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  • Warning: Spoilers
    Welcome To The Punch made me leave the cinema feeling very confused. Not because of the storyline, no. The tale is set in a blue-tinted, modern day London. Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy) is still pretty hung up over being shot by bad guy Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong) and gets his one chance at revenge when Sternwood returns to London after his son Ruan (Elyes Gabel) is shot himself and severely injured. Simple enough.

    Whilst the casting was strong, the acting solid (especially McAvoy's portrayal of a man obsessed with revenge and filled with anger and self-hatred) and the film itself is shot beautifully, I couldn't help but leave feeling I'd been robbed of a real movie, a real ending. Whilst there are moments when unexpected gunshots will cause you jump a good couple of feet out the chair, there are only so many shoot-outs you can sit through before wondering if anyone even knows how to use a gun. Especially when the people using them are supposedly some of the best marksmen around. So whilst there are tales of corruption, unexplained changes of heart and some shocking, upsetting moments, the storyline becomes relatively predictable too early on for my liking and the film seems to come to a sudden, abrupt end.

    If you're looking to be entertained for just under a couple of hours without questioning too much, this is the film for you. If like me you expect more from a movie with a cast and the budget shown, prepare to leave the screen feeling as if you've been poked a few times in the arm, hardly punched.
  • Welcome to the Punch...I think...

    So, I actually managed to get to the advanced screening of Welcome to the Punch this evening. Unfortunately, not a single one of my 150ish London based Facebook friends could accompany me to the free advanced preview of the film and, at first, I must admit that I was very disappointed. But now, I find myself wondering whether they knew something that I didn't!

    Eran Creevy, writer and director sets the stage clearly with an opening sequence that plays out in London's glossy, glass and steel covered Canary Wharf. It pulls us in straight away. We find ourselves almost immediately invested in both the protagonist (James McAvoy as Max Lewinsky, detective cop chap whom we're meant to root for) and antagonist (a stern Mark Strong playing naughty bad guy, Jacob Sternwood), willing the story to tell us more about these two characters and the motivations behind their actions.

    Borrowing heavily from the audio visual flare of Nolans bat films, particularly 'The Dark Knight', we're lead to believe that a stylish cat and mouse action / crime caper in the style of Heat awaits us. I honestly found myself asking whether this could actually be the British 'Heat' after the first 10 minutes or so. Unfortunately, about 15 minutes in, my first 'gripe' smacked me in the face (from McAvoy's performance no less!) This was followed by the second, and the third, and continued to do so until the end finally came, with a twist that was visible from a mile away and a convoluted plot that had to be explained through exposition about 10 minutes before the film ended!

    Relationships between characters felt shallow and under developed, making empathy nigh on impossible and ultimately, leaving me somewhat bored of the whole thing. None of the questions that the film raises in our minds as we progress through its 'narrative' are answered and I was left feeling cheated every time. The audience needs to know why certain things are happening surely?; Sternwoods treatment of Lewinsky and vice versa, for one. So why not just tell us?

    The cast deliver strong performances with what material they have bar McAvoy, surprisingly, who gave one too many clichéd reactions which caricatured our hero and made us less sympathetic to his plight.

    For all of the films good moments it has its bad and ultimately, the bad simply overpowered the good. The little niggles (in the form of conveniently placed tools, bad aim etc.) and wannabe Bourne esque plot, along with a serious lack of satisfaction from the 'bad guy' being trumped (because, technically, the 'bad guy wasn't) made the film a lot poorer than it rightly deserved to be. Because from a technical stand point, the film looks and sounds great. And the story still feels interesting, and I want to know more. But, with the serious lack of character development and exploration of their (implied) back stories, the film finds itself lying flat on its gun riddled back after its 99 minute runtime.

    Sadly another missed opportunity for British cinema.

    Unless of course, this was designed as an Infernal Affairs style film and a prequel / sequel fills in all the 'gaps'?

    Welcome to the Punch opens nationwide on 27th March.

    Rutvig Vaid
  • 'Welcome to the Punch' is a solid idea that becomes a little overblown for its own good in the final act; clearly inspired by the crime classics like Mann's 'Heat', it doesn't pull it off as well. That and some pacing issues aside though, the terrific performances from a top-notch who's who British cast, including James McEvoy, who only has one obvious accent slip in the entire film, Andrea Riseborough, who can do anything, and the brooding, incredible Mark Strong, who almost steals the thing doing little more than looking around. Stylish to within an inch of its life, the fantastically brooding score to match the fantastically brooding faces on screen, and the gorgeous photography carry it through with unexpected panache. Nothing you don't expect, but basically what 'The Sweeney' wanted to be.
  • Inspired by Hong Kong 'heroic bloodshed' flicks, this hardnosed cops 'n' robbers tale certainly lives up to its name. James McAvoy's supercop exhibits a dogged intensity in his hunt for Mark Strong's antiheroic supercrim. During their heated cat-and-mouse game, the two uncover a conspiracy much bigger than their own dispute.

