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British Film Review:Welcome To The Punch By Freda Cooper
Are we in at the start of the careers of two big British directors? The next ten days see the release of Ben Crowe’s Verity’s Summer and Eran Creevy’s Welcome To The Punch. As films, they couldn’t be more different – but they both hold great promise for the future.
In Welcome To The Punch, former criminal Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong) is forced to come out of hiding and return to the UK when his son is injured in a robbery. He’s pitted against detective Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy), a man he previously wounded and humiliated and who has since been obsessed with bringing him to justice. With the two on a collision course, a bigger conspiracy comes to light that threatens both of them.
Director and writer Creevy is a self-confessed fan of what he calls “cops and robbers movies”, particularly Hong Kong action films, which he says he was brought up on. And the film makes this enthusiasm very clear, as well as reflecting his background in music videos. This may be a comparatively low-budget movie, but it has ambitions to be something much bigger and has plenty of surface gloss, especially in its depiction of London. Gone are all the traditional images that the tourist industry likes to promote: here we have a faceless city that is both cold and cool at the same time.
There’s also a slightly sci-fi feel to the film, especially in the opening robbery sequence. All chrome, and with the malfunctioning control panels creating a musical accompaniment, there is a sense of something more futuristic than is actually the case.
The film’s Executive Producer may have something to do with that. It’s a certain Sir Ridley Scott. Which rather accounts for why the aerial, night time shots of the city that punctuate the film are remarkably reminiscent of Blade Runner. The majority of scenes are shot at night or in subdued lighting and the rain pours down in several of them. Sound familiar?
That aside, Welcome To The Punch is an entertaining, high-octane hour and a half. Unfortunately, despite his love of the genre, Creevy doesn’t actually take it in a new or different direction. Despite all the quick fire action and bright lights, this is essentially an old fashioned crime thriller, pitting a cop against his biggest adversary. Yes, there’s some moral ambiguity thrown in for good measure but, despite the film’s ambitions to be something more than a gritty crime flick, the basic premise is still very traditional.
He has, however, assembled a quality British cast that really holds the attention. James McAvoy is tense and twitchy as Lewinsky, while Andrea Riseborough is tough and outspoken as his partner. The film, however, belongs to Mark Strong as Sternwood: panther-like and steely eyed, he prefers to let his guns do the talking and is absolutely riveting.
That Creevy is a talented director is obvious – this is only his second feature film. He has a strong visual sense and gets the best out of his actors. If he fulfils the promise he shows in Welcome To The Punch, we could be in for some top films.
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