‘Welcome to the Punch’ Review


Film Pulse Score

Release Date: March 27, 2013 (Limited)
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Film Pulse Score: 5.5/10

“Heroic bloodshed.”  What is that?  “Heroic bloodshed” is a genre of Hong Kong action cinema.  It always involves stylistic action sequences and looks at dramatic themes such as honor, duty, loyalty and brotherhood to name a few.  Directors such as John Woo and Ringo Lam are often associated with this genre. Their films Hard Boiled and City on Fire are often cited as great examples of the genre.  Infernal Affairs was Americanized by Martin Scorsese in The Departed.   John Woo has made a pair of American “Heroic bloodshed” films with Hard Target and Face/Off.  Now Eran Creevy brings a British take on the popular action genre with his film Welcome to the Punch.

The film opens during a heist in progress.   The robbery is lead by criminal mastermind Jacob Sternwood. After coercing information from a perp, detective Max Lewinsky, who has been doggedly pursuing Sternwood, goes after him. Sternwood escapes and Lewinsky is left with a bullet in his knee.   Years later when Sternwood resurfaces Lewinsky renews the pursuit.  However, this time out there may be more to this than a simple game of cops and robbers. 

Working within the conventions of the genre Creevy’s film delivers.   In the conventions of the cop thriller it does lack in originality.   Now most but not all “Heroic bloodshed” films value style over substance so the lack of freshness may not be so bad.   However because of this much of the film lacks, pardon the pun, punch.   While not original Creevy does find a balance between style and substance.  He even throws in some British humor from time to time.   There are twists and turns that have been seen in countless other films but Creevy puts them to good use here.   It is interesting to see how things will unfold even though you may be ahead of the story.   Working with a widescreen canvas Creevy stylistically fills his frames.   Neon lights, rows of cars, birds-eye-view POV and slow motion are just some of the things and techniques he uses.

Creevy does get some solid performances from his two leads, James McAvoy and Mark Strong.  McAvoy is very intense and earnest as Lewinsky.  Strong is equally menacing and mysterious as Sternwood.   Peter Mullan appears as one of Sternwood’s old partners.  He is pretty entertaining and he ends up getting the most laughs from what little time he has on screen.   David Morrissey plays the Captain and makes do with what he has and comes out quite well.

Fans of the genre will likely enjoy the film.  It is a pretty good homage to the action genre.  As a cop thriller it’s adequate but does features some stylized action sequences and an interesting story.   While it’s not as thrilling as the best in the genre it is still a decent entry in the “Heroic Bloodshed” pantheon of films.

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