‘Welcome to the Punch’ movie review

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James McAvoy and Mark Strong play enemies turned allies in this slick crime drama set in the heart of London.

When criminal Jacob Sternwood (Strong) is forced to return to London when his son is put in danger, hardened copper Max Lewinsky (McAvoy) sees it as his chance to nab the man he let escape his clutches years ago. However, when it appears that what happened to Sternwood’s son might be an inside job, Sternwood and Lewinsky are forced to put their differences aside and work together.

Fans of Sherlock or Skyfall may think that they have seen all there is to see of London on screen recently, but Welcome to the Punch succeeds in turning the illustrious capital into a grungy, dimly lit and violent backdrop for this fast paced thriller.

Whether it’s Lewinsky sat at home alone wallowing in self pity (and removing cloudy fluid from his scarred leg); a motorbike chase through a car park or a shoot out in a hotel, director Evan Creevy’s London is a far cry from the jubilant town that hosted the Olympics last summer.

McAvoy, complete with grizzled beard, gives his best “cop with a past” routine without overdoing it. He can portray the depths of his character’s loneliness with a single look. Lewinsky is ultimately a likeable character and this is purely down to the talents of the X-Men: First Class star.

Strong always gives a decent performance in the role of the villain, but he isn’t given much to do here. Except for a touching scene between Sternwood and his son, the role is a walk in the park for Strong and not very challenging.

Everyone makes the best of what is, at times, an overdramatic script (Creevy’s work), and we’re not sure what the point was of getting famously not-Cockney actors Andrea Riseborough and David Morrissey to put on their best “cor blimey guv’na” accents. It didn’t work for Damian Lewis and Hayley Atwell in 2012’s The Sweeney and it doesn’t work here.

Bleak, gritty, and darkly funny (watch out for a brilliant scene at an elderly woman’s house that had the crowd in stitches), you could do worse for Saturday night entertainment than Welcome To The Punch. In fact, we’d be happy to see Max Lewinsky back in action in the future. A TV series, perhaps?

Released in UK cinemas on Friday 15 March 2013.