    The two leads keep things moving along nicely with their ambiguous dynamic, with a supporting cast of familiar faces picking up back-end duties rather nicely. Special mention must go to Shane Meadows favourite Johnny Harris who, as a cold-blooded ex-military henchman, exudes a barely-restrained predatory animalism, familiar to those who saw him in This is England '86. Top performances, decent pacing, and an ending which refuses to settle it all in quite the neat and tidy way one would expect.
  • I personally love this genre of film but I still don't think I'm being biased in saying that it was really good. I thought the story line was fairly simple which isn't a bad thing as it made it easy to follow while there were twists to come into the plot later on. The main character was played by James McAvoy and I found it interesting to see him playing a cop out for revenge as I thought this contrasted from anything I have seen him play before. The other lead role was portrayed by Mark Strong who I thought played his part really well. This film may not be the most original but the characters and the cast made it unique. There were some brilliant action scenes which were well placed throughout the film making it extremely gripping from start to finish. I think this is an enjoyable film and was pleasantly surprised at how good it was after reading some unfairly negative reviews.
  • It's been a long time since I have seen so much advance publicity for a film. Underground stations and trains, buses and billboards in London seem to be festooned with posters advertising "Welcome to the Punch". There has also been a noticeable TV advertising campaign in the UK, aimed at plugging the film's supposed entertainment value. It is clear that "Welcome to the Punch" has a substantial PR budget attached to it. I am not surprised that so much effort is being made to convince potential viewers of the film's credentials. Although "Welcome to the Punch" is a reasonably entertaining film, it is ultimately a disappointing one. It has more style than substance. It's a slick, glossy thriller that looks expensive. However, it is also a bleak film with (apart from one funny scene that is a strangely effective mixture of humour and tension) little to lighten its almost unremittingly depressive milieu.

    "Welcome to the Punch" is an attempt at modern day noir. It seems to me to have been heavily influenced by some of the recently successful TV crime series emanating from continental Europe (primarily Scandinavia), such as "The Killing", "Borgen" and "Spiral". However, it's not as good as any of those programmes. A few years ago, criminal mastermind Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong) injured London detective Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy) and fled to Iceland to escape the clutches of the police. He has now returned to London because his son has been shot and injured and is critically ill. This gives Lewinsky the opportunity to try to apprehend him for his past misdemeanours. Thus begins a complex tale of revenge, political and police corruption and obsession.

    "Welcome to the Punch" is entertaining. It is beautifully filmed and is a visually confident film that is a delight to look at. The acting is, for the most part, good - there is very effective support from the likes of Peter Mullan, Daniel Mays and David Morrissey. The soundtrack too is spot on. So, why is it no better than an averagely good film? Well, for one thing, the plot is so complex that it is sometimes difficult to follow. There is, for example, one scene in which the behaviour of a character (which ultimately leads to her being killed) is simply inexplicable. We have to wait a further 30 minutes or so for an explanation of why she did what she did. This is most definitely a film that requires the viewer's undivided attention - so much so that watching it sometimes seems to be much more of a chore than a pleasure. In addition, it is sometimes difficult to discern, amidst the frequent scenes of gun violence and mayhem, exactly which character has been injured or killed. This is because several of the actors have a similar physical appearance to each other and because the action all too often takes place in a darkly lit, brooding atmosphere that makes it difficult to see exactly what is going on. McAvoy gives a very good performance as the obsessive detective hellbent on revenge (despite occasional lapses with his London accent!). And it is certainly the case that "Welcome to the Punch" is a stylish film. But it is ultimately also a bleak and empty one that, despite the money and behind the camera talent expended on it, barely raises itself above the level of a competent thriller. 6/10.
  • bowmanblue12 June 2014
    I've been waiting to see 'Welcome to the Punch' ever since I heard about it (and managed to miss its cinema release). Mark Strong is such a talented actor. I've seen him in a few films which weren't very good, yet his performance has made it worthwhile. Then you have James McAvoy, who always turns in a great performance no matter what he's in. How could I lose? I did. Welcome to the Punch is billed as 'Britain's answer to Heat.' If that's the best we can do, I think we should let Hollywood win on this one. This is nothing like Heat. Never before have so many talented - British - actors been assembled and produced something so average.

