Well, THAT was a pleasant surprise. I’d heard positive ‘rumblings’ about this UK-born action thriller and now that I’ve had the chance to see it…I can say that it’s one of the better action flicks I’ve seen in quite a while. The story follows Max Lewinsky, a dangerously obsessive London cop, played by Englands answer to Edward Norton, James McAvoy (Wanted), as he finds himself embroiled in a dangerous ‘cat n mouse’ game with his nemesis Jacob Sternwood, played with a surprising amount of humanity (for a potentially one-dimensional villain) by the always impressive Mark Strong (Robin Hood). Along the way, the two enemies are forced to grudgingly link up to take down the corrupt cops and officials responsible for the deaths of loved ones in both mens lives. There is a lot of ‘good’ on display in this slick genre offering. For starters, the film looks great. It has a glossy sheen that nicely accents the grit of the on-screen ‘goings ons’. A hefty chunk of the run time takes place at night and they’ve really made the glass and steel of downtown London look unique, compared to how we’re seen it dozens of times before. One reason for that could be the lack of area-specific landmarks that the entire world knows by now. It’s all just gleaming n glowing skyscrapers. Another notable feature is the very high-quality sound design. EVERYTHING sounds great in this movie…right down to the heavy breathing that the film focus’ on, in select characters moments of stress or despair. Gunshots and explosions are particularly impressive, with the crisp sounds of spent shell casings and debris accenting the multitude of thunderous ‘Bang!’s scattered throughout. The violence and action itself has a sense of desperation that goes a long way toward making it feel like there is actually something at stake when the bullets start flying. It’s not clear-cut and choreographed-feeling, and I found that refreshing. And some of the blood-letting is just downright messy. To further accent the ‘what’s at stake’ element, early on in the film, Max takes a 9mm round through his thigh, during a high speed (and exciting!) chase sequence. Following this obviously painful-looking wound, we catch up with him 3 years later as he is still in pain and needing to occasionally (and graphically) drain the clear fluid that builds up around the scar. I thought this was an especially nice touch, as we don’t often get to see the protagonist actually handicapped by a past wound. Usually they just result in a sexy scar with no adverse medical issues hounding them. Another element that stood out prominently in the peripherals of the story was the debate over the arming of the police in the UK. It VERGED on being a somewhat political undercurrent to what could otherwise be seen as nothing more than merely a vacuous piece of escapist entertainment. Given just how much ‘gun play’ is present, it’s kind of a strange (and somewhat ballsy) juxtaposition. The cast is another ‘who’s who’ of English actors that many people will recognize. Aside from McAvoy and Strong. The Walking Deads Governor himself David Morrisey, turns up as a questionable police official while Jason Flemying (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) pops in for a cool, gun-toting cameo. The various actors, especially the ones portraying ‘bad guys’ give this flick an additionally positive slant, in that EVERYONE has their moments of believable heartache, sorrow and anger. The hardened criminals come outfitted with hearts and souls…not something you see in the average bullet-laden cinematic bloodbath. The various relationships have a certain tangibility as a happy result. Welcome to the Punch is a well-crafted and engaging action-thriller that I believe will bring a smile to the ugly mug of just about any Action Movie fan.