Not that I would normally compare British action thrillers to buses, but The Sweeney and Welcome to the Punch have given us plenty to shout about over the past few months. The Sweeney, despite some minor criticisms, was a whole lot of fun, and Eran Creevy’s gangster thriller walks a similar path to success. Welcome to the Punch takes itself more seriously than Winstone’s effort, and even though the twists and turns are clearly signposted, Creevy has crafted a knockout blow to contemporary action cinema.
Set in and around the London Docklands, WTTP stars James McAvoy, Mark Strong, Peter Mullan and David Morrissey. Ex-con Jacob Sternwood (Strong) is forced to return to London from his Icelandic hideout when his son gets caught up in a heist gone wrong. His reappearance gives detective Max Lewinsky (McAvoy) the chance to take down his old nemesis. The cat and mouse antics that follow are predictable perhaps, but Welcome to the Punch is tightly woven, well constructed and expertly sold.
London has never looked more American (undeniably stunning in HD), but despite the Bruckheimer-tinged action flourishes, Creevy is keen to uphold a very British flavour. The cast is electric, including sturdy support from Andrea -not your typical token love-interest - Riseborough, and Johnny - not your typical twitchy assassin - Harris. McAvoy plays it against type but he’s not the true victor here; Strong is exceptional as Lewinsky’s morally ambiguous foe. The action is glossy, London has never looked better and the topsy-turvy narrative provides plenty of ammunition.
Some of the plot strands could have done with being fleshed out a little bit more, and Morrissey and Mays are given short shrift, but Welcome to the Punch is an impressive action thriller that packs an almighty, um, punch. AW