3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Welcome to the Punch [DVD] (DVD)
This is a twisty, fast-paced crime thriller, seemingly with an agenda to prove that a British film can have the swagger and the sheen of a flashy Hollywood thriller. It succeeds, but this superficial mimicry doesn't mean it's a good film.
The plot concerns a young, angry cop named Max Lewinsky (a possible allusion to Mad Max Rockatansky, visually referenced in a notable staircase scene), played by James McAvoy, seeking revenge on a crook named Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong), who blasted his kneecap three years ago. Various double-crosses draw them together, at which point things take a fairly predictable turn. There are chases and gunfights along the way, although only a shootout in an empty nightclub really raises the pulse.
The cast is great on paper, but it fails to elevate paper-thin characters. McAvoy is always engaging, but his anger here comes across as petulance rather than burning rage. Andrea Riseborough is wasted as his inexplicably patient sidekick. Strong, Johnny Harris and David Morrissey are all dominant presences, performers of great skill, but no amount of acting nuance can add depth that was never there.
The surface similarities to Michael Mann are obvious - this is the nocturnal LA dreamscape convincingly transplanted to Canary Wharf. But Mann works with great scripts (or at least used to). Collateral began with a brilliant, character-forming dialogue in a taxi, furnishing the rest of the action with a deep human context. Heat was a mythic exploration of genre archetypes. Punch is more Miami Vice than either of these movies.
Too many motivations are foggy. Too many plot threads go unfollowed. Too often the need to ape the glossy Hollywood standard undermines the opportunity for a unique plot hook or a surprising revelation. Complicated isn't the same as deep. The story meanders, but what good is that when the results are so predictable?
There are some positives. Technically the film is impressive, creating something cinematic out of ordinary, familiar places. The action is decent, mostly clear without relying on confusing editing. And it's never boring as such, even though you'll see the ending an hour away. But for me it felt like an expensive TV pilot for a series that'll never take off.