    I won't say it's bad, just totally mediocre. It's about policeman, James McAvoy, seeking revenge on the gangster, Mark Strong, who shot him during a previous robbery. Nothing special plot-wise, but with such a good cast you should expect them to make something more out of it. However, the best part of the film was the way it's filmed. London has never looked so cool and stylish, plus it seems to be shot using some sort of blue/green filter to give it all an ultra-cool look.

    If you really want to see another British gangster movie then this one isn't bad. Then again, perhaps it's worse than bad - it's disappointing.

    http://thewrongtreemoviereviews.blogspot.co.uk/
  • The plot has several twists and turns, and thriller elements are catchy to follow - but it seems, however, that the screenwriter was very eager to add sophistication and all this resulted in a series of unlikely and strained scenes. Heists are seldom carried out with stylish clothes and technology in-sync, and ambitious corruption is not a sign of the UK police force - to name a few odd things... The ending scenes and the very end are scheming as well.

    The male cast is strong and even, particularly James McAvoy as Max Lewinsky, Mark Strong as Jacob Sternwood and Peter Mullan as Roy Edwards. Female characters tend to be sketchy and were uninviting to me.

    Although no Boyle or Ritchie, Welcome to the Punch is still more than a B-film. Violence is not playful, crime is gloomy and good persons tend to die as well...
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Eran Creevy has written and directed a fast-paced, desperately confusing film that is tough to decipher and in many ways scorns credibility. But if action packed dark thrillers fill the bill for you then WELCOME TO THE PUNCH certainly will. Just be prepared that a lot of the story begs indulgence until the very end.

    The film opens in medias res with a robbery where one perpetrator Jacob Sternwood (the always reliable Mark Strong is a very sold portrayal) wounds eager detective Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy looking a bit scruffy with a wannabe beard) in the leg. Three years later the story begins. Now 'former criminal' Jacob Sternwood is forced to return to London from his Icelandic hideaway when his son Ruan (the very handsome and sensitive and underused Elyes Gabel) is involved in a heist gone wrong. This gives detective Max Lewinsky one last chance to catch the man he has always been after. His partner is a female version of Max - Sarah Hanks (Andrea Riseborough)- and the tow are under the leadership of detectives Thomas Geiger (David Morrissey) and Harvey Crown (Jason Flemyng). Events begin to change with eh entry of a new criminal Dean Warns (Johnny Harris) and his presence begins to open doors as to who is really a good guy and who is a bad guy. As they face off, they start to uncover a deeper conspiracy Jacob and Max both need to solve in order to survive.

    The cast is uniformly fine, including the bit parts played by such actors as Daniel Kaluuya, Ruth Sheen, Daniel Mays and Dannielle Brent. The story involves good cop/bad cop, transformation of images, political snafus, and a lot of firepower. The plot is often too muddled to decipher but the action is fast and the acting is super.

    Grady Harp
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A persistent policeman.

    A top criminal. Again slipped through the net. Corruption at the police department and on a political level. A political game for a top job. The policeman and the criminal go hand in hand against corruption. Good cop lets the top criminal escape.

    That's it in a nutshell. Again a police thriller with the standard routine and nothing earth-shattering. The opening scene was quite interesting in terms of visualization. But it felt as if it was going to be something futuristic with those big glassy buildings and deserted streets.

    Strong was very impressive in his role as the fierce intellectual top criminal. He almost has a facial expression like Statham. I also liked the interaction and dialogues between Max and Sarah : refreshing and humorous.

    Daniel Mays also knows how to pick his parts because just like in "The Bank Job" (I've recently watched that one too) he kicks the bucket here too. But in general it was only a weak movie and a thin story.

    And one thing that annoys me the most is the amount of ammunition fired and the amount of misses.

    More reviews at http://opinion-as-a-moviefreak.blogspot.be/
  • the film opens with our lead character London City Detective Max Lewinsky chasing a gang of thieves making their getaway on motorcycles after a bank heist, eventually Det Max gets shot in his right thigh by the leader of this gang and the criminal mastermind Jacob Sternwood. we then go further in time exactly three years from that incident, Sternwwod's son is in way over his head and he is bleeding from a bullet wound after a heist gone wrong in the end he gets busted in the airport and taken away to a hospital, this calls for his father Jacob to go back to London in order to help his son escape and settle the score with whoever framed his boy but detective Lewinsky is eager to get his revenge by any means necessary and the hunt starts.

    with a good supporting cast that involves Andrea Riseborough, David Morrisey, Peter Mullan, Daniel Mays, Johnny Harris and a Cameo from Jason Flemyng besides a very good Marc Strong as the cold blooded killer yet the kind of villain that you'd sympathies with, it's James McAvoy who steals the show with a stellar performance.

