When he introduced his second feature film, writer/director Eran Creevey commented that Welcome to the Punch was an old fashioned kind of Friday night fun. Though Creevey’s film is indeed visually impressive and slick as Hell, it’s not the action-romp the review snips keep heralding.
Starting off with a well-executed Dark Knight/Heat heist-turned-chase, the film promises a killer rollercoaster for the audience, a gang of suited criminals carry their payload out of an uber-modern office type space, jump on the back of some motorbikes and speed off into the night with James McAvoy’s hot-headed detective in pursuit. It’s a stellar opening, capturing the potential for London as a metropolis just as suited to cinema as San Fran or Chicago, but without forgetting that it’s not. Unfortunately the rest of the film seems to dwindle itself away on a murky plot, too focused on the politics behind the whole affair rather than truly letting the flow lose itself in spontaneity.
Though you’ll feel short-changed on action sequences, Creevey is obviously comfortable with them. There’s a great pace to his action, a streamlined but dangerous quality to the shootouts, which actually makes them believable. It’s incredible how often violence in films can seem so slight (The Dark Knight Rises?) so it’s a pleasure to watch some well-choreographed ferocity. Saying that, there is one –albeit hilarious- iffy scene of style-over-substance; a shoot-out at one of the robbers granny’s place. You might not see anything as funny as Peter Mullan holding a gun to an old woman’s head this year, but Creevey should have drew the line at slow-mo.
Strong is on top form, every bit the professional criminal and Peter Mullan steals scenes with much needed humour. You can’t help but think this is Strong and Mullan’s show, but Mullan doesn’t get the screen time he deserves. Same could be said for David Morrissey who appears as police chief, a thin character for such a great actor, though he gets to prove his worth by the end. Not to say there’s any issues with McAvoy, but a bizarre move to glorify every step he takes and every word he says ends up making many of his scenes seem melodramatic. That’s not particularly attractive for an action movie.
What’s infuriating about the film is that it regains that action perfection, presented in the opening, for its grand finale, leaving us all thinking why there was so much grey space of political confusion, plotting, and McAvoy sucking gunk out of his manky knee. Better balance would have left the overall feel of the film in healthier stead. Still, the cinematography is stunning throughout and technically well-conceived (if a little too…blue), and there’s plenty of merit to Creevey’s second feature.
Although there’s plenty of issues in pace and plot, Welcome to the Punch has the right idea. Good action, great cast, but falls short on being that all-out Friday night fun you might be looking for.
Stars. James McAvoy, Mark Strong, Andrea Riseborough, Peter Mullen, David Morrissey, Ruth Sheen, Daniel Kaluuya, Jason Flemyng