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‘Welcome to the Punch’ – A foreign film that could have been a U.S. hit

Date: 8/8/2013

By G. Michael Dobbs

This week we go international in the film review column.

On DVD: Welcome to the Punch

Once again here is an example of a foreign film that could have found an audience in American theaters if it had been given a chance.

Frankly, I’m amazed that in this era of increasingly large multiplexes, that some enterprising theater executives don’t set aside one screen for movies out of their 10 or 12 or 16 auditoriums for movies that deserve being discovered.

We’ve seen this summer that just because a film has a $200 million budget doesn’t mean it will find its audience or that it deserves an audience.

A well-made film with a more modest budget has a greater opportunity of making a profit because it has far less overhead.

There are, however, far less showmen in the world of theatrical exhibition who are willing to roll the dice a bit and work to get an audience to a less-known film.

If it were up to me, I’d book and promote “Welcome to the Punch” any day of the week. James McAvoy plays Max, a dedicated cop who manages to follow a notorious robbery ring, but is shot in the knee by their leader. Three years later, Max is still on the force, but he is embittered by the politics he has seen and experienced. His partner Sarah (played by Andrea Riseborough) is trying to revive his previous enthusiasm.

It does re-ignite when the man who shot him, Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong) comes out of hiding and back to London to see his son who has been shot in a botched criminal deal.

This is Max’s chance to redeem himself in his mind and in the minds of his fellow officers.

“Welcome to the Punch” has an involved story, interesting characters and strong performances. It’s a solid, compelling police action film that manages to sidestep clichés and conventions of the genre.

I really liked how crime-fighting without the day-to-day use of weapons – this is Great Britain – was portrayed and how this became a major part of the plot.

If you like gritty action dramas with an edge, this one is for you.

Annika Bengtzon: Crime Reporter

This series of six Swedish films adapted from the international best-selling mysteries by Liza Marklund is a treat for those who enjoy a good murder mystery, especially with the setting of a tabloid newspaper.

Each film runs about two hours and the new DVD sets that have been released each feature three films.

I watched the first three films, “Nobel’s Last Will,” “Prime Time” and “Studio Sex” and I will certainly watch the next three.

You can tell that Marklund knows her way around a newspaper and reporting as those scenes have a ring of authenticity.

Marklund’s heroine is Annika Bengtzon, a reporter who is clearly driven to follow the truth no matter where it leads. She is living with the father of her two children and her relationship has definitely been affected by her career.

The truth behind much of her motivation is revealed in the third film “Studio Sex” and the character is given additional depth.

Well-produced and directed, the films are a notch above made-for-television movies and they are anchored by the performance of Malin Crépin as Annika.

Don’t let the subtitles stand in your way of enjoying these well-crafted mysteries