Blu Tuesday: Trance, Welcome to the Punch and More

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on Facebook and Twitter with your friends.

“Trance”

WHAT: With his gambling debt piling up, art auctioneer Simon (James McAvoy) teams up with a group of thieves to steal a Francisco Goya masterpiece. But during the robbery, Simon suffers a blow to his head, and in order to figure out where he stashed the painting, the gang’s leader (Vincent Cassel) hires a hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson) to dig deep into Simon’s psyche and help jog his memory.

WHY: Adapted from the 2001 TV movie of the same name, “Trance” is so thinly plotted and riddled with gaps in logic that it’s to the credit of director Danny Boyle and his cast (including a surprisingly good Rosario Dawson) that they’re able to keep things interesting. