Welcome to the Punch Review
James McAvoy and Mark Strong go head to head in this gritty action thriller.
When it comes to recent British action movies there are few good examples to boast about, plenty of big budget American movies have been made in the UK but our own output in this genre has been left wanting.
Looking to change that is Eran Creevy’s Welcome to the Punch, the story might be circling a well worn formula of a damaged but driven cop chasing down a intelligent career criminal but London hasn’t looked this cool since Skyfall.
Former criminal Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong) returns to London after his son is killed during a robbery gone wrong, this unexpected trip gives hard bitten cop Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy) a last chance to bring his foe to justice. As if trying to out smart a criminal mastermind wasn’t enough, there’s a conspiracy within the police department that threatens to bring everything in Max’s world crashing down.
The only stumbling block preventing this being a five star movie is the cliched story we’ve seen countless times. Michael Mann’s movies have been an obvious influence stylistically, with Heat being the main source of inspiration. Whilst it’s impressive what Eran Creevy has achieved for a modest £5.5 million budget, at times he sacrifices his own style to replicate or pay homage to others but somehow all the pieces form something that’s fresh and distinctly British.
James McAvoy has come along way since his days on Shameless, after getting Hollywood’s attention in The Last King of Scotland he’s been starring in blockbusters such as Wanted, X-Men First Class and its forthcoming sequel.
Mark Strong has made a career out of playing bad guys over the last few years, from Kick Ass to Robin Hood to Green Lantern he’s rapidly become the go to actor for a charismatic villain. Both leading men are well cast and give strong performances, even if McAvoy does’t quite feel authentic as the grizzled detective. There’s also suitable (if underused) support from David Morrissey and Daniel Mays as his superior officers and the mighty Peter Mullan is instantly watchable in just about anything.
British movies usually fall into one of four categories, period drama, romantic comedy, Guy Richie style gangster film or low budget horror, Welcome to the Punch does’t break any new ground but it does offer a frantically paced visually stunning action thriller that cements Creevy’s status as one to watch. The climatic shoot out might take a few too many ideas from the John Woo school of filmmaking but it’s no worse off for it.
Last year’s big screen version of The Sweeney missed the mark entirely but this restores some credibility to British action movies even if it’s style over substance it’s thunderously entertaining.