Warning: This review contains some light spoilers.
There’s just something about Mark Strong that makes me so drawn to his films. It’s likely got something to do with the suave, stylish, morally grey bad guy characters he always seems to be playing. (I liked him in the Sherlock Holmes movie, I loved him in Kickass, and I super duper loved him in RocknRolla – and I’ve seen those all multiple times partly because of him.)
To be quite honest, I only decided to watch Welcome To The Punch for Mark Strong. And having just finished it, he’s about the only reason I’d bother to rewatch this movie again.
The film revolves around Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong), a former criminal who’s forced to return to London after his son is grievously injured, and Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy), a promising detective who had lost both the mobility in his knee and his motivation as a cop after failing to bring Sternwood in three years prior. Andrea Riseborough joins the cast as Sarah Hawks, an intelligent female detective who partners with Max as they try, again, to bring Sternwood to justice.
Predictably enough, halfway through the movie former nemeses Max and Sternwood team up to unravel a dark conspiracy.
Visually, Welcome To The Punch is very striking, with some extremely well shot scenes (though the director seems to be way too fond of the color blue). The soundtrack and sound effects were also great. My favorite bit of the film has got to be the opening ten minutes, where Max chases Sternwood and Co. through the city; because Max is in a car while the criminals he’s chasing are on slim motorcycles, he needs to be both creative and quick-thinking in his approach, which really upped the coolness factor for this movie. Welcome To The Punch actually managed to make a car chase scene fun again!
However, the writing in the film was oftentimes quite shaky. We never get to learn what Sternwood did to gain such a reputation as a criminal – besides steal those giant bags of what I’m assuming is cold hard cash from a flashy corporate building that probably has tons more money to spare anyways – nor were we told why Max was so hellbent on capturing him in the beginning. We were just supposed to believe that Sternwood was a bad guy and that he and Max were mortal enemies, even though I didn’t get either of those vibes at all.
Welcome To The Punch‘s ultimate downfall is that it’s entirely lacking in interesting plot. The film uses much of the final act to throw out a contrived, predictable, and boring explanation for everything that’s happened. Not even the cliffhanger ending hinting at a sequel was enough to salvage my interest.
There is also the blatant fridging of a fantastic, well-rounded, believable female character – one of three females in the movie, and the only one who was named, present, and even remotely likable – just to further a male character’s manpain, which I found to be wholly unnecessary and disgusting.
Overall, this an alright movie to watch purely for the gorgeous visuals, the dark humor, Andrea Riseborough and Mark Strong’s lovely presences, and the mind-numbingly fun action sequences. However, Welcome To The Punch lacks the substance that’s necessary for it to be a good film.
- Starring: Mark Strong, Andrea Riseborough, James McAvoy
- Directed by: Eran Creevy
- Running time: 99 minutes
- Genre: Action, Mystery