‘Welcome To The Punch’ is the latest movie from UK prospect Eran Creevy. Having directed fast-paced indie breakthrough ‘Shifty’ in 2008 as well as working on the likes of ‘Layer Cake’, WTTP is Creevy’s big-time debut. Coming as it does with the executive producing credit of a certain Ridley Scott and a reputed budget of $8.5million, it’s true to say this is a UK big-budget take on the modern crime drama. Comparisons were drawn early on to Michael Mann’s untouchable 1995 masterpiece ‘Heat’, given that the action focuses on James MacAvoy in the stressed cop Pacino role and Mark Strong in the veteran career criminal role that DeNiro did so well. Would these comparisons serve the movie well? Or would the movie come off as a pale imitation of the slick American-made crime capers we’ve all become familiar with?
‘Welcome To The Punch’ opens with a daring heist sequence set in downtown London. The ensuing motorbike chase shines a light on the city that we’ve not seen before – all gleaming glass and jagged skyscrapers. This bold look underlies WTTP’s confidence and ambition. This isn’t another UK-set kitchen sink estate drama, this is cops & robbers on an epic scale. Credit must go to director of photography Ed Wild (who also worked on Shifty) for making London look incredible, stylistically somewhere between night-time Los Angeles and a neon-future Tokyo. Not since I stumbled half-pissed through a deserted Canary Wharf late at night have I seen the city looking equally as impressive and yet somehow daunting.
I’d like to say the story settles down after this impressive opening sequence, but herein lies one of my main criticisms of the film. 'Welcome To The Punch' never really settles into anything that resembles a confident stride, instead it seems to hurtle along at maximum speed from one stylistic gunfight to a next. The premise seemed promising – Strong’s Jacob Sternwood is forced out of hiding and must return to London when he learns his son is the victim of a gunshot attack. This brings him back on to the radar of MacAvoy’s frazzled cop Max Lewinsky, who took a bullet to the knee himself a few years earlier in the opening sequence of the film at the hands of Sternwood. What is set up as a head to head showdown between the two gets somewhat mired in a frankly convoluted plot that involves crooked cops, campaign managers and politicians. Familiar UK faces pop up here (David Morrissey, Peter Mullan and the ‘last seen being an absolute bastard in This Is England 86’ Johnny Harris) and do a good job, but ultimately fail to give the movie enough time to just relax a little and let the audience breath.
This is bold, confident filmmaking, with a dash of pizzazz and fizzling action sequences rarely seen this side of the pond. However, the sheer relentlessness of the plot’s velocity never really gives you a chance to get comfortable with it. 'Welcome To The Punch' is on general relase in UK cinemas now.
6.5 slow motion gunshots/ 10