Stylish Brit crime thrillers seem two a penny, and it takes a very different perspective to produce one that stands out from the crowd in this day and age. Shifty Director Eran Creevy’s gritty and sassy London-based drama Welcome To The Punch echoes recent Brit flicks like The Sweeney in design, showing an alluring but dangerous, modern side of the City.
Creevy goes a step further and chooses the cool, glitzy facades of Canary Wharf to whiz us through the isolated streets in an exhilarating opening chase scene. This sets the production values to come and makes London look like a dark, foreboding entity in its own right, its presence flooding through the veins and infastructure of the underworld. It’s hardly surprising that a Scott is involved (Ridley), almost in homage to his late brother’s style of action movie.
What the script lacks in character development it makes up for in sheer angst and tension building that oozes out of each location and main character’s pore. James McAvoy as the bent copper verses Mark Strong as his nemesis and master perp makes for an intriguing power struggle as Creevy establishes the strained history between the characters from the start as his basis for the action and line-crossing dilemmas ahead. Both acclaimed actors make the most of their portrayals that feel rather two-dimensional – Strong does this kind of part in his sleep now – but nevertheless are watchable because of a combination of solid, dependable portrayals and high production values that bolster the film’s appeal.
Apart from McAvoy who plays against the norm – Wanted (2008) aside, Andrea Riseborough as McAvoy’s cocky, curious partner is quite compelling to watch in what feels like a ‘made for TV’ cop drama at times employing A-listers. In a way, although the setting smacks of ‘high value Hollywood’ production, the Brit actor influence keeps the whole proceedings nicely grounded and somewhat credible, even if the some of the scenarios seem dubious as the McAvoy-Strong relationship mutates throughout. And it’s here that Creevy misses a trick in exploring some interesting character dynamics, even with Peter Mullan as Strong’s right-hand man on board, and this makes the whole film very much action-centric when it could have been more character-driven – and appears to be aiming for the latter.
That said Welcome To The Punch is a punchy and satisfying watch on face value, taken as an action crime drama, keeping an electric pace throughout that builds on the thrills and delivers. Unlike Shifty, the character development feels a little wanting, even wasteful of such a prominent and crowd-pleasing cast. Expect more of the former and enjoy London, as you’ve never seen her before, as much of a character in this as the rest of the human cast.
By Lisa Giles-Keddie