w e l c o m e t o t h e p u n c h
15th March 2013
James McAvoy, Mark Strong
22nd March 2013
Eran Creevy's Shifty was a extremely low budget, vastly enjoyable, fantastically cast, movie so we were most curious to see what he would do given a more sizeable budget. With a bit of help from Ridley Scott, Welcome To The Punch is that movie.
James McAvoy is good cop Max Lewinsky whose dangerous obsession with high end robber Jacob Sternwood has left him physically and mentally scarred. When Sternwood's son is arrested Sternwood resurfaces and the chase resumes as Max tries to finally put Sternwood and his demons to rest amidst some very dodgy internal dealings.
Welcome To The Punch hits the ground running and doesn't really stop. An edge of your seat chase sequence around the City of London sets us up for the breathless pace of what's to come. Creevy has cited influences from Hong Kong and Korea and it's nice to see a British 'cops and robbers' film that is sexy, slick and beautifully shot. London really is another character, swathed in blue light and viewed from beautiful and vast aerial shots, it's exciting and enticing. Creevy cut his teeth on music videos and commercials and he himself has said this glossy, slick side was always there waiting to spring out and, well, it suits him. The action is matched by an exciting and stand out score by Harry Escott. It's heart pumping stuff!
So Creevy has made a good looking fun action movie. Great right? Well not entirely. One area where Creevy perhaps didn’t spend quite as much time perfecting everything is the script. The plot 'twists' are hard to follow and harder to swallow. There are also gaping plot holes that ultimately affect the way we engage with the characters which is a real shame. The difficult and complex relationship between Sternwood and Max is interesting and has a nod to Point Break that should have been developed further. More explanation into Max's side of this difficult relationship would have been interesting. Max asks Sternwood 'why didn't you kill me when you had the chance?' To which Jacob simply replies 'for what?'. This is why the script is frustrating at times, from Jacob's side that line is beautiful. And Max? Well we still don't know. Max's obsession with Sternwood is never quite explained enough that we are happy to have that as our central motivation, I never quite engaged with Max, it felt a bit tenuous. Likewise Risebourgh and McAvoy's 'romantic' involvement is never really fully explained and feels underdeveloped and hard to invest in, in fact Riseborough's character is woefully underdeveloped and, to be honest, a bit of a waste of her talent. And on that note, the two (three if you count Nan) female characters in this film are, shall we say, somewhat lacking but I guess that well rounded female characters isn't high on the tick list in this genre of film. Something for Si and I to discuss and argue heatedly about on the Broken Shark podcast (coming soon!).
All credit to Creevy, the casting in this film really is faultless. It's a dream team. The vastly talented James McAvoy, playing against type is good as Max but the script thwarts him at times and I am not entirely sure about this type of role for him. From the amazing Peter Mullan to the consistently great Danny Mays, Jason Flemyng (very briefly) David Morrissey, Andrea Riseborough and a brilliant Johnny Harris as Dean. The scene in Dean's nan's house is genius. That's all I'm saying. Utter genius.
Having been a huge fan of Mark Strong it was great watching him enjoy the character of Jacob Sternwood so much. He has given a character, so often played as a caricature, complete humanity. As well as being physically imposing without really doing that much there are soft sides which are genuinely touching. A scene where he is handling his sick son's clothes is so delicately handled, it is heartbreaking. Certainly this is one Strong's best roles to date. I could have watched him for hours more. It's a magnificent performance.
Creevy is one of the most interesting directors Britain has at the moment and for the criticism voiced above, none of it detracts from what is a perfectly cast, super slick thriller and one that's raising the game for this genre of British films, which can only be a good thing.