping in to bulk out the two solid leads.  Mullan is especially great, providing a number of laughs – which as we already know are rare in this film – in a small but important role.  Strong is really great as well.  No matter what the film, he always finds a way to bring everything together.  Another great thing about the film is how it doesn’t overstay its welcome.  At 100 minutes it never drags and no scene feels superfluous, and when the ending does come it’s actually a bit of a surprise.  All we get is a small segment of this world, with loose ends left dangling all over the shop like a frayed rope.

This is a good old-fashioned Brit cop thriller that stands out and conforms in equal measure.  The plot and characters are nothing new, but luckily stylish visuals, eye-popping action and gut-wrenching thrills leave the bigger impact, and make it something worth talking about.

3 stars w 2 empty

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