    The Dialogues are good, you feel like it was written by someone who knows what he is doing, on the other hand the story is not that good but it's OK, like so many people who reviewed this film i had a problem with the plot being predictable most of the time which is bad in this kind of films.

    this is an action film so let's talk about the gunfights, yeah it's set in London and yeah we know that cops in London don't use guns but in this movie something happens and the authorities are forced to use firepower i won't go deep in this matter because i might spoil the movie for you, anyway the action junkies wont be disappointed with this it's got a lot of shootouts, a good final shootout that reminds us of the excellent video game Max Payne(bad film), in fact in this film i don't know what is it with the characters but i find most of them extremely trigger happy, American like trigger happy not the usual gunfights from the UK.

    Overall this is a very watchable action flick that brings us back the nostalgia of the 80's and the 90's with good performances from the whole cast and good job by the director.

    My Rating: 7/10
  • STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning ** Sunday Night * Monday Morning

    Officer Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy) is still reeling after an encounter where he failed to snare career criminal Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong), who's now retreated to Iceland, but is forced to come out of hiding when his son is mortally wounded, along with another boy who was killed. Desperate to catch his formerly illusive prey, Lewinsky closes in on Sternwood, but they find themselves working together when they find each other stalked by the same enemy.

    Sleazy politicians and corrupt arms firms are at the heart of Welcome to the Punch, a Brit action thriller with an overload of style but a serious short change of substance. Eran Creevy's film is littered with nifty production values and slick editing, but can't hide what a formulaic, predictable ride it is all the way. Despite trying to respect the viewer's intelligence with a fairly intricate plot, the clichés are no less in evidence.

    One of the many other, far superior films that springs to mind is Heat, in terms of the style the film is aiming for, and so we have McAvoy and Strong at each respective end of the desperate, determined cop/illusive prey end. Pacino and De Niro they are not.

    It's got an all star Brit cast, some fluid action sequences, everything, it seems, but real heart. And without that, what can you do? **
  • When thinking about English Police dramas, The Bill usually comes to mind, episodes where two overweight police officers would run around estates trying to find out who robbed the local Sainsbury's. Thankfully, Welcome To The Punch, is a lot more sophisticated and glamorous than that, directed by Eran Creevy ,(who also made the fantastic Shifty), this film features quite possibly the most beautiful presentation of London as a modern city that I've ever seen on the big screen. But visuals are only part of a film, so how was the rest of it....

    Dropping us right into the middle of a complicated heist, we see rugged cop Max (James McAvoy) ignore orders and get shot in the leg by one of the criminals (Mark Strong, bald bad guy from Sherlock Holmes). The film then zoom three years into the future and we're on board a plane, where a young Asian/Arab man reveals he's been shot and runs off the plane (it hadn't taken off yet, or that would have just been silly), whereby he calls his dad to come and help him.... his dad who happens to be the criminal we saw shoot the cop three years ago!!! Madness. This all leads to a broken down and now permanently injured cop Max realising that this is his big chance to get vengeance for what happened three years ago....but is everything as clear as it seems, who is he actually chasing?

    This film is no classic, in fact, it's just about verging on being a good film, for all the spectacular scenes of explosions and shoot outs, there lacks an intensity to the film, James McAvoy does well in his scenes as a cop who's seemingly given up on life, but it's hard to really believe he is a tough and guilt-ridden cop when he still looks about 12 years old (even with a beard). To it's credit, the story does manage to change it's focus numerous times, and these twists initially kept me engaged with the plot, characters we hate manage to gain sympathy and vice-versa, but after a while, the plot just becomes too complicated, and verges on becoming a comedy. So overall, a decent film, one worth checking out on a Friday night if you're a fan of action, but in no ways a film that changes the genre.

    6/10
  • Welcome to the Punch is a gritty, adult, Brit-flick, crime thriller. Got that? Whilst that's probably not an entirely fair summary, but it's better than 'It's the British Heat', which is what I heard a couple leaving the auditorium proclaim.

    It is a strong possibility that Eran Creevy had Heat in mind when shooting Welcome to the Punch, his second film as director (after Shifty, from which he has recast Daniel Mays and Jason Flemyng) but it lacks the class, it isn't as smooth, we don't identify with the protagonists in the same way and, heck, we're not going to be talking about it eighteen years later.

    Creevy opens the film moodily with striking strips of light that could be daylight through a blind or cold bars on a prison cell, something some of the characters do, should or will get to know very well. The imagery blends into a smoky scene with atmospheric music that heightens the expectation and builds the excitement of what this clever thriller will reveal. It's an excellent start to Welcome to the Punch that, unfortunately, isn't sustained.

    Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong) is a crook with a moral compass, of sorts, as detective Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy) discovers when chasing him through the sewers after a heist. Rather than decorate the tunnel with Lewinsky's brains, Sternwood opts to shoot his knee out instead and make his escape without adding murder to his list of crimes. Fast forward x number of years and Sternwood is forced out of hiding after his son is involved on his own heist that goes belly up, which may give Lewinsky the opportunity to lock up his nemesis. But, naturally, it isn't that simple as the investigations suggest a conspiracy that runs deep.

    There are periodic moments of surprise, not least of all seeing Sightseers' Steve Osram in a 'squint to see it' role as a reporter and some fine action and suspense. Principal amongst the list of reasons to watch Welcome to the Punch is Andrea Riseborough as Lewinsky's sidekick, Sarah. In last year's W.E. she pulled off the remarkable trick of emerging from a quagmire unscathed and here, though this is far from a dreadful film, she is one of the few actors who convinces or is always enjoyable to watch. There's a rawness to her performance as she tries to counteract Lewinsky flailing cop with dwindling confidence.

    Strong is on a roll here, taking his time, exuding confidence in his own ability but never advancing beyond a steady pace. McAvoy is adequate but a far cry from the quality of his performances in Shameless and The Last King of Scotland. He's worth more than this and I'm going to brush over this performance in the hope that next week's screening of Trance sees him back on form.

    Wooden spoons belong (again) to David Morrissey and (yet again) to Daniel Mays who is dangerously close to steeling Danny Dyer's mantle.

    Overall, Welcome to the Punch is enjoyable but never blows us away. We're never really able to engage with the characters and it feels like a film with B-list stars and supporting a cast that is destined, deservedly, to remain a rung below them on the ladder.

    Catch it on DVD and then, a month later, see if you can remember anything about it.

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  • 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 film, 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 stylised looking film 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 film.

    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 film. 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 film, 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 film 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 Americanise 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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  • Really bad...really bad! I give it 3 because of Mark Strong. But, this should not be the reason for rating a film - a great actor! Maybe it was me but I couldn't get to grips with the actual story line/plot.

    "hm...what is this film about?" 10 mins "hmm...I wonder what this film is about?" 45 mins "What is this film about?" 70 mins "I don't get it!" 90 mins The one scene that was pretty interesting was the scene where the ex.military returns and finds his granny held hostage. "ello gran..." Some great slow motion shots, and pretty nice dialogue - but that's it folks! Severely limited.

    Dull. Long winded. Pretentious.

    Do not watch! Demand better!
  • I really enjoyed this film and having read the reviews, I was not expecting much. I thought that the cinematography was spot on, highlighting an area of London that is rarely filmed. It felt very much in the genre of Miami Vice, and other atmospheric films. The shooting really added to the enjoyment of the film. The script is a bit disjointed, but I was able to follow the plot relatively easily. Having seem Mcavoy in some sub-par films, I thought that he redeemed himself here. The action scenes were gripping and I really enjoyed the slo-mo shooting scene with the Granny. For me the star was the setting, which, although modern, lent the required seedy darkness to the plot.
  • rooee21 March 2013
    This is a twisty, fast-paced crime thriller, seemingly with an agenda to prove that a British film can have the swagger and the sheen of a flashy Hollywood thriller. It succeeds, but this superficial mimicry doesn't mean it's a good film.

    The plot concerns a young, angry cop named Max Lewinsky (a possible allusion to Mad Max Rockatansky, visually referenced in a notable staircase scene), played by James McAvoy, seeking revenge on a crook named Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong), who blasted his kneecap three years ago. Various double-crosses draw them together, at which point things take a fairly predictable turn. There are chases and gunfights along the way, although only a shootout in an empty nightclub really raises the pulse.

    The cast is great on paper, but it fails to elevate paper-thin characters. McAvoy is always engaging, but his anger here comes across as petulance rather than burning rage. Andrea Riseborough is wasted as his inexplicably patient sidekick. Strong, Johnny Harris and David Morrissey are all dominant presences, performers of great skill, but no amount of acting nuance can add depth that was never there.

    The surface similarities to Michael Mann are obvious - this is the nocturnal LA dreamscape convincingly transplanted to Canary Wharf. But Mann works with great scripts (or at least used to). Collateral began with a brilliant, character-forming dialogue in a taxi, furnishing the rest of the action with a deep human context. Heat was a mythic exploration of genre archetypes. Punch is more Miami Vice than either of these movies.

