Starring: James McAvoy, Mark Strong, Andrea Riseborough
You may like this if you like: The Sweeney (Nick Love, 2012), Infernal Affairs (Wai-keung Lau and Alan Mak, 2002), Heat (Michael Mann, 1995)
London detective Max Lewinsky (McAvoy) is still reeling at being unable to stop criminal Jacob Sternwood (Strong) from leaving the country. However, after Sternwood’s son is found shot and phones his dad, Sternwood’s Icelandic location is not only discovered but he is forced to return to London. Despite his superiors showing reluctance to let him on the case, Lewinsky sees one more chance to finally catch his nemesis. However, as the two of them get nearer to each other they are forced to work together as they start to uncover a far greater conspiracy (shock horror).
Hardly the most original plot is it? Well, to be fair writer/director Eran Creevy never claims or indeed wants to demonstrate any originality during the entire narrative. Plot wise, Welcome to the Punch is an extremely generic and clichéd affair with Creevy certainly showing much more care and attention to slick visuals than anything else. Creevy and cinematographer Ed Wild have tried to give WTTP the same pallet as The Sweeney, giving London a nice futuristic and shiny sheen. While The Sweeney was an absolute car crash of a film, there is no denying that WTTP is a slick, fast and ambitious crime thriller by numbers. The use of the glass buildings around Canary Wharf and London’s financial district providing the perfect setting to Creevy’s intended depiction of London.
While the action is slick and the violence brutal, there is no denying that Creevy’s sole focus on visuals only goes so far. Though certainly never boring, WTTP does not exactly keep you on the edge of your seat and is almost reassuring to watch as it ticks off the clichés and generic plot developments. This is a shame and definitely a wasted opportunity, as Creevy has managed to assemble an impressive cast of British character actors.
The often clunky script never really giving us characters to care about, and making it quite obvious from the start where everyone will eventually fit within the plot ‘twists’. Mark Strong’s morally conflicted Sternwood proving the only character of real genuine interest, helped by the ever reliable Strong proving to be an exceptional screen presence as always. What is particularly surprising is how underused Andrea Riseborough’s character is. A great actress of course, and a big name to have on the poster, but her character is criminally (no pun intended) underwritten and quite frankly rather pointless.
Still, at 100 minutes WTTP never outstays its welcome and its ambition and energy manage to keep things ticking over quite nicely.
Shiny, slick and hollower than an Easter egg, what Welcome to the Punch lacks in character development it makes up for on visuals. A very enjoyable, undeniably watchable but extremely forgettable 100 minutes.