Welcome To The Punch – Review

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC Welcome To The Punch - Review

Where did all the Londoners go? I’m pretty sure there are some. I shared a bus with a few of them this afternoon (wouldn’t recommend) and I can hear some outside now using sentences that are mostly made up of vowels. There’s over eight million of us. It seems Welcome to the Punch, however, was filmed when we all went on holiday that one time, because director Eran Creevy’s London is empty. It looks nice, don’t get me wrong. The Shard and the Gherkin have never sparkled so much in sweeping landscape shots; glass, granite and river all washed with a sleazy yet seductive blue palate sheen. It’s beautiful, but ultimately empty.

No one lives in London but cops and robbers it seems. Characters meet in empty theatre auditoriums, shootouts occur in empty nightclubs. It’s so barren that, in the first scene, our protagonist Max (James McAvoy) is able to locate the people he’s pursuing by getting out of his car on an empty street and listening really hard. In London. Seriously. For a film as desperate as it is to showcase the expanse of London’s skyline, we see none of its life, only its corners and corridors.

Combining this with short roster of characters does create a certain claustrophobic tone at least, that even in the huge expanse of the city this handful of people are bound together, locked into inevitable conflict by their sins or obsessions. This microscopic scope of storytelling would be fine if this were a character study, but the script – also by Creevy – is far more concerned with plot twists than character nuance which leaves the movie feeling shallow and insubstantial.

So there’s this tough nut copper called Max, right. This fella’s got a rock hard cock on for this robber, real stern geezer. You know ee’s Stern cos ‘is name is actually Sternwood in the script. It’s a sorta clever touch thing. So the copper’s obsessed with this Sternwood bloke ‘cos he once gave Max a bit of a slap, shot his leg all gimpy like and made him look a tit. And you’ve cottoned on that Max is obsessed with ‘im – right – cause every Dick ‘n Harry keeps mouthin’ off to him “you’re obsessed” every few minutes. Its sorta helpful actually cause it means we don’t ‘ave to waste no time actually showin’ his obsession or – like – investin’ in Max’s character or nuffin when you can just – like – tell us he’s obsessed and we can just get on with it so the audience don’t get confused or distracted or wander off or nuffin.

It’s one of those rare cases when a film could actually afford to be a little longer. It never stops to catch its breath, every scene advancing the plot plot plot. While this means that the first two acts move at a compelling pace, by the time the third act rears its head and all the twists flop onto the frame like dead fish, it’s hard to care because all the script’s characterisation of the cast has been either non-existent or so bluntly on-the-nose (“you’re obsessed, Max” or “That decision is bad” “Like your attitude”) that we’re invested in nobody. I don’t feel anything if a character I’ve barely met betrays another man I don’t care about. Had the pace slowed a little and we actually got to spend more time with these characters, their backgrounds, their histories, or just having them talk about anything other than plot we might care, maybe feel some tension, but the film’s closing moments just left me numb. Not bored necessarily, just unmoved.

The plot itself is a functional but bland conspiracy featuring betrayals aplenty and more twists than the 60s, but it feels as rote and functional as any straight-to-DVD copper flick, more suited to a Danny Dyer than a James McAvoy. One has to think that it’s off the back of his debut film Shifty‘s critical kudos that Creevy was able to attract such an all-star cast of British thesps to such a B-movie project. James McAvoy, Mark Strong, David Morrisey, and Andrea Risborough all deserve much more than the script gives them and the few grace notes are all provided by them despite the material, rather than because of it. The flicker of Mark Strong’s eyes when he realises he has to return to a life of crime, the constant pain on James McAvoy’s face when he bends his bum knee, the frail cracks Andrea Risborough inserts into her one-note ‘ballsy woman’ character brief.

Peter Mullen and Johnny Harris (channeling a young Eddie Marsan) fare much better, because their characters are supposed to be slightly eccentric. It’s the only time Creevy’s script remembers to add colour to the dialogue, and Mullen and Harris leap on it with relish, creating a deeply sympathetic old rogue in one, and an intensely unsettling psychopath in the other. If only the script had endeavoured to make the other characters as remarkable, Welcome to the Punch could have a nice little classic.

Because, storytelling aside, the filmmaking on display here is actually of high quality. The ensemble are giving it all they’ve got but as a director Creevy also impresses. There are a number of set-piece scenes – a shootout in a club, a shootout in a hotel room, a brilliant Pinteresque confrontation in an old Nan’s living room – that are all well-composed, brilliantly sound-designed, and shot with a real kinetic energy, confirming that Eran Creevy is a british director with a strong sense of stylistic flair.

The direction and acting elevate it above your average friday night rental, no doubt. However, I’ll leave it up to your own moviegoing sensibilities whether you think it’s worth a full cinema ticket to see a movie with undeniable production value but lacking in any discernible personality.

It’s beautiful, but ultimately empty. Make your choice, Londoners, if there are indeed any of you out there.

We hope you're enjoying BRWC. You should check us out on our social channels, subscribe to our newsletter, and tell your friends. BRWC is short for battleroyalewithcheese.

Trending on BRWC:

Megalopolis - Review

Megalopolis – The BRWC Review

By BRWC / 18th June 2024
Inside Out 2: The BRWC Review

Inside Out 2: The BRWC Review

By BRWC / 23rd June 2024
I Saw The TV Glow: The BRWC Review

I Saw The TV Glow: The BRWC Review

By BRWC / 25th June 2024
Death After Dusk: Review

Death After Dusk: Review

By Joel Fisher / 14th June 2024
Boys Like You: The BRWC Review

Boys Like You: The BRWC Review

By Rudie Obias / 21st June 2024

Cool Posts From Around the Web:

BRWC is short for battleroyalewithcheese, which is a blog about films.



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.