When a European director makes a slick genre exercise (such as Swede Daniel Espinosa's solid Easy Money), you can generally count on that director landing in Hollywood within a few years. Whatever the work's merits, an action or horror film is a great résumé-padder. British director Eran Creevy's already got the advantage of scoring Ridley Scott as executive producer on his second film, Welcome to the Punch; he also has a visual style that closely apes Michael Mann's, full of blue-tinged HD cinematography and uncanny glows from artificial light. It's too bad he settles for a script (self-written) that mistakes messiness for complexity, while ignoring characterization and real-world politics. A chase between cop Max (James McAvoy) and crook Jacob (Mark Strong) leaves Max hobbled by a gunshot and Jacob free. Three years later, in a London riddled with gun violence, Jacob's son is taken into custody, but corrupt cops and politicians turn out to threaten Max's investigation and life more than Jacob and his crew. As the tough lead, McAvoy, better known for lighter fare, seems a decade too young for the part. While Welcome to the Punch offers a realistic appraisal of the long-term effects of getting shot in the knee—after three years, Max still has to drain the pus out of his leg with a syringe—the film generally fetishizes firearms so bluntly it would make James Franco's Spring Breakers hood blush. When bullets aren't flying, the movie offers yesterday's goods in shiny new packaging.
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