Welcome To The Punch begins where Sternwood (Mark Strong) and co have just pulled off a robbery and Max (James MacAvoy) is hot on their tails, but is warned not to go after them unarmed. Naturally, as a rebel cop, he ignores his superiors and goes after them anyway and once his car has caught up with their motorbikes, he manages to corner the lead man but is given a bullet in his leg for his trouble… and off they escape.
3 years later, and while Sternwood is living in a cabin in Iceland with a cracking view of the Aurora Borealis, his son Ruan is in big trub with the law. At the same time, we see Max is still having to go through a daily ritual of draining fluid from his knee where he was shot. For now, it seems crime does pay.
What follows is a gritty cops-and-robbers film set in London where, naturally, Max and Sternwood will play cat and mouse for a while, and while it runs for 100 minutes, it doesn’t outstay its welcome – quite a rarity for any film these days, especially those Hollywood epics that go on for almost two-and-a-half hours and could easily have a good 20-30 minutes cut out of them.
It also features a cast which is basically a “who’s who?” of British acting talent. McAvoy made his name on Channel 4’s Shameless before moving on to big movies like Atonement and The Last King of Scotland; Mark Strong always puts in a worthy performance; David Morrissey plays Lt.Commander Thomas Geiger, a bigwig in the police who, in the light of a forthcoming general election, wants whoever ends up at No.10 to arm all the police with weapons; The superb Andrea Riseborough partners Max as Sarah, a moralistic cop who is sure of her stance on the difference between right and wrong. Throw in Jason Flemyng, Johnny Harris and Peter Mullan and you have the talent to back up a strong script with great visuals.
The plot gets a bit criss-crossy as the various strands come together and I had to watch the final summing up just to take it all in, but to dismiss it for that would be unfair because this is a solid 100 minutes of entertainment if, albeit, not the most original film you’ll ever watch. However, it tells a tale that’s most definitely worth watching.
Quoting the fantastic Ridley Scott as being an “executive producer” can sometimes mean that can have very little to do in the proceedings, so it always made me laugh with other films when they throw in a big name and say it was “executive-produced” by that person, as if they turned up each day and put in a hard day’s graft. They explain in the Q&A, during the extras, that Ridley’s name helped lend weight to getting things done in their film when they wouldn’t have been able to previously because the director had only made one film before and with a budget of a mere £100,000.
Well, we never got to find out exactly what he did, beyond holding an enthusiastic meeting with Mr Cleevy in Los Angeles after having a read of the script, but Mark Strong tells of how the great man turned up on the set of Robin Hood and did his knee in while trying to move some boats about which were stuck in the surf, not realising that they weighed FIVE TONS! Whoopsy! We got the idea that he’s more hands-on than some, so I’ll have to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Welcome To The Punch had a budget of $8.5m and looks like a film that has a budget many times that. The makers of the $190m budget Star Trek Into Darkness take note. You need a film to take 3 times its budget to break even, taking all the marketing promotion into account. Good luck with that, JJ.
Go to page 2 for a look at the disc’s presentation and the extras.
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.