Synopsis: Ex-criminal Jacob Sternwood is forced to return to London when his son is involved in a heist gone wrong. This gives his nemesis, detective Max Lewinsky, one last chance to catch the man he’s always been after.
If Nicholas Winding Refn had directed The Sweeney it probably would have looked something like Welcome To The Punch. Such is the breathtaking post-modern neon city that London is painted as during the film’s 100 minute run. Opening with the coolest heist since Robert De Niro and pals rocked into the LA Central Bank in Heat, Welcome To The Punch is a like a love letter to a city that gushes at the metallic beauty of it’s towering structures, whilst despairing at the seedy underbelly on which they stand.
James McAvoy puts in a suitably gritty performance as London cop with a grudge Max Lewinsky. Like a less humoured John McClaine he is a damaged man with something to prove, and he’s generally always right. Why so bitter? Well having had his knee shot out in pursuit of uber-cool bank robber Jacob Sternwood (the always brilliant Mark Strong), he gets a second bite at the cherry three years later when Sternwood is forced to return to London to deal with the murder of his son. Politics, corruption and a fair amount of bullets ensue.
At it’s core Punch is fairly generic cops and robbers story with all the usual ingredients: shady senior officer; naive young officer; crook with a heart; psychotic mercernary. And as it moves from point A to B there is little to surprise or shock you that you haven’t seen in a hundred other cop movies before it. There is also a loose cautionary tale about gun control and the arming of UK Police officers that is less hot button issue and more of a necessary plot point. But it can be forgiven it’s formulaic storytelling by the sheer outstanding cinematography that reminds you why London is one of the most beautiful city’s in the world.
Conclusion: McAvoy and Strong in the most action packed London tourist information film ever made
Cast: James McAvoy, Mark Strong, David Morrissey, Andrea Riseborough, Johnny Harris, Peter Mullen