Welcome to the Punch
James McAvoy and Andrea Riseborough star in this showy action flick from the director of Shifty
There is something distinctly hypocritical and pernicious about the way this homegrown thriller gestures towards a moral stance on gun violence, only to itself locate firearms as not only an absolutely critical element in effective policing, but also really sexy things to carry around and hurt people with. Its target audience of young urban males will receive the unambiguous message that in this cruel world, they need to be packing to be safe. This might, however, be overthinking writer/director Eran Creevy’s second feature film after the similarly melodramatic and showy Shifty.
Welcome to the Punch is probably better considered within the amoral register of high body count, low realism Hong Kong action thrillers. Certainly there’s enough swagger, gloss and straight-faced deployment of cop drama clichés to hold the eye of genre fans. James McAvoy – still trying to slough off his wee-lamb image with bruiser roles for which he remains a bit too sweet and downy – plays insecure, volatile young cop Max, who’s haunted by an incident in which he hurt his leg and let a bad guy get away. (He now has to drain his knee with a syringe on a regular basis, and in one inventively grim instance drops his fag butt in the resulting pool of pus.) When the death of a youth puts his nemesis back in his line of sight, Max is determined to right the balance. Supporting cast includes some strong British talent, including Johnny Harris, Mark Strong and Peter Mullan; but women’s roles, filled by Andrea Riseborough and Ruth Sheen, are limited to say the least, and there purely to serve the boys. Welcome to the Punch has bravado, a derivative sort of style, and a depressing quantity of mindless, noisy violence. That Creevy has talent isn’t in question; whether this substanceless stuff is the best outlet for it is another matter.
Welcome to the Punch screened at Glasgow Film Festival. On general release from Fri 15 Mar.