Welcome To The Punch Review

The Plot:

A legendary retired criminal Jacob Sternwood is forced to return to London when his son is shot and ends up in police custody. This gives his former nemesis, a broken young detective called Max Lewinsky, one final chance to catch him and regain his pride.

The Good:

Dirctor Eran Creevy graduates with ease from his impressive ultra-low budget debut Shifty to deliver one of the most competently composed and stylish British action films in recent years. He emulates the slick noirish visuals of the Hong Kong and American action genres, whilst managing to avoid the pitfalls of misguided imitation. It’s painfully easy for British action films to feel like cheap impersonations and you only have to look at the recent re-imagining of The Sweeny for a frankly ridiculous example of this. This film thankfully succeeds where so many others have failed.

The film delivers a view of London that is authentically dangerous, sexy and devoid of all the usual clichés. You won’t spot the London Eye or cheerfully red double decker buses, that kind of things that instantly rob so many British crime dramas of their gritty credibility. Creevy inventively captures London as a world of glittering skyscrapers and dark alleyways.

Creevy also makes clever and economical choices with his action sequences.  The film’s opening chase scene is an excellent example, creating a sense of scale and tension without relying on the expensive mayhem of explosions and countless unnecessary car crashes. Well-chosen camera angles and taunt scripting achieve the same effect.

Versatile British actor Mark Strong is very well experienced in playing memorable villains in big budget blockbusters. He’s successfully tackled that challenge many times before in Sherlock Holmes, Stardust, John Carter, Robin Hood and Kick-Ass. Strong has a captivating and commanding presence on screen that allows him to malevolently dominate scenes. In this role he combines that ruthless power with just enough efficient charisma to make his character oddly admirable.

Handsome leading man James McAvoy has his own growing army of fans, which offers the film an obvious selling point. In truth though he actually deliver an unselfish performance, playing a far more flawed and scruffy hero than the perfect super-cop you might expect.

Fellow Brit Johnny Harris is also superb as the real villain of the piece; a former soldier turned menacing mercenary. Easily the film’s most memorable moment sees the three finally squaring off against each other in an old ladies living room. It’s an indisputable flash of genius in an already strong script.

The rest of the cast is full of familiar faces like Peter Mullan, David Morrissey, Ruth Sheen, Daniel Mays and Andrea Riseborough. They all deliver competent performances with the varied screen time they’re given.  Rising star Riseborough in particular adds a touch of class to proceedings as she spars with both McAvoy and Johnny Harris.

The Bad:

Obviously a modest budget does deny audiences the type of spectacular spectacle they may have grown accustomed to. The film’s reserved action style is far more inspired by Michael Mann than Michael Bay. Those misguidedly waiting to see London devastated by the collateral damage of countless explosions will be left disappointed.

Although the film has more style and substance than any typical British gangster movie it can’t entirely avoid predictability. By about half way through it is fairly easy to map out where the story is ultimately heading. Although it still remains satisfying to watch things play out in a climatic hail of gunfire.

The Ugly Truth:

Welcome To The Punch firmly announces the arrival of Eran Creevy as a promising directing talent and defies the conventional limitations of the typically atrocious British action genre. The criminally underrated Mark Strong and Johnny Harris largely steal the show in memorably villainous performances.

Red Carpet Interviews form the London premiere below, including Mark Strong, Johnny Harris and Director Eran Creevy:

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