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I'll tell you why I'm a good soldier. Because of selfless commitment.


Welcome to the Punch
(2013)

Big studio movie sheen is awash this attempt to transpose our US cousins’ crime fare to less temperate climes. Nick Love (an auteur if ever there was one) ineptly sought to inject a bit of Michael Mann into last year ‘s atrocious rebirth of The Sweeney. Eran Creevy, in his sophomore film, does a great deal better even his real talents lie very clearly in directing rather than writing.

James McAvoy’s cop very nearly prevents criminal Mark Strong from making off with a big score in the movie’s opening sequence. McAvoy ends up with a hole in his leg and, in one of the infrequent quirks of Creevy’s screenplay, has to regularly drain it of fluid for the duration. He also sports a beard, because now he’s disgruntled and has let himself go a bit. Strong is brought back to blighty (he’s hidden away in Iceland, with a panoramic view of the Northern Lights) when his son gets into trouble. And so the scene is set for the opposing parties to work the same case from different ends.

Creevy and cinematographer Ed Wild do a bang up job with their "I can make London look like L.A." remit. Seductive helicopter shots show off a vast twinkling cityscape, always at night of course. The inevitable touchstone is Heat (isn’t it every crime movie’s since 1995?) and, if the blue hues and masked heists don’t convince you, the cat and mouse between cop and criminal will leave no doubt.

Unfortunately, the plot intrigues don’t take too long to reveal themselves as not-all-that-intriguing after all. This is one of those films were a clumsy effort is made early on to introduce an element that proves key to unravelling who did what and why. The construction just isn’t robust enough to prevent twists and reversals from being telegraphed well in advance. You’d be better advised to sit back and enjoy the slick production than forlornly hope the script will pass muster.

But the cast is good, even if I don't really buy McAvoy as a cop; he tries his best, but he’s doesn’t have the weight of Strong either physically or dramatically (and I do like the guy; I just think he’s miscast in both this and Trance). Andrea Riseborough, Peter Mullan, and David Morrissey all lend strong support and go some way towards making you feel that, if these fine actors thought there was something great about the script, may be there is.

Occasionally Creevy pulls something particularly effective out of his hat; an investigation into a shipping container which turns rather nasty. It’s a scene the director has the confidence to play out slowly but surely. Best of all is a face-off featuring Johnny Harris' psychotic security guard, turning on an impromptu invitation for a sit down with his nan (Ruth Wilson). It’s that rare moment when Creevy knows both just how to shoot if for maximum impact and has a great idea for his characters.

With Ridley Scott as producer, and the visual panache on display, it should be no time at all before the Hollywood machine guzzles Creevy up. He’ll be over there like an octopus, churning out action movies with vastly bigger budgets and slightly different accents. So it’s appropriate that such an overt calling card climaxes in an OTT orgy of orchestrated gunfire and blood squibs. 

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