Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
Grab some of the finest British actors working today, put them in crime thriller with a slick setting, a hot young director with a sharp visual eye and toss in a lot of guns… and what do you get?  To my surprise, you get the same thing you would get if the movie were shot here in the United States, the being a real stupid action movie.  'Welcome to the Punch' people.  More of the same, but with accents and a silly title. 

Cop Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy) really, really hates professional thief Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong).  Imagine the thing you despise the most, then multiply that by a thousand, and you still haven't scratched the surface as to how much Lewinsky hates Sternwood.  But just wait, it gets worse.

Sternwood's crew, as this film opens, has just pulled a heist.  Max got the drop on the crew and chases them through some deserted London streets.  Eventually the four criminals on motorbikes descend into an underground parking facility and Lewinsky's boss on the radio EXPLICITLY tells him not to follow them down there.  He's a British cop so he has no gun.  Chances are the guys he's chasing do have guns.  Seems pretty cut and dry to me.  Not so much to Max.  He goes down there, corners Sternwood… and surprise, he has gun and shoot Max in the leg and gets away.

Three years have passed and if you think Max hated Sternwood before, you should see him now.   Today Max is just a disgraced cop with bad knee and a worse attitude.  He has a partner in Sarah (Andrea Riseborough) who I believe kinds of loves him, but Max isn't really the most lovable guy around, so we can see why this relationship of theirs isn't exactly flourishing. 
Back to the FCU
Let Chris know how Wrong He Is
Don't Be Square...
Like Totally Twisted Flix!

Now a couple of things happen which changes pretty much everything for everybody in this movie, and amazingly these things which seem separate, are all uniquely connected.  First Sarah and Max arrest a guy name Warms (Johnny Harris) who they think might be doing some gun running and maybe a little murder on the side.  Then Sternwoods son Ruan (Elyes Gabel) shows up in a hospital with a near fatal gun wound to the gut.  Also, there's a dead kid that popped up who happens to a good friend of Ruan.  On the periphery of all of this is a candidate running for office on the platform of UK cops getting guns and body armor.  Now the important thing that's relevant about all of these seemingly disconnected events is that Sternwood's son is in the hospital and Max is banking, or desperately hoping that the senior Sternwood will show up and try to get him out of this hospital, thus finally giving Max absolution.

What ends up happening is that Sternwood is in town, and he'd like to get his son out of this hospital, but he desperately wants to find out who shot his boy and why.  Also, Max's girl Sarah has a few clues of her own she needs to check out.  Ultimately, a lot of bad things happen to both Max and Sternwood, and even though they hate each other, more so Max hates Sternwood as Sternwood could really care less about Max, but these things that happen to these two dudes are so awful that they have to put their differences aside and completely shoot up London. 

Directed by Eran Creevy, 'Welcome to the Punch' is certainly one of the better looking crime thrillers that you are going to see.  It's all neon and steel, cold environments, slick buildings and reflections… This is one movie with style to burn.  Now we could ask 'is there a lot of substance supporting this style?'  Uh… not really.  The movie was entertaining enough, if for no other reason that there were bullets flying all over the place for a good portion of this movie, and these scenes were well realized, and also because you had some fine actors playing their one-note characters like a maestro with one finger, but the movie was missing a few things.  Chief among these would be a soul as there wasn't an awful lot of depth to anything going on in this movie, and second thing 'Welcome to the Punch' could've benefited from would've been a narrative that didn't rely on amazing coincidences to push it from scene to scene.  The chances of all these disparate elements coming together at the moments that they do, or certain characters meeting at certain spots at just the right time was a bit of a stretch on the imagination.  Since this is a real world crime thriller and not a fantasy epic, these elements, and the way they were executed, weren't working all that well in this movie.  Then there were the performances, though not bad but they were lacking.  Not because the actors couldn't pull them off but because they didn't have much to work with.  Mark Strong played stoic, though he did get a chance to cry.  James McAvoy played stressed, but he got the chance to fight back his tears which I guess was the stretch for his character.  James Harris played crazy, Andrea Riseborough played concerned, with only David Morrissey as the police commissioner, still playing the type of duplicitous, slimy role we're used to seeing him play, but his character did travel some emotional ground.

Now this may sound like I didn't like this movie, but that's not really true.  I was entertained by 'Welcome to the Punch', mainly because I am usually entertained by slick, stupid action movies and this one filled that basic need.   Creevy keeps his movie in motion, good actors playing one note well is usually better than bad actors playing many notes badly, and there was plenty of action. 

So while I thought 'Welcome to the Punch' might be a smarter and a more clever type of thriller… I didn't get that.  That's my fault.  Silly me placing false expectations on my cinema simply because the actors talk funny.  It's just an entertaining stupid action movie, but one with a higher pedigree than most.
Don't Be Square... Like Totally Twisted Flix!
Real Time Web