Film review: Welcome To The Punch (15)
Welcome To The Punch
IN A NUTSHELL
Director Eran Creevy's grasp exceeds his reach in this Wharf-set thriller but there are still moments of scintillating brilliance.
Straight into the action, as the director decrees. The throbbing soundtrack, the neon wash, the chrome taking what little light there is and creating a shimmering space ship vibe.
Slick biker thieves engineer their escape with the loot with only a lone cop, breaking rules, to pursue them.
But he is left with a bullet in his leg and a nemesis that becomes an obsession.
Fast forward - everything's fast - and Max (James McAvoy) is burnt-out and beleaguered and noble but broken gunman Jacob (Mark Strong) has found peace of sorts in Iceland. But when Jacob's son is caught up in trouble he must return, setting the two back on a collision course.
Meanwhile, rumbling in the background, pulling invisible strings and leaving our protagonists dangling, is a meta-plot of corrupt police, cynical politicians and a quest for votes that puts guns on the streets.
Eventually, the two become unlikely and uneasy allies in a grander power struggle that culminates in a devastating shoot-out somewhere we know to be Wood Wharf.
Ambitious stuff. And a tall order. Especially as the director has given himself a self-denying ordnance - he has dumped flashbacks (except the prologue) and back story in favour of momentum.
This means that the film speeds through with enviable pace and the tension is ratcheted remorselessly.
This also means much explanation is left on the cutting room floor, with Jacob and Max never fully fleshed-out to the satisfaction that the twisting plot demands.
Creevy's multi-layered plot has various levels of success too, with the cops and robbers a meaty triumph but the politics a limp, camp follower, meaning the climax is uneven.
Winning the acting honours in this very masculine film is Andrea Riseborough, whose cop mixes it up with little concession to her gender.
She finds herself lifted by a tide of neat cameos from a cast that has big names from Creevy's busy contacts book.
Among them Peter Mullen, David Morrissey, Daniel Mays and, in another eye-catching display of louche menace, Johnny Harris.
Mark Strong is, as ever, impeccable, conveying Jacob's fractured steel. Willowy McAvoy occasionally feels adrift in underpowered Lewinksy and, overall, if the viewer feels short-changed then it is in the editing suite that the crime occurred.
Memorably though Eran Creevy succeeds in his self-stated mission to give London a sheen of gloss and, in doing so, has cracked opened the door for more shiny London thrillers (many hopefully made by him) and for that there should be gratitude.