WELCOME TO THE PUNCH

3.5 out of 10

Release Date: 15th March 2013

Director: Eran Creevy (Autobahn / Shifty)

Cast: James McAvoy, Mark Strong, Andrea Riseborough, Peter Mullan, Daniel Mays, Johnny Harris, Natasha Little, Daniel Kuluuya, Ruth Sheen, Elyes Gabel, Jason Maza with Jason Flemyng and David Morrissey

Writer: Eran Creevy

Trailer: WELCOME TO THE PUNCH

Welcome to the Punch Poster

I thought I’d review this film before I forgot everything that I’d seen. Welcome To The Punch is a workman-like, competent but ultimately anonymous Britpic.  Operating with a higher budget it’s been noted in the press material that director Eran Creery‘s main influence was the Hong Kong actioner Infernal Affairs. As mentioned in my review in for The Tournament, it’s good that the UK film industry is finally delivering on a promise to deliver the sleek thriller that  Hollywood produces in its lunch breaks.  Slick, unproblematic, well-cast and breath-taking. So what’s the problem with Welcome To The Punch.

The problems don’t lie with the cast, which is made up of some of the biggest talents at work today, it’s the storyline.  A train journey would be less predictable, Welcome To The Punch never deviates from the standard ‘cops and robbers’ road map. James MacAvoy (TRANCE) plays a cop committed to taking down Mark Strong’s (THE EAGLE) conflicted bank robber. After scuppering an opportunity to bag his quarry years before, McAvoy is now the department by-word for burn out.  When Strong’s son, (ELYES GABEL – EVERYWHERE + NOWHERE) is shot, he returns incognito to London, where McAvoy and an assortment of cops with their own agendas await there chance to put him behind bars.

What ensues is a glossy parade of shoot outs, foot chases, car chases and conversations on top of skyscrapers (much like in Infernal Affairs).  Only once does the film throw us quirkers a bone, when Ruth Sheen (ANOTHER YEAR) shows up as a hitman’s mother who goes onto serve tea and biscuits for Strong and his oppose. One wishes that the makers had bothered to get jazzy a few more times but it never happens.

A lot of fine actors are wasted and lost in the shuffle at the expense of the story template. No one is afforded a back story and there’s about the same amount of character development in your average Paul WS Anderson movie (RESIDENT EVIL, EVENT HORIZON, DEATH RACE etc), so whilst it won’t task the brain cells, it’s a wasted opportunity at giving as a long overdue expose on the Police force. But instead we have a film that even struggles to out style, out interest and out run Nick Love’s recent crack at The Sweeney.  At least that had characters we gave a monkeys about. Eran Creery‘s debut Shifty remains one of the best indies of the last few years, so it’s a shame to see him boil his personal stamp down to little more than a competent wheel house man.

3.5 out of 10 – Disappointing but for all the unpredictable reasons. A real Hollywood-style thriller that is so anonymous and unwilling to play a risky game.  A good cast are utterly squandered.  A completely empty experience. I’d recommend the similar All Things To All Men, which didn’t mind getting it’s hands dirty.

READ JOE PESCI II’s review wayyyyyyyy  below in his hairy dungeon…..

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

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One thought on “WELCOME TO THE PUNCH

  1. Joe Pesci II’s unimpressed review…. PRphibrrrr

    WELCOME TO THE PUNCH

    Public service announcement: this review is absolutely littered with spoilers. I urge you to read it before bothering going to see the film.

    Let’s start with an anti-spoiler. Mark Strong is not James McAvoy’s dad. I thought he was, and it would certainly have made sense, and I was smugly sitting there waiting for it to emerge, but emerge it never did. (I bet it’s in one of the earlier script drafts though.) Preposterous though such a revelation might have been it would at least have been a bit of a break from the monotony. This is a flashy, empty, dull, efficient, self-important thrill-less crime thriller and I say thank God for Ruth Sheen. She alone gives the film character.

