Posted December 28, 2012 by David Watson in Films
 
 

Welcome To The Punch


James McAvoy is everywhere right now.

James McAvoy
is everywhere right now.

Currently treading the boards in London, he’s a post-apocalyptic Macbeth haunting Trafalgar Studios. He
keeps popping up on British chat shows sporting varying degrees of beard and
being twinkly, charming and lovely.
And he’s got a bunch of films coming out over the next few months. We’ll see him as the dodgiest of dodgy
coppers in Scotland’s answer to Bad
Lieutenant
, director Jon S. Baird’s
adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s Filth. He’ll also be the hapless amnesiac
within whose head lurks a fortune in Danny
Boyle
’s convoluted, twisty, turny, shouty new film Trance. But first up
he’s a tortured, driven cop out to catch Mark
Strong
’s vengeful ex-gangster in writer/director Eran Creevy’s ferocious, Hong Kong-style bullet ballet, Welcome To The Punch.

When his son is shot during a botched drug deal, former
armed robber Jacob Sternwood (Mark
Strong
), in hiding in Iceland, returns to London determined to find out
what happened, in the process giving burnt-out cop Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy) one last chance to catch
him. Years earlier, during a
multi-million pound heist, Sternwood shot and wounded the ambitious Lewinsky
while making his escape, almost ending the young cop’s career, and now Max is
out for revenge. But as Sternwood
closes in on his son’s killers and Max closes in on Sternwood, the two men find
themselves forced to put aside their personal vendetta as they uncover a deadly
conspiracy and must work together to destroy a common enemy.

The film that Nick
Love’s
ponderous, lumbering The
Sweeney
desperately wanted to be, Welcome
To The Punch
hits the ground running with a furious chase sequence that
sets the scene for the 90-odd minutes of muscular action and mayhem that
follows. A quantum leap in style
from the gritty social realism of his debut film, the urban drama Shifty (which also featured the
wonderful Daniel Mays and Jason Flemyng), Creevy brings the
hi-octane, stylised violence and themes of Hong Kong’s Heroic Bloodshed genre
to a neon-splashed, London that wouldn’t look out of place in a Michael Mann film, paring the backstory
to the bone to create a lean, mean, pulse-pounding thriller that retains a
decidedly British feel in amongst the beautifully choreographed gunplay (a
particular highlight being the Mexican stand-off and subsequent slo-mo
shoot-out in a pensioner’s front room).

As the morally complex antiheroes, McAvoy and Strong are
excellent; Strong bringing a silence and an almost glacial stillness to his
honourable gangster that’s magnetic to watch while McAvoy’s nervy, pill-popping
cop is a ball of restless fury, constantly in motion (even if hampered by an
Estuary accent. What? There’s no Scots coppers in London?),
and there’s strong support from the likes of Peter Mullan, Andrea Riseborough, David Morrissey and Johnny
Harris
.

The real stars of the film though are Creevy and his
cinematographer Ed Wild who deliver
a moody, icy blue, widescreen vision of London as a nocturnal Hell, the
characters dwarfed by the cold steel, diamond glass and concrete of Canary
Wharf and Docklands, a hostile, unforgiving arena that’s the perfect backdrop
for the film’s intense, beautiful carnage.

Slick, sleek and ambitious, Welcome To The Punch is top drawer Saturday night entertainment.


David Watson

 
David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com