Eran Creevy’s glossy Brit-cop thriller gives itself away during the opening scene, a robbery in which four felons mount motorbikes and flee with their taillights blooming in perfect synchrony. The image is briefly arresting, then immediately distracting: Do these bandits rehearse their getaways with the precision of a high-school cheer squad? Welcome to the Punch makes no bones about being a burnished object, light glinting off a cool blue surface whenever possible and illuminating the faces of its craggy character-actor cast: Mark Strong, Peter Mullan, David Morrissey. But nothing’s quite as worn as the script, which has a wounded detective (James McAvoy) digging into an investigation that puts him on a collision course with the crook (Strong) who crippled him.
Favoring style over substance isn’t a mortal sin, but Creevy isn’t as enthrallingly slick as compatriot Guy Ritchie, nor does he have anything like the Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels auteur’s feel for Britain’s criminal class. (He certainly lacks Ritchie’s, or any, sense of humor.) The writer-director feints at significance as McAvoy uncovers a conspiracy to prompt a public outcry for more heavily armored coppers, but that point is undercut and then some by the slo-mo shots of bodies leaping into the air, pistols blazing—so redolent of adolescent fantasy, you can practically hear a 12-year-old shouting “Blam!” It’s a pity the movie’s ideal audience will have to stand on each other’s shoulders to buy tickets.
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