    Too many motivations are foggy. Too many plot threads go unfollowed. Too often the need to ape the glossy Hollywood standard undermines the opportunity for a unique plot hook or a surprising revelation. Complicated isn't the same as deep. The story meanders, but what good is that when the results are so predictable? There are some positives. Technically the film is impressive, creating something cinematic out of ordinary, familiar places. The action is decent, mostly clear without relying on confusing editing. And it's never boring as such, even though you'll see the ending an hour away. But for me it felt like an expensive TV pilot for a series that'll never take off.
  • tr9130 July 2013
    A British thriller about a cop (McAvoy) seeking revenge of the criminal who shot him (Strong) who has returned from hiding to help his son after a heist gone wrong.

    The plot is quite deep and very clever with a few twists, there is plenty of good action scenes which keep you gripped, shoot-outs, and just good drama in general. The film keeps you guessing as to what the next twist is going to be and is left open for you to decide. James McAvoy and Mark Strong were excellent in the lead roles.

    I feel this film has been unfairly criticised, it turned out much better than I expected. Give this one a chance, you won't regret it.

    8/10
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I am a fan of action movies- even the pointless shoot Em up ones. But this one,,. This shouldn't have been in the category. Within the first act you're introduced to a villain, portrayed by the amazing Mark strong, and you're cop who goes off the rails but still remains the hero, played superbly by James McAvoy. The set up is awesome and then sprinkled in is an even greater one, both plot wise and even as a political statement, should a country that has refrained from giving everyday police officers weapons all of the sudden change? In order to enhance that we are again introduced to even more characters all portrayed superbly.... And then.... Well then it kinda falls flat. Revelations aren't given their moment to breathe, there's a whole piece where max Linskey (James McAvoy's) character is framed for murder and now all his friends are trying to catch him but that's never really explained. In that regard I kinda consider it a disappointment. If anything, mark strong and James mcAvoy are both action stars and know how to carry weapons so that part looks cool... Plus Johnny Harris and the guy who played Mac on the fades made this a tiny bit of a treat. Still... My advice, you can totally skip it, cause once you get past how cool it looks, you'll see how empty it really is.
  • With the main two actors in this film the interest in this film may be big but I do believe that this film is completely average in almost every way. This story sees a cop on the revenge against a criminal that almost cost him his career. Now this film is co-led by James Mcavoy and Mark Strong and they are both fantastic in their roles. Mcavoy is really good as the crazy cop who really seems obsessed with the case and he gets it across well which the audience can buy. Mark Strong is great in villainous roles and this film is no different as he does his brooding villain well and his chemistry with Mcavoy is deceptively good and is a good part of the film. Their is a hired mercenary and he does a good job in the film with his intense performance fairing well among the other great main performances. But their is a lack of other interesting side characters with none of the others doing a good enough job to make themselves a good character. At first the story seems quite simplistic but towards the end it just becomes a huge convoluted mess and totally ruins the story of this film. Also we don't know enough about the main two characters so we don't care about them as much as we really should do. The script is okay when Mcavoy and Strong are talking but everybody else's dialogue sucks and it really does hurt this film. The style of this film is mixed, the scenery is dark and really cool, however, there is just way too much shaky cam and it makes watching the action scenes very difficult. Overall this is an average film that you can definitely miss out on.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The trailers for this film made it look rather tacky and formulaic, especially with the seemingly ubiquitous James McAvoy shouting and pulling faces again. However it turned to be quite an interesting piece.

    Fast rising Eran Creevy has gone on record that the inspiration for this film is Hong Kong crime cinema, especially the more recent examples, and it certainly shows. The film has the same slow burning, dour, melancholy mood of the Hong Kong crime movie, complete with tragedy, obsession, revenge, codes of honour, twisty complex plots, evil heartless villains, a moral ambiguity that paints everything in shades of grey, and an ending that will baffle and bewilder those used to the clean cut conclusions of Western thrillers, and of course lots of cool action and high octane gunplay complete with flying around the air in slow motion as bullets rip everything around them to shreds.

    This is obviously a love letter to Hong Kong cinema, and Creevy captures the mood and feel of the genre and its archetypical characters very well, right down to the hazy cinematography, the endless overhead nigh time shots of a London skyscraper filled Docklands area (now a good look-alike for Hong Kong's skyline) and the minimal moody score. Part of the fun, and the strangeness of the film, is indeed in seeing this genre transposed to London, an environment and culture alien to that which spawned it despite the historical ties. This is no pastiche or jokey parody however; it's all done in deadly earnestness.

