Matt: Welcome To The Punch is writer/director Eran Creevy’s take on the American cop thriller, but there’s a slight twist; this time it’s set in London. Usually the British crime film is typically quite a gritty affair, filled with grubby locations and thick accents, yet in only his second film Creevy has created a film that is predominantly stylish and slick. Unfortunately that’s all it is, the plot and character development lack the depth to make it much more than a shiny thrill ride.
The film opens with a well executed heist sequence, the big bad Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong) and co escaping from some large nondescript building in downtown London with bags full of loot. Making their escape via a gang of motorbikes Sternwood is almost apprehended by go-getter detective Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy), before shooting him in the knee and making off with the score of a lifetime. 3 years later and Sternwood’s son is found by the police after his own criminal activities has gone awry, forcing the infamous criminal to return to London from his Icelandic hiding spot to try and save him. This reemergence gives Lewinsky a fresh chance at redemption for his failure to catch him before, but also clues to a bigger conspiracy going down in the capital.
Unmistakably inspired by similar films of the 80′s/90′s in America and Hong Kong, on screen London has never looked so glamorous. Everything is clean and very shiny, with a blue colour palette reminiscent of a Michael Mann picture. It’s certainly very stylish and very pleasing on the eye, although the colours can be quite overwhelming by the end, like watching a film underwater. The action scenes are well shot and choreographed, though I found the pacing of the entire thing quite up and down throughout. On the whole I think it’s a well constructed film; Creevy obviously has lots of flair in his filmmaking, but I think the problems arise when the story isn’t capable of keeping up.
James McAvoy does an ample job at looking pissed off and resentful, especially when we see him draining his knee of fluid as a result of his injury inflicted by Sternwood, a bitter reminder of the fact he let him get away. His role is fine, though you feel like it’s the smart-aleck angry cop character you’ve seen a hundred times over. Likewise is Jacob Sternwood played by the ever-reliable Mark Strong. You never really get to know who exactly the man is or what he’s done to be spoken about by all in hushed tones, other than seeing him robbing somewhere in the opening to the film. Mark Strong could play a brooding bad guy with his eyes closed, it’s no fault of his, I just wanted some more information on who I thought was the most interesting character in the film. Really all the cast is fine, with some good support work from Andrea Riseborough as Max’s partner and David Morrissey as the head of the police force; however, it’s all too familiar, it all felt like they were playing caricatures of the standard cops & robbers story we’ve seen before.
The first act was actually quite enjoyable; the other two not so much. Twists and surprises are revealed and a few decent shoot-outs aside the film ends on a weird note, probably one that would have hit harder if the plot had been more invested. Eran Creevy by all means should be somebody to keep an eye out for, despite what I’ve said the guy evidently has talent and with experience it’ll hopefully blossom into something more interesting. In the interest of balance I should say that I haven’t seen his first film Shifty but from what I’ve read and heard it’s a very fine piece of cinema, so I don’t want to discourage anything too much. If in the future he can mesh more substance with the style then he’ll be on to a winner. As for this film, the punch didn’t land this time around.
Jack: There has been quite a bit of positive buzz surrounding the release of this film. Do not believe it. This is little more than a stylish but empty action thriller that leaves no lasting impression despite the A-list British cast. The cast are solid but it feels like they are all going through the motions; nothing they say or do surprises, it’s like the film has been set on auto pilot, stopping off at the necessary shoot-outs and betrayals. The conspiracy at the centre of the film is laughable and completely took me out of the story, though I wasn’t particularly invested anyway. Matthew’s right when he says it starts off ok and that it’s nice to look at but unfortunately coating a city in a blue veneer doesn’t make up for an uninvolving story. If you’re interested wait for the DVD, don’t waste your money on a trip to the cinema.