Why can’t gangsters and cops just get along?
Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy) is going damn near-obsessed with Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong), a notorious British gangster who shot him in the knee, left him injured, and with a burning flare of revenge in the pit of his stomach. So, in order to get this criminal, Max decides to devise a set-up in which they’ll use Jacob’s son as bait. The plan sort of works, but it sort of doesn’t; while Jacob shows up, he still doesn’t fall prey to the tricks and trades of Max, therefore, leading to another battle of gunshots and violence. Meanwhile, the city’s law enforcement is cracking down on crime by issuing in new, state-of-the-art facilities and plans, all of which seem to promise a better, less-criminalized future for London, but really, seems like it may just be a pipe dream. After all, when you have cops as unprofessionally obsessed as Lewinsky handling very serious, almost life-changing cases, it’s hard to wish for a better tomorrow, when the present is already so screwed up and muggy.
Welcome to the Punch is, for lack of a better term, a very bloody, very violent, and very dour adaptation of cops and robbers. I say this intending for it to sound so exciting and fun as you’d expect something along those lines to be, but in reality, I can’t help but let you know that the film is very far from being exciting, or better yet, even fun. If anything, Welcome to the Punch is so cliched, serious and boring, that by the end, you may actually want to go out and play a simple, seemingly harmless game of cops and robbers yourself.
If you want to add the guns, the violence and the cursing, then sure, knock yourself out, but trust me, the entertainment you’d find with that game, you won’t find here.
A big part of that has to do with the fact that writer/director Eran Creevy doesn’t seem to know what to do with his set-up. While you can’t say the story here is particularly “original”, or even “surprising”, per se, there’s still a lot of promise up in the air. British gangster tales like this, when done right, can be every bit as compelling as they were back in the heydays of cinema – you just have to find the right approach and spin to make them as such. Creevy seems like he’s interested in these kinds of characters, but doesn’t know where to go with them, what to do with them or how to do anything that doesn’t bring anybody’s attention to far better, more engaging movies of the same genre.
Sure, this is expected with the British gangster genre, but still, there should be something different to make a note, instead of nothing. The violence and the few action-sequences we do get are, thankfully, fun and slick enough that they nearly save the movie, but everything else, when there isn’t shooting, or killing, or bleeding, or stuff blowing up, is just dull. Creevy seems to have a bright idea of staging action-sequences and how to get them going when push comes to shove, but actually getting there and bringing enough tension and turmoil to the action-sequences, he seems to have issues with.
This is a big problem, too, considering that he’s got a very solid cast to work with, yet, also seems to saddle them with dry, almost two-dimensional characters. McAvoy’s Lewinsky is so unrealistic and ridiculous, that he’s already hard to sympathize with, but McAvoy tries. We’re supposed to believe that a character like this would be such a live wire that, despite him brimming with rage and anger, he’d still be able to maintain himself in a place of professionalism and handle such a high-profile case as this. We don’t get to know anything more about McAvoy’s Lewinsky, other than that he’s obsessed with catching his shooter and that’s it.
Mark Strong’s Jacob seems like he’s going to be more than just your average British crook, but turns out to be just that. Sure, he’s not a total bad guy, but other than the fact that he seems to be doing everything for his son, there’s no real development to him that sets him apart from the rest of the other gangster characters who show up here. The only aspect is that he changes his mind about killing McAvoy’s Lewinsky, which almost doesn’t matter because, well, it’s hard to really care for that character in the first place.
Other welcoming presences show up like Peter Mullan, David Morrisey, and Andrea Riseborough show up and try their damn hardest to add some bit of electricity to the movie, but ultimately, seem like they’re not given anything in return for their efforts. Everyone here reads their script and does their absolute best, but Creevy isn’t really there to pick up the rest of the slack; they’re all sort of left working with thin characters we don’t come to care about, nor really identify with. They’re just place-holders for a bunch of action-sequences that, yes, look nice, but ultimately, don’t add up to much other than a bunch of in-focus explosions.
Give me a Diet Coke, Mentos, and a video-camera, and honestly, I could do the same thing. Except that it wouldn’t cost over 10 million dollars, nor would it be 100 minutes – it would cost five bucks, and last only about two minutes. Everybody would be a lot happier and not feel as if they’re time was just wasted.
Basically, the opposite feeling you get from Welcome to the Punch.
Consensus: Despite a great cast, Welcome to the Punch flounders their talents on a lame script, predictable storytelling, and uninteresting characters that are only meant to push us to the next action-sequence.
3 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire