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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.
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.
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.
'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.
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
"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.
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.
*** This review may contain 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.
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...
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.
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
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