A police thriller with a subplot in corruption is nothing new; if anything, it is becoming an almost stale trend. So, the initial vibe of this feature is that of déjà vu. However, the inclusion of some extra chases, guns and fight scenes – along with the involvement of Ridley Scott – can improve anything.
Welcome to the Punch is the second film by Shifty‘s Evan Creevy, which sees former criminal Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong) return to London after hearing his son is in hospital following a botched heist. His return provides determined detective Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy) a long-awaited opportunity to catch him, only for them to form an unlikely alliance to uncover a conspiracy.
The cast is suitably varied; Strong, normally known for his bad guy roles, tries to break against type whereas McAvoy adds another string to his bow in his credentials in his performance as the obsessed and conflicted Lewinsky. The supporting actors, from Peter Mullen as Sternwood’s associate to David Morrissey’s police chief, are great additions although Riseborough unfortunately seems to serve as an underused yet emotional catalyst as Lewinsky’s faithful colleague.
Compared to classic police action-thriller films established by John Woo (The Killer, Hard Boiledto name a few), British cop thrillers have a tendency to be more words than action – or in other words, they seem a bit too tame. Considering that we had shows like The Avengers, The Sweeney and Cracker, audiences would expect more than a tense confrontation over an interrogation desk. With the aim to bring an international flair to the film, Creevy finds his inspiration in the cat-and-mouse thrillers and slow-motion action sequences of yesteryear in amidst the nocturnal cityscapes of East London. The result is a grittier, yet styled, British thriller that can pull off an incredibly enjoyable shootout over tea and biscuits.
Tense, beautifully shot and great performances from its male leads, Welcome To The Punch is more than your average British cop film and it’s an appreciated addition to the genre.