MPI // 2013 // 99 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // July 29th, 2013
The fugitive is forced to come out of hiding...
For a while it seemed like Guy Ritchie had English crime flicks in a stranglehold. While I love Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, the fast-talking, faster-cutting way of portraying the London underground was getting stale there for a while. What was needed were some new ideas and a fresh injection of influences from beyond English shores. Welcome to the Punch seems to fit the bill, with obvious debts to both Hong Kong and America, but despite the international take on this London criminal world, the film can't quite figure out what to do with all its elements.
Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy, X-Men: First Class) is a cop who got shot by a thief whose getaway went pear-shaped. The wound laid him up in the hospital for a long time, and even months later he's nursing the aftereffects. Still, he's bent on vengeance, and when the thief (Mark Strong, Green Lantern) resurfaces after the shooting of his son, Lewinsky sees a chance to get revenge and reclaim his manhood.
Few filmmakers have figured out how to imitate Michael Mann. Like them or not, Mann's best films (I'm thinking especially of Heat) perfectly combine strong action set pieces with excellent moments of drama that would make any actor salivate to play. Welcome to the Punch wants desperately to play in that league, and it's a worthy ambition. However, somewhere along the way things got way too complicated and threw the whole thing out of whack. Instead of looking to Mann's relatively simple plots, Welcome to the Punch looks to more contemporary films (The Departed) for inspiration. That too is a worthy ambition, but the lesson of The Departed is that every time you make the drama more complicated, you have to dial down the action sequences to compensate.
Welcome to the Punch doesn't know how to find that balance. That means we're left with anemic drama that it's ahrd to get involved in because the action keeps getting in the way of the complicated backstory for our characters. On the other hand, the film doesn't want to simply fall into pulse-pounding action territory, either. Instead we get a mix that feels neither fish nor fowl, too dramatic for a good action film and too action-packed to make a good drama.
At least Welcome to the Punch (Blu-ray) is pretty good. Shot digitally, this 2.40:1/1080p AVC-encoded transfer does justice to the original source. The whole look of the film skews blue, with lots of black and gray thrown into the mix. The source itself appears to be a bit noisy (since much of the image is dark or lit minimally), but no noise reduction seems to have been applied. This leaves lots of detail, but those sensitive to noise might find it a bit much. The DTS-HD sound track, on the other hand, is pitch-perfect. Dialogue is clean and clear from the center, but that's not the real treat. Nope, Welcome to the Punch (Blu-ray) offers lots of solid directionality from crashes and bullets, and all of it well-balanced with the dialogue and score. Bass rumbles appreciably as well, showcasing good dynamic range.
Extras start with a standard making-of documentary that runs a hair shy of 20 minutes. It's the usual mix of on-camera interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. More interesting are the seven extended interviews with the major cast members. The shortest of these runs four-and-a-half minutes, with the longest going to James McAvoy. They're pretty in depth and give the actors a chance to talk about their characters and the film's production. The film's trailer is also included.
It's hard to hate Welcome to the Punch. Though it feels like it wastes a beautiful location and lots of heavy hitting British actors on a script that never quite brings all its elements together. On the other hand, though, Welcome to the Punch is a competently executed action film. For those not looking for a life-changing action film for a Friday night's entertainment could do much, much worse than this film. Fans of the actors (especially McAvoy and Strong) should especially consider giving this one a look.
Welcome to the Punch either has too much going on, or too little. The result is a bit messy, with too much drama interfering with the action, and too much action interfering with the drama. With that said there's enough action to keep genre fans at least interested (if not delighted), and Welcome to the Punch (Blu-ray) is solid enough to recommend a rental to fans of the actors.
Lacks some punch, but not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* PCM 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 2013
MPAA Rating: Rated R
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