It’s so nice to go to the pictures to see a thoroughly satisfying contemporary British thriller – they’re few and far between these days, mind you they were never a common thing (IMHO!) – The Long Good Friday and Layer Cake come to mind.
Welcome to the Punch is directed by Evan Creevy who cut his teeth on Layer Cake, and is Exec Produced by Ridley Scott. It’s a relatively simple tale of police corruption, gangsters, and a maverick detective out for revenge. Not always an easy view, (one older couple walked out when I saw it), it’s full of ultraviolence, alternating with long moments of deep stares and reflective hard breathing from its leads.
James McAvoy is the maverick detective, Max Lewinsky, out to get Jacob Sternwood, (Mark Strong) who shot him in the knee while escaping from an audacious heist in the City of London. A few years on, Sternwood has returned to the UK, as his son has been shot in a deal-gone-wrong of his own. Naturally, this gives Max the ideal opportunity to finally get his man. What he doesn’t reckon on is that Sternwood’s son was part of a larger conspiracy that involved many bent coppers, and that he will be at great personal risk …
Almost the entire film takes part at night; the city’s buildings all lit up look magnificent, contrasting with the seedy dives and night watchmen’s offices. Into this comes Sternwood after his son, and Lewinsky hot on his tail and this film belongs to its two charismatic leads.
Mark Strong is such a great baddie, tall and swarthily handsome, with a firm bestubbled chin and shaven head – but it’s his eyes that grab you, capable of a dark direct stare that holds you in its gaze. In contrast, James McAvoy as Max is twitchy, emotional and always on the edge, only held back initially by his colleague Sarah (Andrea Risborough). Strong and McAvoy are ably supported by Peter Mullan as Sternwood’s UK fixer, and David Morrissey as Max’s boss.
I really enjoyed this intelligent British thriller with its wonderful British cast. Its ultraviolence may owe a lot to Tarantino, but it was all the more thoughtful bits in between that made it different.
In UK cinemas now, cert 15.