Welcome to the Punch
dir-scr Eran Creevy
prd Rory Aitken, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Ben Pugh
with James McAvoy, Mark Strong, Andrea Riseborough, Peter Mullan, David Morrissey, Daniel Mays, Johnny Harris, Daniel Kaluuya, Natasha Little, Ruth Sheen, Jason Maza, Jason Flemyng
release UK/US 15.Mar.13
13/UK 1h40
Welcome to the Punch
London's mean streets: McAvoy

strong riseborough mullan
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Welcome to the Punch Sleek and energetic, this London crime thriller holds our interest with strong characters and a conspiracy-based plot. Although it never really gets under our skin, as the central characters are too shady for us to identify with them.

Three years after he failed to stop a major heist, London detective Max (McAvoy) is obsessed with finding Jacob (Strong), the criminal mastermind who got away. Now Jacob's back in town, but Max's lieutenant (Morrissey) won't let him join in the hunt. So he gets involved in secret, working with his partner Sarah (Riseborough). Meanwhile, Jacob has teamed up with old pal Roy (Mullan) to find out why the thug Dean (Harris) is on a murderous rampage. And both Max and Jacob are about to discover that their investigations are converging.

The cast is especially strong, with actors who can add surprise us with a hard-edged sense of moral complexity. McAvoy and Strong are nicely set against each other, bringing a hint of father-son tension that builds to their big confrontation, which then takes a turn we don't expect. Riseborough adds a steely resolve to Sarah that's surprisingly endearing. And Morrissey, Mullan and Harris have so much presence that we're not sure if we should like them for their openness or be afraid of what we can see lurks within them.

Yes, these characters are perhaps a bit too tortured. There isn't anyone here with clean hands, and the baddies all have human sides, so the film is an involving collision of determination and menace. It's also dark and tough, with more insinuations of corruption than clear plot points about it. Indeed, the narrative is convoluted and murky, and we're never quite clear what all the fuss is about. And various quests for redemption never materialise.

Creevy directs with a vivid sense of style, letting the camera glide along steel and glass surfaces that reflect fluorescent light back into our eyes. Action scenes are sharp and brutal, with crazed gunfights in vivid London locations, adding a fantastical parallel reality tone to the whole film. There are also nice twists along the way, while the final sequences keep us cleverly off-balance to draw out surprising resonance. Although we never really know what the film is trying to say.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 16.Jan.13

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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall