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Welcome to the Punch | Review

Knockout Loss: Creevy’s Sophomore Effort Easy and Breezy

Eran Creevy Welcome to the Punch PosterAfter crafting his 2008 Riz Ahmed starring debut Shifty from personal experiences, director Eran Creevy turns to the heist genre for his sophomore effort, Welcome to the Punch. Featuring a salivating mix of some of the best character actors from the UK, this glossy effort, which Creevy also wrote, is an altogether steady if somewhat unenthralling exercise in convention. The Ridley Scott produced venture can’t avoid feeling like an appetizer before the real meal, unfortunately, its bland title referencing the name of the self storage unit where key scenes and plot points transpire.

Opening in the middle of a high adrenaline heist, detective Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy) gets shot down by his arch nemesis, Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong) a criminal mastermind that has eluded the indefatigable detective for some time. Three years later, Lewinsky has a bruised reputation and a bum knee from their last injurious meeting.

Sternwood has gone into hiding somewhere, but when his son Ruan (Elyes Gabel) is fatally wounded in a heist gone wrong, Sternwood must leave his safe nest in Iceland and return to London. Meanwhile, Lewinsky and his new partner, Sarah Hawks (Andrea Riseborough) get stationed at the public hospital treating Ruan, biding their time for Sternwood to make an appearance. But when they eventually meet in a possible gun toting showdown, the two enemies stumble onto a political conspiracy that forces them to band together to survive.

On a superficial level, there’s nary a glaring complaint in sight as the film looks sleek, moves fast, and avoids relying on tired patches of dialogue to further the story. It’s vibrating action sequences glow with an aquamarine and blue-ish tint, all angry faces and gun blasts roaming around within its coldly lit exteriors. If at times it seems to depend on a timely current events issue as a twist of its tale, it does so without running it into the ground, which is certainly commendable. However, there’s a certain ‘wow’ factor missing from the proceedings, as we’ve certainly seen a multitude of integrous cop teaming with notorious bad guys to overcome a common problem, a pairing we just saw in Walter Hill’s recently released B flick, Bullet to the Head (and oh the possibilities if only Serpico had found his underworld counterpart).

Mark Strong is, of course, once again the formidable baddie, but it’s nice to see him play one of the leads for a change. We’ve seen McAvoy in similar territory, playing the flip side of his Wanted (2008) character here. If any character seems to suffer from poorly realized plotting, it’s his Max Lewinsky, particularly in a few sequences that show him nearly foaming at the mouth during red herring sequences, his zeal to catch his arch nemesis overcoming common sense. Andrea Riseborough gets the short shrift here, though her few sequences at least show her holding her own with the boys instead of being relegated primarily as a sex or love interest. David Morrissey, the wonderful Peter Mullan, and a surprising cameo from Ruth Sheen all point to a deluge of talent at director Creevy’s fingertips. If only there had been something worth remembering.

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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