At the Movies - Welcome to the Punch - review

James McAvoy (left) and Mark Strong in 'Welcome to the Punch'.
James McAvoy (left) and Mark Strong in 'Welcome to the Punch'.

If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery then Michael Mann’s ears must be burning.

‘Welcome to the Punch’, is directed by up-and-coming British director, Eran Creevy (‘Shifty’).

Whilst the film possesses certain degrees of originality its zeitgeist well and truly belongs in the blue-toned world of American director Mann.

Mann’s influences aside, Creevy’s ‘Welcome to the Punch’ is stylistically brilliant and at times visually stunning but that comes at the expense of both the plot and script.

It’s a case of style over substance, but in this instance the style is of great substance and Creevy manages to pull it off.

The inspiration behind much of Creevy’s movie comes courtesy of many of America’s cops and robbers films but there can be doubting that ‘Welcome to the Punch’ packs a great big dollop of British class and excellence.

London police detective Max Lewinsky (McAvoy - ‘Starter for Ten’ and ‘The Last King of Scotland’) is left scarred for life after his attempt to apprehend career criminal Jacob Sternwood (Strong - ‘Kick Ass’ and ‘The Guard’) fails.

Three years later and Sternwood’s son is mysteriously gunned down in London gangland deal gone wrong.

Sternwood comes out of hiding to find out what happened his son and to exact revenge on his attackers.

Lewinsky realises that Sternwood’s return could provide him with the opportunity to catch the man who escaped him three years previous but when the truth rears its head both men are forced into doing something they never thought possible.

McAvoy is a talented actor - I can’t wait to see how he fares in Jon S. Baird’s film adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel ‘Filth’ later this year - but his performance in ‘Welcome to the Punch’ was a little underwhelming.

McAvoy’s good looks and youthfulness don’t go hand in hand with a weather-beaten police officer who has become consumed by the past.

That said, there are time when McAvoy is convincing but they are few and far between and I couldn’t help feeling that the film would have worked better had Lewinsky’s character been played by Tom Hardy or someone of that ilk.

Mark Strong doesn’t disappoint.

Strong is more used to playing ruthless gun-wielding maniacs void of compassion but his performance in Creevy’s movie is super.

Sternwood is a man a who will execute anyone who gets in his way yet when it comes to his son he appears vulnerable.

Strong is excellent as the revengeful gangster and heartbroken father and, you heard it here first, I think he’d be outstanding as the next villain to take on James Bond in the film with the working title ‘Bond 24’.

The supporting actors steal the show and save the day.

Johnny Harris (‘This is England ‘88’) plays ex-military maniac Dean Warns and does an excellent job of impersonating Paddy Considine’s Richard in 2004 Shane Meadow’s film ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’.

Harris’ physical presence is strikingly similar to that of Considine’s but he still manages to make Warns feel even more menacing and evil.

Actor/director Peter Mullan (‘Tyrannosaur’) plays Sternwood’s ‘go to ‘man when he returns to London.

Mullan is entertaining as Roy Edwards and provides the film’s most engaging and memorable moments.

Andrea Riseborough is great as detective Sarah Hawks. Coupled with her performance in the grim ‘Brighton Rock’ remake in 2010, this underlines that she’ll be one to watch in the future.

‘Welcome to the Punch’ is an uber-fast police, criminal, political and revenge thriller of a movie.

The plot, which it at times awfully predictable, moves at such speed that the audience have very little time to ponder or explore any of the characters in the film.

It’s entertaining, good to look at it and it’s certainly a sign of more to come from Creevy.

‘Welcome to the Punch’ is currently showing at the Brunswick Moviebowl. For full listings visit

VERDICT: 3/5 - It’s a bow rather than a nod in the direction of Michael Mann but that’s ok. Eran Creevy has taken one big leap for himself and one giant leap for British cinema. ‘Welcome to the Punch’ is rooted in the psyche of the American cops and robbers thriller but at its heart it’s well and truly British. McAvoy is a little unconvincing but Strong is fantastic. Support actors Harris, Mullan and Riseborough come to the fore in what is a celebration of great British talent.