Damn, was I the only one disappointed that Welcome To The Punch wasn’t a gritty behind-the-scenes look at the creation of Hawaiian Punch’s mascot, aptly named Punchy? Or maybe an animated movie where Punchy has to face off against other mascots of refreshing drinks, culminating in a final fight to the death with everyone’s favorite wall-busting drink-filled pitcher, The Kool-Aid Man? “Oh yeah? Oh no, motherf#cker.” *Cocks gun, fires, glass shatters, the streets run red with delicious strawberry-flavored blood*
Sorry, random, feeling a little sleep deprived and distracted, but let’s take an actual look at Eran Creevy’s tight-laced thriller starring James McAvoy and Mark Strong. It’s got shootouts, angry cops, betrayals, unlikely partners, love interests, and corruption – basically every essential plot point your typical cookie-cutter suspense thriller should have.
Though Creevy covers the necessary bases and progresses his story wasting little time, I never actually felt that Welcome To The Punch brought any noteworthy additions to a genre film crafted like the billion before it. Creevy’s script advances safely from point A to point B, with each “twist and turn” more hopelessly predictable than the last, but it’s not to say there wasn’t a scarce dash of excitement still available for viewers – albeit masked by thoughts of “haven’t I seen this before?”
Visually, Creevy doesn’t do Welcome To The Punch any favors either, opting for extremely gloomy settings which almost make the film seem as if all the color had been sucked from the world. Aside from a visit to some cute little Grandma’s house full of tacky furniture and antiques, McAvoy can be seen running around the most boring and expressionless city I’ve seen created in recent memory, full of nothing but gray concrete backdrops and even darker nighttime scenes set against shadowy, lifeless settings.
Guess what colors our characters always dressed in as well – polka dots, pastel argyle, and tie-die, yes. Seriously though, sometimes costumes and proper locations can make characters pop off the screen and become more animated and full of life. Sadly, this is not one of those times, as Creevy covers his canvas with uninspired tones of black, grey, and darker black – except for that damn blueish filter which didn’t help in the least.
It’s a real bummer that such a great cast was wasted on this paint-by-numbers action thriller, as both James McAvoy (Max Lewinsky) and Mark Strong (Jacob Sternwood) have proven themselves capable screen captivators, and the likes of David Morrissey, Andrea Riseborough, and Jason Flemyng should have provided a solid supporting cast for McAvoy and Strong to play off of, but with such a forgettable story comes equally forgettable dialogue and acting.
Besides Flemyng being horribly misused and Morrissey’s regrettably clichéd performance, McAvoy and Strong seem to just be going through the motions as hero and villain, never creating a memorable personality or significant impact on the viewer. How do I know this? Because I couldn’t recall the names of either McAvoy or Strong’s characters, depending on IMDB for the information. Creevy’s set up is nothing but Good Guy vs. Bad Guy, and unfortunately no cast member can advance that description through a stand-out performance or even the least bit engaging screen presence.
I’m not going to completely trash Creevy’s work though because while it is predictable and lacking originality, Welcome To The Punch seems to fly by at a pace that wastes zero time. What could have been an intolerably boring blend of every other thriller you’ve ever seen ends up only being barely disappointing and momentarily “thrilling,” utilizing speed and zero plot lag to get from A to B as quickly and effectively as possible. While this doesn’t exactly work in completely covering up a horribly disappointing script, I commend Creevy for making his film relatively quick and painless. While the critic in me was undoubtedly let down, he’s also very appreciative for this.
To quote a friend of mine when describing the blandest of films, “Well, that was sure a movie.” That’s exactly what Welcome To The Punch was – a movie, nothing more, nothing less. There are no defining qualities which separate it from similar genre films, no mesmerizing performances, no brilliant scriptwriting, and a lot of everything you’ve ever seen before. I can only recommend Eran Creevy’s film as a passable time-waster of the most vanilla of flavors, making a good half-assed watch while completing some menial activity, but I certainly wouldn’t call this “a knock-out action movie.” I’d go more with “an action movie,” and that’s it.
Fast-paced storytelling can't seem to hide Welcome To The Punch's tastelessly cookie-cutter script, created using material from every action thriller cliché you can rattle off the top of your head.