Writer-director Eran Creevy made an impressive debut in 2009 with Shifty, a gritty urban thriller shot on a shoestring that earned him a reputation as the British Michael Mann. Sure enough, there's a good deal of Mann's Heat in Creevy's sophomore effort.
More accurately, there's a great deal of the films that inspired Heat. Composed entirely from sleek, high-rise skylines, high-octane chases and brotherly bullet ballet, Welcome to the Punch trumpets its allegiances to Hard Boiled -period John Woo from the off, with a belting cop-vs-robber car chase.
Enter Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong, excellent), a noble mastermind thief returning from his Ice- landic criminal hideaway to rescue his son. Enter Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy), a jaded maverick London copper with an old score to settle with Jacob. Enter a greater evil against which these two bitter enemies must join forces.
Secondary characters exist in small, labelled chambers: Daniel Mayes is shifty, David Morrissey is too slick by half, Peter Mullan is funny and Scottish, Andrea Rise- borough – playing Max's partner and only friend – never looks all that safe.
It ought to work. Creevy, a remarkable young visual stylist, knows his Woo and maintains control of slow-motion gunplay and Mexican stand-offs where other imitators have descended into a hail of blinding fast cuts.
Producer and fellow impressionist Ridley Scott – last seen directing the $130 million Prometheus – must surely be impressed with what the younger film-maker has achieved with £8.5 million.
When a gunfight comes to nan's house, there's a lovely comic juxtaposition that encapsulates the film's central problem. Welcome to the Punch 's Hong Kongese accent simply doesn't sit right with a British film.
Strong affects just the right kind of macho swagger. Director of photography Ed Wild 's London is shiny and anonymous. The screenplay is suitably operatic. But none of those things are enough to allow us to believe that such shenanigans could transpire in England 's green and pleasant land. Bobbies on the beat just don't pack heat.
A valiant effort, nevertheless.