Mark Strong has made quite the career out of playing nasty, villainous hard-man types, almost becoming like a Gary Oldman of the 2000’s. The Guard, Green Lantern (I swore I’d never speak of this film again but for some reason it keeps coming back to haunt my memories) and Kick-Ass to name but a few where Strong shows off his nastier side. Who knows, in 10 years time when the Batman films get rebooted yet again, Strong can further replicate Oldman and become Commissioner Gordon. We can but hope.
True to type, Strong is back on bad guy form in Welcome To The Punch, playing obsessive and determined detective James McAvoy’s long time foe, back in Blighty after a 3 year absence after his son becomes entangled in a bit of a pickle with the police. Nothing like keeping criminal habits within the family I guess.
The film begins with a throwback to events 3 years prior, setting the scene and the tone for the film. A high octane bike chase followed by a brief meeting with McAvoy and Strong really highlights the reasons for the beef between the two and ensures that McAvoy’s obsession with getting his man is justified.
What starts off as your basic “cat and mouse, catch the bad guy” caper slowly morphs into more than that and we’re left with a half decent conspiracy thriller which turns relationships on heads and sends the film into a different direction whilst still trying to stay true to its origin. There’s a few twists and turns along the way to keep your brain thinking but it’s nothing that your noggin won’t be able to handle and hasn’t seen before. There is a certain degree of ambiguity regarding the ending which you should enjoy if you get a kick out of that sort of thing. Me, I felt the ending was slightly rushed somewhat and probably deserved another few minutes adding on to its relatively short run time.
There was one piece of foreboding imagery which really impressed me, quite a nice touch for those of us who try and look past the main happenings on screen. I won’t say too much, but it involves a photo frame somewhere, very crafty and intelligent piece of filming and thinking from those responsible. I must also add that it was good to see David Morrissey (or the eye patch wearing, zombie brain pickling Governor for you Walking Dead fans) back in his native tongue putting in a decent performance as McAvoy’s superior, a career detective with the best interests of his force at heart, whatever the cost…
Welcome To The Punch is a welcome addition to the crime thriller genre, but isn’t without its flaws. It may be a well crafted Brit crime caper perfect for a bit of Saturday afternoon viewing, but there’s nothing we haven’t seen before and nothing to really elevate it into a genre defining classic.