Welcome to the Punch...I think...
So, I actually managed to get to the advanced screening of Welcome to the Punch this evening. Unfortunately, not a single one of my 150ish London based Facebook friends could accompany me to the free advanced preview of the film and, at first, I must admit that I was very disappointed. But now, I find myself wondering whether they knew something that I didn't!
Eran Creevy, writer and director sets the stage clearly with an opening sequence that plays out in London's glossy, glass and steel covered Canary Wharf. It pulls us in straight away. We find ourselves almost immediately invested in both the protagonist (James McAvoy as Max Lewinsky, detective cop chap whom we're meant to root for) and antagonist (a stern Mark Strong playing naughty bad guy, Jacob Sternwood), willing the story to tell us more about these two characters and the motivations behind their actions.
Borrowing heavily from the audio visual flare of Nolans bat films, particularly 'The Dark Knight', we're lead to believe that a stylish cat and mouse action / crime caper in the style of Heat awaits us. I honestly found myself asking whether this could actually be the British 'Heat' after the first 10 minutes or so. Unfortunately, about 15 minutes in, my first 'gripe' smacked me in the face (from McAvoy's performance no less!) This was followed by the second, and the third, and continued to do so until the end finally came, with a twist that was visible from a mile away and a convoluted plot that had to be explained through exposition about 10 minutes before the film ended!
Relationships between characters felt shallow and under developed, making empathy nigh on impossible and ultimately, leaving me somewhat bored of the whole thing. None of the questions that the film raises in our minds as we progress through its 'narrative' are answered and I was left feeling cheated every time. The audience needs to know why certain things are happening surely?; Sternwoods treatment of Lewinsky and vice versa, for one. So why not just tell us?
The cast deliver strong performances with what material they have bar McAvoy, surprisingly, who gave one too many clichéd reactions which caricatured our hero and made us less sympathetic to his plight.
For all of the films good moments it has its bad and ultimately, the bad simply overpowered the good. The little niggles (in the form of conveniently placed tools, bad aim etc.) and wannabe Bourne esque plot, along with a serious lack of satisfaction from the 'bad guy' being trumped (because, technically, the 'bad guy wasn't) made the film a lot poorer than it rightly deserved to be. Because from a technical stand point, the film looks and sounds great. And the story still feels interesting, and I want to know more. But, with the serious lack of character development and exploration of their (implied) back stories, the film finds itself lying flat on its gun riddled back after its 99 minute runtime.
Sadly another missed opportunity for British cinema.
Unless of course, this was designed as an Infernal Affairs style film and a prequel / sequel fills in all the 'gaps'?
Welcome to the Punch opens nationwide on 27th March.