Should I Watch..? 'Welcome To The Punch' (2013)
What's the big deal?
Welcome To The Punch is a British action thriller film released in 2013 and is written and directed by Eran Creevy. It features James McAvoy and Mark Strong as the two leads and the film is executive produced by Ridley Scott and Liza Marshall of Scott's own production company, Scott Free. It is an attempt to emulate American-style action movies, with its heavy use of firearms, chase sequences and stylish villains, but in a contemporary British setting. Sadly, it doesn't really work and audiences agreed - the film failed to recoup its modest budget and disappeared from public consciousness fairly quickly.
What's it about?
Career criminal Jacob Sternwood has left London behind, having gotten out of the business after injuring his nemesis DI Max Lewinsky. Sparing Max's life, Sternwood leaves with his ill-gotten gains and flees the country to Iceland to lie low. Unfortunately, his son Ruan is left in London to grow up to form his own reputation but sadly, Ruan is not as successful as his father. Ruan is attacked by unknown assailants and Jacob believes that he knows who is responsible, forcing him to return to London to seek justice.
For Max, it gives him one last chance to put Jacob behind bars - a chance he's been seeking ever since he was shot in the knee. Ignoring his fellow officers, his partner DS Sarah Hawks and even his superior Commander Geiger, Max will stop at nothing to get his revenge. But things aren't always what they seem and soon, both Max and Jacob must confront a conspiracy that runs deeper than they could imagine...
What's to like?
I assume that Creevy is a fan of Michael Mann films like Collateral because Welcome To The Punch looks very similar to the hyper-stylish world of that film. The skyscrapers in the City of London offer a cold, steely backdrop to the action with their empty office windows twinkling like stars. The action is also of a high standard with necessary slow-motion sections and enough gun-fu to give John Woo a run for his money. McAvoy ditches his natural Scottish accent and adopts a convincing London one and opposite him, Strong delivers yet another calm, controlled performance as the crook with a heart.
The supporting cast also deliver the goods, despite the weakness of the script. I was encouraged by the performances of Daniel Mays and Johnny Harris and I also applaud director Creevy for a job well done - he knows how to deliver a picture that is engaging and exciting to watch, despite his limited experience.
- The script had been on a Brit-list of the best unproduced screenplays in British film compiled by industry movers and shakers.
- The film made most of its takings in the UK but still only took £460'000. In the US, it grossed less than $10'000.
- Filming locations include the indigO2 nightclub at the O2 Arena in London and Farnborough Airfield in Hampshire, about ten minutes away from where I used to live.
What's not to like?
The script lets it down - the story is not the easiest to follow and it remains all too predictable. But the biggest problem is the tone of the film is all wrong. It puts its heart and soul into trying to imitate a hundred American movies that you've all seen before and as a result, it is cold and soulless. At no point did I care about any of the characters and instead of enjoying the action, I found slightly silly. I've lived in London and I know Canary Wharf - where a lot of the film seems to be set - very well indeed. To look at the film, you'd swear that the characters in the film were the only people actually in London - the streets are conveniently empty and suspiciously clean so car chases aren't interrupted by the hoards of people normally milling about. I especially loved the nightclub shoot-out which didn't even seem to have a DJ, let alone revellers!
It's a difficult film to enjoy because there's next to no humour in it (besides the bizarre shoot-out at the home of some character's granny) and it is relentlessly grim. If I wanted a film about Cockney robbers and rozzers trying to stop them then I'd watch Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels which is equally daft but it's funny - the criminals are charming, the heroes are hopeless and the banter is inspired. This just feels like it could have been any American movie but with English accents. It's like Hot Fuzz but without a single laugh anywhere and set in the city of London instead of a sleepy rural village somewhere.
Should I watch it?
if you wanted a cheap laugh at its expense then Welcome To The Punch offers plenty of unintentional giggles but for anyone hoping for a decent action film, you won't find it here. What you will find are tired old clichés regurgitated and recycled for your amusement, scenes that would simply never happen in London or anywhere else in the UK, one-dimensional characters and such a ludicrous amount of guns, it made me wonder whether the Metropolitan Police actually saved up all their confiscated hardware and lent them to the filmmakers. It shows promise but ultimately disappoints.
Great For: anyone with an allergy to Americans, action fans, McAvoy's voice coach
Not So Great For: fans of cop films, Londoners, British film industry
What else should I watch?
Both Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch offer a slightly more realistic look at crime in London but with a strong comedic twist. Guy Ritchie might have had a somewhat chequered career but his early films were fearless and genuinely funny and you won't find better films from him than these two classics.
Of course, the US is the home of the action cop genre and offers everything from Beverly Hills Cop and the charismatic comic genius of Eddie Murphy in prime form to the likes of Bad Boys, Lethal Weapon and Michael Mann's own attempts, the somewhat undercooked Miami Vice and his earlier epic Heat which saw Robert De Niro and Al Pacino face off. Personally, I preferred Mann's low-budget thriller Collateral which doesn't have much in the way of cops but Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise in a gripping and tense battle of wills.
DI Max Lewinsky
DS Sarah Hawks
Commander Thomas Geiger
DCI Nathan Bartnick
Release Date (UK)
15th March, 2013
© 2015 Benjamin Cox