Welcome To The Punch (2013)

Welcome To The Punch (2013)

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Viable casting choice for Agent 47?
Viable casting choice for Agent 47?

Twitter Plot Summary: A cop, McAvoy, has to join forces with the criminal, Strong, who shot him in the leg whilst dressed as Agent 47.

Five Point Summary:

1. Mark Strong for Agent 47? I can see that working.
2. Andrea Riseborough writing stuff on her hand. Tut tut.
3. Together, they are strong! Or something like that.
4. Tense Nan showdown.
5. Showdown at Punch 119.

Who would have thought that London could look this good, this stylish, with a bit of decent cinematography? What will strike you first about Welcome To The Punch is that London looks surprisingly good (in spite of the lack of noticeable London landmarks), and that the direction is also of the highest quality. It isn’t helped much by the almost constant blue filter over everything, but then you can’t have it all. Throw in a soundtrack with a pulsing electro beat and you have a British production that exudes style and a certain amount of sophistication. A clever use of slow motion sequences, and used sparingly, certainly do no harm.

The performances support this veneer of stylishness, even if the script doesn’t entirely live up to its initial premise. Yes, there is solid work from James McAvoy as the driven police officer and Mark Strong as the career criminal in his sights, and the supporting performances from Andrea Riseborough, David Morrissey and Peter Mullan (amongst others) are similarly excellent, enhancing the grittiness inside the stylish casing, but if you look too much beyond this you just have a story that does nothing you haven’t already seen before a number of times.

McAvoy and Strong make an unusual but solid pairing as two rivals from different sides of the crime barrier joining forces to take on what appears to be a bigger threat than the one they pose to each other. Their odd couple partnership, working towards the same goals despite operating from different sides of the law, proves to be the main reason for checking this film out. They bicker and argue over how they should do things, and ultimately discover that meeting somewhere in the middle will work out best. Despite their differences, they work hard to ensure their partnership is believable, if somewhat unrealistic.

The best way to threaten a little old lady, is by not directly threatening a little old lady.
The best way to threaten a little old lady, is by not directly threatening a little old lady.

There’s some fun to be had in working out who the real bad guys are in all of this outside of the McAvoy/Strong pairing, but you can guarantee without even going into spoilers that the police force aren’t all squeaky clean, and that things aren’t as black and white as it may appear on the surface. If there is an area in particular where the film falls short is in the villains aren’t anywhere nearly as well established as our two leads, resulting in a story that feels a little too one-sided, lacking a solid reason for following the chain of events. Andrea Riseborough’s Sarah threatens to be an interesting supporting character but subsequently is left with an expeditionary role that leads nowhere.

Mullan gets to play it from a few different angles, primarily as the long time friend of Mark Strong’s Jacob Sternwood. He’s one of only a few people who can get away with threatening a little old lady and still come across as a loveable rogue. This marks one of the strongest scenes and is surprisingly tense given its incredibly plain and normal setting. Other sequences involving a night club shootout and the final climactic showdown at Punch 119 up the style and loud noises to great effect.

So we end up back with the stylish London setting, a story that has been told a thousand times before, and some solid acting. On those grounds, Welcome To The Punch ticks enough boxes to be a worthwhile entry in the UK crime thriller genre, even if it is let down by a wafer thin plot. You can’t always have it all, though.

Score: 3.5/5

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