Dir: Eran Creevy, 2013
Following a considerable heist, master thief Jacob Sternwood evaded British authorities, particularly loose cannon Max Lewinsky, but not before putting a devastating bullet wound in Lewinsky’s leg. Now, living in Icelandic exile, Sternwood is forced to return home when his son is caught up in a criminal conspiracy. Lewinsky, bitter as ever, relishes the chance to finally catch Sternwood until he realises there may be more important things at risk.
James McAvoy playing against type is a refreshing experience; his obsessed cop is acted with such chagrin and vehement rage that it’s a shame we don’t see more of him. McAvoy is on top form but his presence is unfortunately thrown by reliable powerhouse Mark Strong who dominates every scene he’s in, though it could be argued that this is intended. Perhaps the film’s most fatal flaw is that it is littered with actors, a clear signal of Creevy’s slip into convention. Creevy favours story over character and so clutters up the 90-minute running time with walking, talking, plot points who are supposed to drive the narrative forward but instead amalgamate into what can only be described as overexposed cannon fodder. Honestly, the first person to incorporate a production company titled ‘Less is More’ Productions will hold my allegiance (for what it’s worth).
Creevy cites Asian cinema, particularly the Infernal Affairs trilogy, as inspiration for this gritty cops-and-robbers flick which is manifested in the soothing blue hue that the London cityscape is painted in – an unusual and welcome accent for British film. In recent years, the recurrent drift toward style-over-substance has grown through the likes of the successful Drive and the otherwise Gangster Squad. Welcome to the Punch adopts the successful attributes but succumbs to a now-customary case of Guy Ritchie aspiration.
Creevy’s ambition is admirable as he brings much-needed gloss to the Brit action-thriller, though his screenplay is a shambles, employing a story that fails to supercede that which we have seen before. Ultimately Welcome to the Punch is an explosive yet formulaic yarn about the one who got away (not like that) which dazzles us with bright lights and good performances but bores us with a stereotypical motif.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