The two hard geezer cops square up to one another, faces broiling with intense hard b’stard intensity.
“Oi, yoo mug, get a grip on your shootah, screw your face up even more and get after that ludicrously overblown villain in a manner this slickly-shot but ultimately clichéd and empty movie requires,” scowled the more portly and elder of the pair.
“But gaffer, I’m Plan B and with my range of expression you could find better sixth form drama students to fill this role,” the second sang back.
“Hold on,” the portly one said. “The latest live odds that this film will be a stinker are coming up on your screen naaaah!”
You might be wondering what this imagined scene from last year’s The Sweeney is doing as an intro to a review of Welcome To The Punch. Watch the trailer for the latter and you might start to notice the similarities. Arial shots of London and super-stylistic images of the shiny surfaces around Canary Wharf, masked men in suits carrying high-powered weaponry and cops with exasperated looks aplenty.
However, Welcome To The Punch has eschewed casting an actor already parodying himself in Bet365 adverts alongside a singer who can’t act, and instead assembled a line-up of some of the best performers the British Isles can offer: hot young(ish) things James McAvoy and Andrea Riseborough, Mark Strong and David Morrissey, This Is England’s Johnny Harris and the always intense Peter Mullan.
With such an ensemble, no film could ever be anything less than solid viewing. But it’s not quite enough to transcend the cop thriller clichés that The Sweeney fell so readily into. The detective with an axe to grind against the master criminal/white whale that has eluded him before: check. A partner whose curiosity and instinct to go it alone should carry a health warning: check. Corrupt officialdom that means no one should be trusted: yes, check again.
It’s a shame that McAvoy and Riseborough seem slightly restricted by the generic London accents they have had to adopt here, but Harris, Mullan and Strong are as excellent as ever and worth the ticket price alone. But while Welcome To The Punch has a lot more inherent value than the regurgitated tosh that Hollywood can fart in our faces, it’s hard to escape the feeling that it would be much better received as a big budget drama on BBC One or Channel 4. A contender, if you like, but ultimately lacking what’s needed to be a champ.
Welcome To The Punch is out on Blu-ray and DVD now