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Welcome to the Punch PosterEran Creevy directs a very starry cast in this very stylish London-set thriller. Max Lewinski (James McAvoy), a dedicated young detective hopes for a chance of redemption when ex-criminal Jacob Sternwood’s (Mark Strong) son ends up in hospital after a botched heist. Sternwood got away from Lewinski years earlier, shooting him in the leg in the process and leaving him hopelessly embittered and plagued with feelings of inadequacy and failure. With gun-crime on the rise London’s streets have never been more dangerous but Lewinski hopes he can flush out his old nemesis and reclaim his pride.

There are few British films that look as good as this. Shot in a contemporary noir style London is presented as a glossy, near-futuristic metropolis, all glass surfaces and reflections. The cinematography is framed confidently and compliments a sharp script that delves into the slightly seedy romance of the capital’s underworld. But the story brings together betrayals and conspiracies in a very familiar routine of dirty cops and double-crosses that, while always engaging, fails to truly ignite.

But it’s not for want of players. McAvoy convinces as the damaged young Lewinski, everything from his accent to his world-weary glower coming across as authentic while Mark Strong proves yet again he is an irresistible screen presence, imbuing his former crim with sympathy. The support all seem to be on the same page with the likes of Andrea Riseborough and especially Peter Mullan providing ample entertainment value.

The main criticism of the film seems to indicate that it is hollow, with nothing below the pretty surface. I agree with this up to a point but appreciated some the shades of grey found here in certain characters that are too often missing from other films happy to keep the good guys and bad guys clearly defined.

Welcome to the Punch Image 1

For all the Hollywood sheen on display there’s a lack of ambition. There are a number of standout scenes; a shoot-out in a night club and one late episode that balances tension and comedy beautifully; but the film could do with more excitement to give it lift-off. I definitely recommend this film as a worthwhile and stylish cop tale that’s well-acted by all involved but don’t expect too much depth or originality.

Verdict

With an eye for Hollywood flare and a confident approach, Welcome to the Punch is worth a shout even if it is style over substance.

3

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