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Welcome to the Punch(2013)
Former criminal Jacob Sternwood is forced to return to London from his Icelandic hideaway when his son is involved in a heist gone wrong. This gives detective Max Lewinsky one last chance to catch the man he has always been after. As they face off, they start to uncover a deeper conspiracy they both need to solve in order to survive.
For more about Welcome to the Punch and the Welcome to the Punch Blu-ray release, see Welcome to the Punch Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on July 22, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: James McAvoy, Mark Strong, David Morrissey, Peter Mullan, Andrea Riseborough, Daniel Mays
Director: Eran Creevy
» See full cast & crew
Welcome to the Punch Blu-ray Review
Gloss and Dross
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, July 22, 2013
Somewhere between Heat and Infernal Affairs—with a bit of John Woo-style slo-mo gunplay worked in as well—Welcome to the Punch is a slick-but-superficial British cop thriller that wears its American and Hong Kong influences like a badge. Writer/director Eran Creevy (Shifty) has clearly been studying the classics of the corrupt cop and heist sub-genres. And coming from the music video world, he has an attuned eye for striking visuals, further stylizing London's already-sleek Canary Wharf financial district into an almost futuristic nighttime vista of angular glass and steel and cool blue light. If looks were all that mattered, Welcome to the Punch would be a knockout. Unfortunately, the looks can't quite make up for the fact that the film's story is often confusing and/or implausible, with character conflicts—both internal and external— that are not nearly as dramatic as Creevy seems to think they are. The frequent action glosses over the janky plot somewhat, but it's ultimately more of a distraction than anything. I can't barely remember what the film was about without consulting my notes—and I've just finished watching it—but I do recall lots of yelling and shooting and angst.
Welcome to the Punch drops right into the fray with detective Max Lewinsky (X-Men: First Class' James McAvoy) hot-headedly pursuing a trio of high-tech bank robbers—wearing gas masks and toting black leather duffel bags—as they flee from a stark London high-rise on motorcycles. Unarmed, Max disregards his boss' orders and follows the crooks into a tunnel, only to be shot in the leg by his nemesis, the criminal mastermind Sternwood (Zero Dark Thirty's Mark Strong), who—for reasons unknown—choses not to kill the cop outright. This shooting-to- maim act basically becomes Lewinsky's ongoing motivation; he feels that Sternwood got the best of him, and he'll stop at nothing to track him down, much to the concern of fellow detective Sarah Hawks (Andrea Riseborough), his partner in more ways than one.
Still nursing a nasty leg infection, Lewinsky gets his first lead months later, when Sternwood's son (Elyes Gabel) gets mixed up in some bad business and ends up near death in a London hospital. The cops hope this will draw the thief back to town—he's currently chilling off the grid in a posh house in rural Iceland—and sure enough, he pops up, scoping things out with his right-hand man Roy (Trainspotting's Peter Mullan), who has deep connections in the U.K. underworld. The requisite game of cat-and-mouse follows, punctuated by frantic shootouts, murder most foul, and a political conspiracy that goes—cliche alert—straight to the heart of government. Improbably, Lewinsky and Sternwood have to team up to avoid the forces that want both of them dead.
If all this sounds potentially exciting, it could've been, were Creevy's script more coherent. It's hard to follow what's going on, exactly, so much so that the film requires one of those dreaded, lengthy expository scenes where, instead of killing our hero, a bad guy spells out the inner-workings of the conspiracy in absurd detail. Even after this, the tedious chess game of a plot is less than clear, involving police corruption, an illicit arms deal, and the use of Lewinsky as a pawn.
If far simpler, the film's inner story—Max's drive to feel like a somebody after being near-crippled at the beginning—is equally uninvolving. It just doesn't carry much dramatic weight. Bless 'em, though, the film's actors really try to bring a Heat-like intensity to their characters. McAvoy simmers with the rage of a man stymied in every attempt to prove himself—seriously, someone re-injures that knee of his in just about every action sequence—and Mark Strong proves to be a charismatic villain, capable of great violence but also perceptibly human. Peter Mullan, meanwhile, is his loveably curmudgeonly self, squinting and souring his face and croaking out his lines in that distinctive Scottish brogue.
