Given that director Eran Creevy only has one other feature film under his belt, you might expect ‘Welcome to the Punch’ to be a haphazard, cinematic punch in the face. However, the opening of the film pacifies this concern and communicates that the punches on screen are more like Muhammad Ali’s right, creating a captivating, nicely shot take on the traditional action flick.
One of the biggest strengths of the film is that it doesn’t feel the need to explain every minute detail – this is the enemy, here is our hero – rather, it uses cinematography and strong visual sequences to communicate subtle facts to the audience. This characteristic is further enhanced by the excellent acting of James McAvoy, who plays heroic cop Max Lewinshy, and Mark Strong, who plays his archrival Jacob Sternwood.
Don’t let the names Lewinshy and Sternwood fool you. The film brings a unique style to the action genre. The filmmakers have clearly put significant thought into the cinematography; this is apparent through the use of lap dissolves to link locations, ideas and characters; the viewer is only given the sequence of the images to derive meaning from. Slow-motion sequences, which are well placed throughout, are imbued with a gritty, visceral feeling that is beautifully juxtaposed to the polished visual aesthetic and rich colours populating the narrative.
All the great acting and shots in the world can’t create a compelling action film, because viewers require action – discarded shell casings and bloody wounds that band-aids simply can’t fix. A commonality of some of the greatest action films of all time is that heroes are equal parts war machine and human. This mean they must not dance through gun battles unscathed, but sustain some significant injuries that will later define their characters. Max embodies this truth well, having sustained an injury in an underground tunnel at the hands of Jacob. He is constantly at a disadvantage when running long distances and participating in the general tomfoolery present in all great action films.
If you are on the fence about watching the film, rest assured that the action, acting and filmmaking are closer to the ‘Bourne’ series – with their heavy reliance on innovative filmmaking techniques – than the ‘Crank’ franchise, which was little more than a vehicle for Jason Statham. Check it out.