— Rating: Unrated
Length: 99 minutes
Release Date: March 27, 2013
Directed by: Eran Creevy
Stars: 3 out of 5
“Welcome to the Punch” is a crime thriller that was made in the United Kingdom and released in the UK by Momentum Pictures. It was written and directed by Eran Creevy, and the screenplay placed third on the 2010 Brit List. This list of unproduced screenplays is compiled by the British film industry. Rory Aitken and Ben Pugh produced this film and were also the producers for “Shifty,” Creevy’s debut film. “Welcome to the Punch” was filmed in some locations in London, and some interior shots were filmed at the London College of Communication.
The central characters in “Welcome to the Punch” are Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong) and Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy). The film opens in a mysterious room with a body on the floor, but the audience later learns that the room is in a sleek, modern building known as “The Punch.” Four men wearing gas masks and suits soon arrive with large bags and guns, and it soon becomes apparent that they are in the final stages of a robbery. The men leave the building with smoothly choreographed movements and speed off into the night on black motorcycles. This scene is characterized by strong lines, and the camerawork is very smooth.
Detective Lewinsky quickly begins pursuing the four thieves through the streets of London. Lewinsky shows that he is very angry and determined to catch the men, as demonstrated by his highly aggressive driving. He eventually tracks the men to a tunnel when he hears a warning on his radio instructing him not to go into the tunnel. True to this character type, Lewinsky ignores the warning and eventually corners Sternwood, one of the thieves. Sternwood shows his villainous side and shoots Lewinsky in cold blood, but only wounds him.
Sternwood flees to Iceland to escape from detective Lewinsky, but his son later becomes involved in a heist that goes wrong. Sternwood is forced to return to London, allowing Lewinsky a final chance to capture him after pursuing him for a long time. The two men discover a deep conspiracy as their battle of wits proceeds towards a final face off.
“Welcome to the Punch” shows that director Creevy is a fan of the crime-thriller genre, as his film is heavily influenced by the classic 1995 thriller “Heat” by Michael Mann. Creevy clearly revels in this influence from his portrayal of gritty crime covered by a sleek surface. “Welcome to the Punch” is also strongly influenced by other films in this genre, such as the 2002 Infernal Affairs trilogy from Hong Kong, although it isn’t certain that “Welcome to the Punch” is a true homage.
Creevy often simulates his influences, and this is clearly illustrated in the action scenes. Many of the chases take place on streets that are devoid of traffic, which is especially apparent in the opening chase sequence. This feature is highly reminiscent of the 2008 film “The Dark Knight,” in which city streets are routinely deserted.
This film features plenty of one-on-one action between good guys and bad guys, which is a requirement for films in this genre. “Welcome to the Punch” takes itself quite seriously as a classic crime drama, although it has some comedic moments that may have been unintentional. It could easily have become satirical if the robbers looked like ex-boxers with broken noses.
Some of the absurd premises in this film make it more enjoyable than many other crime thrillers that try too hard to become classics, and “Welcome to the Punch” will have the greatest appeal for a specific type of film buff. It is certainly able to keep the audience watching the screen with the acting performances and cinematography, especially in scenes without dialogue. However, the illogical plot twists are often telegraphed, and serious film buffs may find the subplots uninspiring.
The obvious influences from other films may make audience members want to criticize the film with other film buffs. Much of the appeal of this film comes from identifying its many influences. Sophisticated filmgoers will enjoy isolating these influences to determine which ones work, but they will also notice stiff dialogue in some places.
The solid performances of the principal actors are often able to overcome the film’s limitations. Strong is especially able to deliver a performance with surprising depth, given what he has to work with. Fans of British films will also recognize many of the faces in the other roles, including Jason Flemyng, David Morrissey, Peter Mullan, Andrea Riseborough, and Ruth Sheen.