Released on March 15th 2013 Welcome to the Punch is the second major feature film by Eran Creevy, best known for his film Shifty (2009). This Brit thriller boasts an all star, home-grown cast headed up by James McAvoy and Mark Strong, joined by David Morrissey and Andrea Riseborough.
The plot plays out in the sleek but cold glass and metal world of Canary Wharf and follows tough and obsessive detective Max Lewinsky (McAvoy) as he relentlessly tries to pursue the illusive criminal Jacob Sternwood (Strong) responsible for his fall from grace. As the film goes on both sides discover there are other forces at work and a larger conspiracy begins to unravel.
All the ingredients for a top quality Brit thriller action movie then? Not quite. Right from the rather vague opening scene questions start to arise, and ones which never seem to get answered; mainly, what is the history and relationship between the protagonists? The film appears to rely too much on the basic ‘goody vs. baddy’ blueprint. We see Sternwood, accompanied by a group of masked men escaping from a generic skyscraper defending the ever suspicious black kit bag. They are chased by unarmed ultimate good cop Lewinsky, and soon the scene descends into a pacey but brief car chase through the conveniently empty streets of night-time London.
After a failed attempt to capture Sternwood and a serious injury the plot jumps three years into the future to see the damaging effect this defeat has had on Lewinsky who is now joined by a partner, gritty and ambitious Sarah Hawks (Riseborbough). Riseborough’s performance is however is relatively short lived, and her demise also brings to an end any slight indication of real human emotion from our protagonist.
It is this lack of basic ‘likeableness’ of Lewinsky which is the main fault of the film. McAvoy and Strong are bound in the over familiar ‘cop vs. criminal’ formula and with the film being mainly a succession of gun fights and chase scenes there is very little opportunity for Lewinsky to build as a character that we take to.
The film does however have its strengths. The glamorous night-time backdrop of London is captured in some dramatic overhead shots and there is a chilling encounter between Riseborough’s character and ruthless killer Dean Warns (played by Johnny Harris). A re-energising but rather predictable plot twist kicks in during a well, but clearly constructed fight scene in a dingy club, and this manages to maintain momentum to the end of the film.
The highlight is undoubtedly Strong’s performance as the complex counter-part to McAvoy’s character, who manages despite an insubstantial plot, to balance his role as a mysterious and dangerous killer with providing the main emotional drive in the film, through a heartbreaking relationship with his son.
Welcome to the Punch is an undemanding, confident and watchable action film and any weaknesses in plot and script are largely made up for by solid production, stylish visual work and an all-star cast.