Thursday, 14 March 2013

Welcome To The Punch

Welcome To The Punch

Brit bullet ballet

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

Directed by:
Written by:
Produced by:
Action, Adventure, Crime, Thriller
1 hour 39 minutes
UK Cinema Release Date:
Friday 15th March

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