Take a moment to study the above frame I selected from Welcome to the Punch. Does any aspect of this moment jump out to you? Sure, there's a solid construction at play with the two characters angled and facing the empty space in expectation of it being filled with another figure. But aside from a basic grasp of shot construction there is nothing visually dynamic about that moment.
This basic approach applies to nearly every moment of Welcome to the Punch. Every single shot is nearly the same, the camera cuts into drab hallways and solitary figures all in the same light lime green color. There were, perhaps, two or three moments that did not have the same color scheme and those involved amber streetlights in the middle of the night.
Of the films many missteps this is the worst. I am so tired of thrillers that work under the assumption that by placing every single damn frame in the same drab palette that it will drag us down into the murky moral turpitude of the protagonists. The visual style of this film is so boring it actually made me angry at times. I wanted to see something, anything, that didn't look like a couples poor color choice for a depressing nursery. There's no tension in the figures even when the characters are in direct conflict with each other, just more bland corridors.
Worse, it turns out that the creativity that went into developing the visual strategy for the film is the same that went into writing it. The screenplay for Welcome to the Punch was on the 2010 Brit List, which keeps track of the best unproduced screenplays that are floating around their studios. I cannot think of a single reason why this story, with dialogue this bland, and characters this cliché, ended up on that list.
Max (James McAvoy) almost went insane trying to catch criminal mastermind Jacob (Mark Strong). In the process Jacob shot Max in the leg but left him alive for reasons never explained. The simplest is that we would not have had a film if Jacob ended Max's life then and there. But, sadly, life doesn't always turn out for the best. Years later Max has the opportunity to catch Jacob returns to help his son Ruan (Elyes Gabel) botches a job and becomes the target of both sides of the law.
There are no surprises in the story, and the characters on upcoming scenes with such precision that they seemed more excited at the prospect of the film ending than I was. Sample scenes - Max's partner Sarah (Andrea Riseborough) steps up to tell her commanding officer that their plan to catch Jacob won't work. Cut to the extraction team failing to catch Jacob. Later on Max assures everyone he's not too close to the case. Then he botches it because, and no points for guessing, he's too close to the anger he understandably feels for Jacob shooting him.
The boring story and drab visuals culminate in one of the most confusingly staged action scenes of the year. Jacob's partner Roy (Peter Mullan) helps him prepare for a possible ambush. As expected, there's an ambush from Max and other shady individuals, inside what appears to be a building that's part studio, factory, dance floor, and arcade. Despite the omnipresent lime green there is no logic or flow to the scene, no sense of place or line of action, and the characters act with the same thought given to their actions.
Some crucial information later forces Max and Jacob to work together but before that point Jacob spares Max's life a few times. Why? Near as I can tell it's because Jacob is played by Strong and Strong spends the entire film looking like he would like to be doing anything than what he is doing. Other than Max's obvious reasons for wanting to get revenge on Jacob there is never even a passing reason for the way Jacob acts outside of his love for his son. Jacob isn't a character, he's a walking plot contrivance built like a robotic AI partner for the purpose of making sure Max survives the film.
Outside of a duty to get a dusty stack of papers outside of some producers desk there is no reason for this film to exist. The acting is anemic, the visuals exist because of the barest effort to put the film together, and the plot is so routine you can set your watch to. Skip it.