    The story, which again looks East for inspiration, starts with dedicated young cop Max Lewinsky (Macavoy) on the trail of notorious armed robber Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong), getting shot in the leg by the man himself after a hand to hand battle during a daring motorcycle armed raid in Docklands, leaving him part crippled and fuelled by anger and revenge. Years later, the shooting of Sternwood's young son and a friend leads him out of hiding, and the tunnel visioned Lewinsky sees his chance for vengeance and absolution. But along with his tough female partner (and lover) Sarah Hawks (Andrea Risborough), he soon finds that there is more to the case than just Sternwood, and cop and criminal become uneasy partners in a war of revenge that involves fanatical ex- military men like Dean Warns (Johnny Harris), conniving political spin- doctors looking to make the right headlines before an election, well- meaning but underhand policemen who tire of burying their friends and want to see a fully armed British police (they are mostly unarmed still) and the large paramilitary security firm that sees a tidy profit from being the ones to supply the arms, training, body armour and other equipment. Much gunplay and violence will ensue, and moral certainties, identities and loyalties will blur.

    The acting is good all round from the best of British character acting, McAvoy, now a Hollywood A-Lister, goes against type and delivers an obsessed, wounded angry Lewinsky with skill and restraint. Playing off him is the brilliant Mark Strong, here playing a villain of sorts, but a noble one. Strong has always given depth and soul to his villains, and here he goes one further and has you rooting for him despite his character's violent history. Andrea Risborough does well as Lewinsky's partner and lover, and makes a convincing tough cop, especially in a very tense and nail biting face off with an adversary. David Morrisey is also good as Lewisnky's boss, who may be hiding secrets of his own, as is the great Peter Cullan as Sternwood's old criminal associate turned car dealer. Also noteworthy is Johnny Harris as the ex-military hit man Warns, going beyond mere heavy to create a fascinating and troubled psyche (killers, even the villainous ones, always have an emotional side to them in HK cinema)

    The action is well staged, transferring the "heroic bloodshed" style of flying through the air firing randomly from sideways pointing pistols and machine guns in slow motion to mundane London settings, not least a particularly funny (the only funny scene) in which the heroes face off Warns at his grandmother's flat without her being made aware of what is really going on (A typical HK set up) A lot of the movie takes place in a huge, moody container dock, another popular HK action location (I can't recall any HK crime movie that doesn't feature at least one scene in a container dock) from which the film gets it's bizarre title. ("The Punch" is one of the container bays, and a sign proclaiming "Welcome to the Punch" greets every character entering) There are no dull spots and the movie flows very nicely. The ending is ambiguous with many loose threads hanging, obviously baiting a sequel should this prove successful.

    Creevy shows great talent for a green director, and will hopefully continue to deliver. After all, another young director made a breakout by transposing the Hong Kong crime dramas he so loved to his home soil 20 years ago, and if he, and we, are lucky we be mentioning his name alongside Tarantino's at some point in the future.
  • A number of British directors have helmed stellar crime oriented dramas in the years gone by. Examples include the consistent Guy Ritchie's Snatch (2000), the prolific Matthew Vaughn's Layer Cake (2004) and even Peter Collison's original Italian Job (1969). British cinema has also delivered the works of Ian Fleming, with the latest Bond film, Skyfall, marking half a century of Bond movies and accumulating a worldwide gross in excess of a billion dollars.

    Nonetheless, all of the above movies have the advantage of being Hollywood productions. Welcome to the Punch, on the other hand, does not have the distinction of a massive budget or a household name. Nonetheless, Eran Creevy's attempt at a crime caper is a step in the right direction. After making his debut with the impressive Shifty (2008), Creevy makes his foray in the action genre. The outcome is an effective and intense movie.

    The premise focuses on headstrong officer Max Lewinski (James McAvoy), who was thwarted in his pursuit to apprehend elusive fugitive Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong). Their confrontation ended with Sternwood shooting Lewinski in the knee before absconding with his fellow criminals. Fate presents Lewinski with a shot at redemption three years later when Sternwood is coerced out of his refuge courtesy of his son being shot in London. Thus, Lewinski is afforded a second chance to exorcise his demons. Chaos ensues as the principal characters become entangled in an intricate web of revenge, politics and corruption. Alongside the leads, Creevy has assembled a potent, exclusively British cast. Andrea Riseborough stars as Sarah Hawks, the composed yet ultimately naïve partner of Lewinski. The movie marks another notable, albeit limited, performance by Riseborough, a burgeoning British talent. The role of police chief Thomas Geiger is played by David Morrissey, renown for being The Governor on heralded television series The Walking Dead. The rest of the cast comprises of Johnny Harris as an ex-soldier turned mercenary, Peter Mullan as Sternwood's trusted ally and a transient appearance by Jason Flemyng.