The film never scratches below the surface, but at least that surface is slick. Welcome to the Punch is one of the coolest-looking films in recent memory, and I mean that literally—the image is bathed in icy blues and pallid greens. Creevy's London is a midnight ghost town, emptied of people, and if nothing else, the movie certainly has a distinctive vibe, almost antiseptic compared to the grimier British crime films of the past two decades. While most of the action is routine—your usual duck behind rapidly disintegrating cover to avoid being mowed down by machine guns stuff— Creevy does stage a clever Mexican standoff at one point that explodes in a hail of slo-mo gunplay, drawing time out so we see every split-second life- or-death decision. At risk in the scene? Somebody's gran. Even gangsters have grandmas.
Welcome to the Punch Blu-ray, Video Quality
The film's strongest asset is its distinct visual style—a little David Fincher here, a little Drive there—and MPI's Blu-ray release handles it with true-to-source ease, offering us a 1080p/AVC-encoded presentation that's free of major issues. That's not to say there aren't some concerns worth noting. Shot digitally with Arri Alexa cameras in what looks—a lot of the time—like existing light, source noise is definitely noticeable in many scenes. Depending on your tolerance for noise, and the size of your screen, it might even be a bit distracting at times, although having noise present is a far better proposition than the alternative—an image smeary with digital noise reduction. There are also some instances where the grading seems a little off, or a bit too extreme, making you aware that the film could've had a more toned-down, neutral look. For the most part, though, the film looks great. Clarity is generally excellent and the film's cool, blue/green color palette is a welcome change from the usual blue/orange contrast of big-budget summer action movies.
Welcome to the Punch Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Welcome to the Punch may be a lower-budgeted action flick, but it has a top-tier sound mix in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 form. The track balances its various elements out well. Electronic musical cues throb and surge in the background. Dialogue is always clear and easily understood, even in the most hectic firefights. And those firefights. Damn. Expect lots of cross-channel interaction, with bullets zipping between speakers, loud gunshots, and explosions that send debris spraying through the soundfield in all directions. It's a hefty, heavy-duty mix that's engaging but doesn't sacrifice clarity for the sake of intensity. No issues here. The disc also includes an uncompressed Linear PCM 2.0 stereo mix-down, along with English SDH and Spanish subtitles, which appear in easy-to-read yellow lettering.
Welcome to the Punch Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Welcome to the Punch Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Director Eran Creevy comes from the music video world, so it's not really a surprise that Welcome to the Punch has more style than substance. The film is a stark exercise in icy colors and slo-mo, John Woo-style gunplay, but the story—which intends to have a sweeping scope, from a lowly detective to the high powers of government—just doesn't have much kick. A better screenplay might've put this one on more to-watch lists; as it stands, Welcome to the Punch is a glossy, superficial crime thriller that won't blow you away but might make for a decent rainy day entertainment. MPI's Blu-ray release looks good and packs some decent special features, including extended interviews with nearly the entire cast.
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Welcome to the Punch Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: July 23-30 - July 21, 2013
For the week of July 23rd, Criterion is bringing The Ice Storm to Blu-ray; Ang Lee's darkly funny and very subtle drama remains a lacerating portrait of suburban America. Other releases include two from James McAvoy - the actioner Welcome to the Punch and the ...
• Welcome to the Punch Blu-ray (Updated) - June 20, 2013
MPI Home Video and IFC Films will bring to Blu-ray director Eran Creevy's action thriller Welcome to the Punch (2013), starring James McAvoy, David Morrissey, and Mark Strong. The film, which is executive produced by Ridley Scott, will be available for purchase ...
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