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Welcome to the Punch Review: Strong Action does not Substitue a Weak Story

The British film industry can be a very strange beast, as it acts as half-way house between Hollywood and Europe and where movies are seen to have the potential to break into the American market. This is certainly the hope for the British action-thriller Welcome to the Punch, which looks impressive, but is filled with many clichés and plot holes. Max (James McAvoy) is a jaded police detective who is after Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong), a gangster that got away after a bank heist and was shot in the knee. Three years later, Sternwood is forced out of hiding when his son is found shot at the City of London Airport, where Max sees an opportunity to get his man and sparks new life in him. But soon Max, his partner, Sarah (Andrea Riseborough) and Sternwood all end up investigating a conspiracy, involving a soldier turned gun smuggler, Dean Warns (Johnny Harris) and a private security company, all to the backdrop of raising gun crime and the Shadow Home Secretary calling for all British police officers to be armed. Welcome to the Punch is a great looking movie, using a harsh blue filters and florescent lighting as it highlights the modern heart of London. Writer/Director Eran Creevy shows great confidence behind the camera and he definitely knows how to film a shootout. The movie starts out with an exciting chase sequence and whilst the fist fights were shot too close and cut too quickly, Creevy is clearly a man with potential. Welcome to the Punch was a very stylized looking movie that supplies plenty of solid action and slow-motion. But whilst the action scenes are competently handled, they are not revolutionary either and the best one was the chase sequence at the start of the movie. The biggest draw of the movie is its cast, which has some of the best talent Britain has to offer. McAvoy, Strong and Riseborough are all of course very talented and give fine performances, especially Strong who gives his all for the movie. Welcome to the Punch also has an excellent supporting cast, having the likes of Tyrannosaur’s Peter Mullan and The Walking Dead’s David Morrissey, playing pivotal roles and act as the professionals they are. Max and Sternwood have a battle of wits throughout the movie and both men are great tacticians, with instincts to match as they try to outsmart each other. The other major theme playing throughout the movie is revenge as Max has a dogged determination to get Sternwood and make a name for himself, as Sternwood wants to find the people who hurt his son. The duel narrative between the two is balanced extremely well and blended naturally, when their paths cross once again. If there was a major fault of the movie, it would have to be the screenplay, which attempts to bring an American style cop thriller to the British landscape. What we get is a movie filled with just about every cliché the crime genre has to offer and makes it look like it was made by people who have no idea about how the British police or politics works. I felt like an outsider looking in, as they Americanize the British police system and felt very false. The Home Secretary is highly involved with all of the investigations, when in reality he is a policy maker, he is not involved directly on ground level law enforcement like a District Attorney or Chief of Police. Police procedural fiction is very common in the UK, in the form of TV and novels and we know how the police in this country. We see the clichés of how the Max is distrusted by his direct superior, a conspiracy with corrupt police officers, Max having incredible instincts, that would match Jack Bauer’s and yet he's someone that manages to keep his job, after a sackable incident that would a PR nightmare. The plot itself is faulty, as we dig deeper and deeper into the film, throwing new elements and names that when introduced, makes them hard to keep track of. This happens despite the actual plot and conspiracy being extremely simple. What makes the conspiracy worse in the film is when everything is revealed, it exposes massive plot holes and logic questions that you can drive a bus through. The story collapses on itself in the final act and it simply ends up feeling like the plot of a bad Spooks (MI-5 in the US) episode. Welcome to the Punch is a film that contains plenty of flash and professionalism and it looks more expensive than it really is. But the lacklustre story filled with clichés and plot holes makes Welcome to the Punch, a sadly disappointing movie. Cheevy does have plenty of potential as a director, but he may want to step away from writing duties next time.


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