Welcome To The Punch Review

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Score

It's James McAvoy versus Mark Strong in this sleek Michael Mann inspired Brit crime thriller.

Is James McAvoy destined to become British cinema's greatest living action hero? He's no Statham, sure, but since making the relatively smooth transition from boob to butcher in Timur Bekmambetov's high-calibre graphic novel dud Wanted back in 2008, the versatile Scot has never looked out of place with a Glock in his hand and girl on his arm.

This year alone McAvoy's alpha male pedigree is set to be given a boost by Danny Boyle's Trance, Jon S Baird's Irvine Welsh adaptation, Filth, and first Eran Creevy's glossy London crime flick Welcome To The Punch.

Like the writer/director's 2008 debut Shifty, Punch explicitly deals with trust and loyalty in a soulless urban setting. The film opens with a supercharged raid on a multinational vault in Canary Wharf by a gas-masked, tailor-suited motorbike gang, setting up a bruising game of cat-and-mouse between vengeful plainclothes copper Max Lewinsky (McAvoy) and slippery criminal Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong).

Fast forward to the present day and an altercation involving his only son forces Sternwood to emerge from his remote Icelandic hideout, giving Lewinsky one last crack at the man whose getaway three years prior left an unsightly blemish on his otherwise spotless record. With his crosshairs fixed on Sternwood, Lewinsky begins to lose sight of the bigger picture, endangering not only himself but his partner (in both the personal and professional sense) Detective Hawks (Andrea Riseborough).

Borrowing heavily from the steel-glass precision of Michael Mann's Heat – from its clinical neon-bathed cinematography to some clichéd but effective musical cues – Punch is a pacy obsession thriller that expertly utilises its metropolitan setting while following a tried-and-tested action recipe that evokes the more visceral works of Hong-Kong auteurs Andrew Lau and John Woo.

Anticipation

Great cast and an exec-producer credit for Ridley Scott. We're intrigued.

3

Enjoyment

Don't mess with McAvoy.

3

In Retrospect

There's hope for the humble British crime thriller yet.

3
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