Hollywood Punchbowl: Eran Creevy’s Welcome To The Punch (2013) – DVD review
Yes, you’ve seen this before countless times from Hollywood. Still, it’s a pleasure to see it done so well at home.
Welcome To The Punch
(Eran Creevy, 2013)
If there’s one thing British cinema struggles to match, it’s the self-conscious cool of Hollywood. Most attempts to emulate America’s nonchalance in walking the walk tend to become a clumsy, mannered stumble, which is why the best British crime thrillers tend to be those that make a virtue out of their very parochialism, that sense that our back alleys are hardly the mean streets of America. It’s there in Get Carter, The Long Good Friday, even (at a push) Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
And yet by the time Guy Ritchie hit his stride we were in the age of Shopping and Face, films that wanted to be American but on a kitchen-sink budget. Ritchie never looked back: from Snatch onwards, he wanted Hollywood glamour without really capturing it, and that’s true of countless others up to the recent reboot of The Sweeney.
It’s all the more remarkable, then, to watch Welcome To The Punch and see it done so well. Yes, it often sounds like a standard TV cop show, especially when David Morrissey’s guvnor is in full flow, but just look at it. Here’s a film that makes London as icily beautiful and aspirational as Michael Mann’s L.A. No longer is this set in the Docklands or the East End, but a metropolis of gleaming spires, with the then-under-construction The Shard enjoying a notable cameo role.
In plot terms, too, Eran Creevy’s film looks West: is London becoming more like America? The macguffin here is gun crime, and the possibility that we might be headed down a more Stateside route via private military contractors and corrupt politicians. The film itself is already there, with good guys and bad spending their pocket money down the armourers, and the action punctuated by the sound of gunfire. It’s scarcely a political film, but clearly a culturally interesting one – how far does a British film have to travel before it becomes a Transatlantic hodgepodge?
In Creevy, fortunately, the film has a director who isn’t reckless enough to drown; while he wades knee-deep in the iconography of the classics – notably Heat – this is still the same guy who made his promising debut with backstreet Brit drama Shifty. The choicest set-piece takes place in a chintzy sitting room as a stand-off is deferred by an offer of tea, while the cast gives enough local colour to be a celebration of Britishness. Andrea Riseborough takes the tired role of sidekick and invests it in a genial sarcasm, Johnny Harris underplays the psychotic henchman to be genuinely scary and Peter Mullan is Peter Mullan: always a good thing.
As for the stars, Creevy has cast actors who have dabbled with Hollywood – often a sign of commercial interests overriding artistic ambition, but which works here because the stars are allowed to bring back some of the character lost in anonymous Stateside hero/villain roles. In practically a running gag, Mark Strong’s criminal mastermind is in overseas exile but returns home, the prodigal son becoming more world-weary, more British, as the film goes on. As for James McAvoy, there remains something pinched and distant about him and Creevy encourages a vein of stubbornness bordering on unlikeability. The result, however well-worn in content, is fascinating: commendably American but authentically British. Like the title suggests, some interesting ingredients have been mixed in this punchbowl.
Welcome To The Punch is released on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday 29th July. Extras include a Q&A and a ‘making of.’