A bullet through his knee is what detective Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy) gets when he fails to arrest infamous criminal Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong) in Welcome to the Punch.

Fast forward 3 years, and the crime thriller set in modern-day London slowly unravels to pit Lewinsky (still smarting in his knee) against Sternwood’s son, Ruan (Elyes Gabel), who’s followed after his father’s criminal footsteps.

Forced to ditch his Icelandic hideout after Ruan winds up in a hospital after a failed heist, Sternwood has to risk getting caught by Lewinsky who finally gets an opportunity to redeem himself. However, moral support is less than forthcoming from his partner Sarah Hawks (Andrea Riseborough) and superior Nathan Bartnick (Daniel Mays), who constantly remind him that it was his impulsiveness that left him injured.

While chasing his past demons, Lewinsky discovers that Bartnick and a fellow policeman from a different division, Harvey Crown (Jason Flemyng) were lurking in the hotel room Ruan was supposed to be staying in, in hopes of finding the bag of cash Ruan had stolen resulting into a gunfight with Sternwood.

The metallic sheen of London’s industrial buildings and lighting of the film may have given the movie its cool and sleek vibe that work well with the pulsating scenes where gunfire is exchanged between Sternwood, Lewinsky, Bartnick and Dean Warns, ex-SAS soldier turned bad (Johnny Harris). But even all that shooting, which did wonders in movies like the Die Hard series,failed to take the movie to a higher level.

With a done-to-death plot line, -like The Departed with corrupt officials- with Bartnick, and the police chief, Thomas Geiger (David Morrissey) involved in a monetary conspiracy, you’d only hope that the movie is strong enough to reach its full potential which could make for a mind-blowing ending.

Instead of allowing the audience to slowly uncover the mystery, Geiger broke down the grand scheme between him, Barnick, Crown, Ruan, and even campaign manager Jane Badham (Natasha Little), whose existence in the movie was initially questioned until the revelation that she was part of the conspiracy too, all for the sake of politician Robert Wiseman’s (Robert Portal) campaign, making it less engaging for the audience.

The lack of character development also pulled the film back as there were a lot of areas that could be better explored. Take, for example, the relationship between Lewinsky and Hawks, as well as Hawk’s character and how else she aided in bringing the movie forward besides her peculiar habit of scribbling clues on the back of her hand.

Compared to director Eran Creevy’s BAFTA award-nominated debut film Shifty, Welcome to the Punch fell short in its development despite the bigger budget of US$8.5 million And though Creevy may had made it as a homage to Hong Kong crime-thriller, Infernal Affairs, he failed to deliver as much surprise and intensity. The only redeeming factors of the movie were the main characters McAvoy and Strong. Strong’s delivery of his Sternwood role as a shrewd, cold-hearted killer whenever he had a gun in his hands, and a worried and loving father when he learns that his son was in trouble, breaking down in tears after learning of the young man’s death. McAvoy, who’s a well known actor and critically lauded for Atonement, thoroughly displayed his desperation and determination to capture Sternwood, especially in the scene at the hospital where he was so set on chasing after Sternwood that he mistaken someone else for him.

Sadly, the star-studded cast is let down by a cliché story and uncharacteristically uninspired writing for a British production, while the audience waits in vain for any kind of punch…

Rating: 3/5

Release Date: 18 July 2013

Runtime: 99 Min

Language: English

Censorship Rating: NC16

Genre: Crime Thriller

Director: Eran Creevy

Main Actors: James McAvoy, Mark Strong, Andrea Riseborough, Daniel Mays, Johnny Harris, David Morrissey