    McAvoy refuses to be bound by stereotype as a seething and desperate cop in dogged pursuit of Sternwood. Hell bent on atonement, he excels as his character illustrates the physical and psychological ramifications of being felled by a bullet to his knee. Although not a physically intimidating figure, McAvoy renders an imposing portrayal nonetheless and exhibits versatility throughout the movie. On the other hand, perennial villain Mark Strong delivers another performance as the antagonist following roles in Sherlock Holmes, Kick-Ass and John Carter.

    Eran Creevy has previously stated being heavily influenced by Hong Kong filmmakers Andrew Lau and Alan Mak. Furthermore, Welcome to the Punch is comparable to Michael Mann's style of direction, particularly Heat (1995). Creevy delivers a slick, visually confident movie that serves as his tribute to his inspirations. He wastes no time, as evidenced by the opening salvo of the film: an engaging chase sequence filmed at Canary Wharf, London. The neon blue glow adds weight to the film, especially the action scenes.

    Like Shifty, this is set entirely in London. The capital is almost a distinguished character in the film. It is shown as a metropolis in all its glory and shines throughout. The skyscrapers are amplified by the blue tint as well. The crew, specifically the director of photography and the sound department deserve an honorable mention. Welcome to the Punch is a visually ambitious fare and the score complements the overall setting well.

    Creevy, who also wrote the film, is culpable for a few misdemeanors. He may be deemed to prioritize style over substance. The focus from the inception till the climax is predominantly on action, sporadically compromising other key aspects of the film. As a consequence, the movie is bereft of character detail and development. The dynamic between Lewinski and Hawks is underdeveloped, for instance. With a runtime of just under a hundred minutes, the clarity suffers from the frenetic pacing.

    Ultimately, Welcome to the Punch is an aptly names gritty thriller with solid credentials. It is certainly a commendable and competent crime caper.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I came across this movie on Netflix streaming movies. It has a fine cast and an interesting summary, so I figured it would be a pretty good watch. While it has some serious flaws, including the last 20 minutes or so relying on almost non-stop gunfights, it also has some interesting moments.

    First about the title, I suppose you have to pick something. Much of the story has to do with stuff in containers, those large containers that get stacked on ocean-going ships. Stuff like smuggled guns and the sort. All those containers have to be stored somewhere when they are not on a ship, and the containers in this story are in a yard called The Punch. And as the good guys and the bad guys drive into the storage yard is a sign, "Welcome to the Punch." Yep, that's why it has that title.

    As this movie opens we see a cops and robbers chase, involving cop James McAvoy as Max Lewinsky and robber Mark Strong as Jacob Sternwood. Max fails badly and is shot in the knee by Jacob as the bandits run away.

    That happened a few years before the time of the main story, Jacob has disappeared while a mostly healed Max daily has to use a big syringe to draw fluid out of his damaged knee. Max has of course never gotten over that injury and Jacob's escape, he longs for the day when he can reverse that.

    So the story involves Jacob's son getting shot in a robbery, as the son dies from the wounds Jacob comes out of hiding near the Arctic Circle, he wants to find the one responsible for his son's death. And Max wants to even the score with Jacob.

    There are crosses and double crosses, there are unscrupulous politicians involved. The story is often hard to follow, not made easier by the mumbling at times, so much of the dialog is undecipherable. But I was mostly entertained. Not a bad movie per se, but also not a very good one.
  • "Welcome to the Punch" is only an adequate film from 2013. It is currently available on NetFlix Instant Download Streaming. It is written and directed by Eran Creevy. Welcome To The Punch made me leave the cinema feeling very confused. Not because of the storyline, no. The tale is set in a blue-tinted, modern day London. Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy) is still pretty hung up over being shot by bad guy Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong) and gets his one chance at revenge when Sternwood returns to London after his son Ruan (Elyes Gabel) is shot himself and severely injured. Simple enough. Whilst the casting was strong, the acting solid (especially McAvoy's portrayal of a man obsessed with revenge and filled with anger and self-hatred) and the film itself is shot beautifully, I couldn't help but leave feeling I'd been robbed of a real movie, a real ending. Whilst there are moments when unexpected gunshots will cause you jump a good couple of feet out the chair, there are only so many shoot-outs you can sit through before wondering if anyone even knows how to use a gun. Especially when the people using them are supposedly some of the best marksmen around. So whilst there are tales of corruption, unexplained changes of heart and some shocking, upsetting moments, the storyline becomes relatively predictable too early on for my liking and the film seems to come to a sudden, abrupt end. If you're looking to be entertained for just under a couple of hours without questioning too much, this is the film for you. If like me you expect more from a movie with a cast and the budget shown, prepare to leave the screen feeling as if you've been poked a few times in the arm. I gave it only 4 stars Dale Haufrect
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