Swathed in gunmetal blues and grays and motored by a deliriously heaving pulp sensibility, the British gangsters-and-cops thriller “Welcome to the Punch” is derivative, dumb fun. Writer-director Eran Creevy shows himself to be well versed in the mythic sweep of Christopher Nolan’s and Michael Mann’s crime sagas, if not their intelligence with storytelling.
Plotted like a British conspiracy miniseries (think “State of Play”) that’s been reduced to only the juiciest, silliest moments, it pits James McAvoy’s dogged, renegade detective against Mark Strong’s brooding criminal mastermind, and eventually the two together against a greater threat with — naturally — political connections. On tap is an audacious nighttime robbery with suited, masked men on motorcycles (but no other vehicles on the street), officious authority figures (David Morrissey on autopilot), plenty of gunplay filmed at all speeds and conveniently expendable characters whose deaths help bridge that pesky lawman-baddie gap so McAvoy and Strong can trade meaningful glares.
I suppose there’s a singular talent behind keeping so much aggressive hokum entertaining — part of that is great casting, from the leads to stalwart Peter Mullan and up-and-comer Andrea Riseborough, and part is Creevy’s architecturally minded visual style and relentless pacing. It’s called “Welcome to the Punch,” but really, you’ll be tickled more than bruised.
“Welcome to the Punch.” No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes. Playing at NoHo 7, North Hollywood.