I'm a big fan of Eran Creevy's debut movie Shifty. Following the success of that film, Welcome To The Punch is the naturally bigger budget more mainstream follow up.
Could it be as good as Shifty? A great follow up movie from a promising director in much the same way that Clio Barnard's The Selfish Giant (reviewed this week) was as good as The Arbor, her debut film?
Well, no. No it's not.
Creevy takes the tropes of an American or Chinese action thriller - all neon at night, slo mo shoot outs and unspoken stand offs/bonding - and transplants them to a London that feels like it's supposed to be five minutes into the future (though I'm not entirely sure if that's the script's intention) I'm not normally the sort of person who dismisses an action film as being unrealistic simply because the thrills depicted are set in my home country, because I find that a flawed argument; America do these implausible police action adventures and no one ever bats an eyelid, in fact they're highly praised. But that said, there's something that doesn't ring true throughout this film and I'm not entirely sure I can put my finger on it. It's just a bit shallow. It looks fantastic, but it's all style and little substance and that's despite the intriguing and quite political motivation that causes the carnage.
Creevy assembles a brilliant cast. McAvoy and Strong are really great leads and it's fun to watch them circle one another in the twists and turns of the cat and mouse narrative, though I think Strong's strong silent style has him winning on points. I've heard some criticism about McAvoy in this and to be honest I didn't find him much an issue personally, though perhaps to accurately reflect/mirror and bounce off Strong, they could have done with casting someone of a similar age to him, like Pacino and De Niro in Heat for example.
There's also Peter Mullan, Daniel Mays (from Creevy's Shifty) David Morrissey and the chilling Johnny Harris. Oh and blink and you'll miss Jason Flemyng (also of Shifty) an actor whose career now seems to consist of doing small cameos as favours!
Unfortunately, Creevy really lets down the equally accomplished female actors in the production. I counted - I think - four; an actress playing Mullan's wife who appears for all of 10 seconds, the brilliant Ruth Sheen who plays Harris' nan (bit of an age quibble there, as no way is Sheen old enough to be Harris' grandparent!) This Life's Natasha Little as an MP's spin doctor and Andrea Riseborough as McAvoy's junior partner. All are wasted in underwritten supporting roles that fall into the chauvinistic trap these kind of movies constantly perpetuate - all women are helpless victims whose pain is only shown to inflict further pain on the male protagonists (like their pain, fate and emotional development are the only ones that matters) or just bitches on the make. It really sucks, especially to see the talent of a young and vibrant performer like Riseborough going to waste.
Welcome to the Punch is a fun beer and pizza watch in that its enjoyable and diverting enough but its a somewhat disappointing follow up for Creevy.