    As far as the plot is concerned we find James McAvoy tenaciously on the tail of earnest super-villain Mark Strong. (As you may expect they think alike and get under each other’s skin blah blah cliché blah.) And McAvoy is a maverick who goes his own way, does his own thing, and almost winds up dead whilst the dad who isn’t his dad gets away with the loot. Three years pass. McAvoy is now obsessed with finding the crime-lord who isn’t his dad (I know he’s his dad ‘cos Strong shot McAvoy in the leg not the head – what more proof do you need?). He’s burdened with a gammy leg and a chip on his shoulder in the shape of sneering boss Daniel Mays. Meanwhile Andrea Riseborough is his partner in crime detection. She’s a feisty maverick cop who goes her own way etc and winds up dead because she’s a girl.

    Meanwhile a spate of killings of police officers has pushed the issue of routinely arming the police to the top of the news agenda in an election year. Who is killing the police? Who has killed Strong’s son (not McAvoy – his real son; i.e. the brother McAvoy never knew he had and never does because no-one mentions it even though it’s obvious)? Can we trust the shadowy shadow home secretary? Or the police chief David Morrissey who has been McAvoy’s mentor and seems to be a younger photocopy of James Cromwell in LA CONFIDENTIAL? Does this go higher up? Is there a conspiracy which even the conspirators cannot control? Will McAvoy and Strong unite to combat a greater foe? And why did Riseborough accept such a one-dimensional token role?)

    None of these questions really matter though, because this is primarily a flashy yet dull film of set-pieces with lots of gunfire. There are a lot of bullets flying about, and yet again movies teach me that bullets don’t really do any damage unless there are a lot of them. There are shoot-outs in flashy nightclubs, dull warehouses, perfectly nice lounges, and hotel rooms, but the number of deaths is suspiciously low. And the reason for this is that London in WELCOME TO THE PUNCH appears to be the most sparsely populated city in the world. It’s incredibly clean, as if the set dressers have bundled all human life out of the city then sterilised it. We’re left with a gleaming, bleached looking background, against which we can see flashy yet dull gunfights. This all makes London look like a studio set, albeit a flashily dull one. And whenever characters have to have their secret conversations (basically whenever they’re having a rest between the dull yet flashy gunfights) they do so in eye-catching locations. ‘Come with me’ Morrissey doesn’t say to McAvoy, ‘we must discuss your idea whilst we survey the gleaming city from the top of a skyscraper.’ (To be fair, everybody’s office is bugged, so it’s probably the safest option.)

    The film seems to suggest that the parliamentary opposition (in real life currently the Labour Party) are in cahoots with a security firm with an endless supply of crack mercenaries, and have conspired to kill coppers in order to get the police armed, the arms contract of course going to the security firm killing the cops. All very standard conspiracy-thriller, but it just put an image into my head of Ed Miliband and Yvette Cooper (current Labour Party leader and shadow home secretary) toting Kalashnikovs and that is just wrong, weird, and enough to sink the film (and probably the Labour Party as well). However, the film’s dully flashy shoot-outs and earnest tedium sink it without any help.

    The best scene is a kind of homage to THE LADYKILLERS (1955 vintage) with McAvoy and his new best friends visiting Ruth Sheen (she plays henchman Johnny Harris’ gran). Here at last is a scene with quirkiness, irony, comedy and suspense. And best of all it hasn’t got people wandering around trying to look cool. Pity about the gunfight though (flashy, dull and in slow motion).

    McAvoy is unconvincing in a Ewan McGregor sort of way, Strong is like a very grand block of oak, Peter Mullan looks like he’s paying his cheque straight into the fund for his next gritty directorial effort. Elsewhere David Morrissey must have wondered how he can have such a successful theatre and TV career, yet such a terrible run in movies. Hopefully Riseborough sacked her agent. Daniel Mays does his odious officer bit, whilst Jason Flemyng continues his seemingly willing descent to the lower reaches of the cast list as a corpse. Johnny Harris makes a decent fist out of a deeply unconvincing role.

    Apparently the director has made this as an homage to some other films he likes. Well, that’s very sweet of him, but films cost quite a bit of money, and surely it would be more worthwhile for him to make a new film of his own rather than just a cover version of someone else’s? WELCOME TO THE PUNCH is competent and effective enough if you like this sort of thing, but if you like this sort of thing you’ll have seen better. Two words may perhaps adequately sum this up, I hope I haven’t over-used them: flashy, dull.

    4 out of 10

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