Moving up from the smalltime drug deals of Shifty to matters of national security, emerging talent Eran Creevy shows no lack of ambition with his second foray into Britain’s criminal underbelly.
But although detective Max Lewinsky is Creevy’s creation, he’s an archetypal Ridley Scott hero. The moral flexibility, the uncertainty around women, the pathological problem with authority: it all fits the Scott profile.
Indeed, Welcome to the Punch is practically a return to Sir Rid’s 1980s noir phase, bearing the same hard-boiled mindset as Black Rain and Someone To Watch Over Me and making central London look like the set of Blade Runner 2.
The ultrastylish opening, however, owes more to Luc Besson’s Subway as McAvoy’s Lewinsky defies orders to single-handedly stop Mark Strong’s super-crook Jake Sternwood getting away with a Canary Wharf tower heist.
Alas, Sternwood escapes, leaving Lewinsky with a dent in his pride and an even bigger one in his knee.
Three years later, Lewinsky is still smarting. While his instincts are still good, he doesn’t make life easy for his boss (Shifty’s Daniel Mays), his boss’s boss (David Morrissey) or his scrappy partner Sarah (Andrea Riseborough).
But when Sternwood’s son Ruan (Elyes Gabel) ends up in hospital after a botched docklands robbery, Sternwood explodes from the woodwork to give Lewinsky one more shot at redemption.
As the cat-and-mouse unfolds, however, it seems that Ruan is just a pawn in a much bigger game. Ultimately, both men are trying to solve the same mystery... albeit from opposite sides.
Creevy wastes little time on personal background. Lewinsky is effectively just a bear with a sore knee while Sternwood is as cool and remote as his Iceland hideaway. Which in no way affects McAvoy and Strong's furrow-browed commitment to the cause.
As the bullets fly and the corruption seeps in, it’s clear that Creevy expects actions (and moody silences) to speak louder than words. Which is just as well, given the hamfistedness of some of his dialogue.
"You’re the shadow home secretary's campaign manager," explains police chief Morrissey to Natasha Little who, having just been introduced as such, probably didn't need reminding. But thanks for the conspiracy alert.
Also punching above their characters’ weights are Peter Mullan as Sternwood’s grizzled accomplice and Johnny Harris, rising further up the Premier league of British bad guys as a military-trained killer whose only weakness is an Achilles grandmother (Ruth Sheen, bless 'er).
The granny situation actually provides the film with its most memorable scene, in which Creevy not only demonstrates his own style, but a sense of black humour that would have gone down well elsewhere.
So while wearing its Scott label with pride, Welcome to the Punch falls a few neon strips short of its potential. The result is a tightly plotted thriller that looks like The Shard but occasionally sounds like The Gherkin. It gets away with it.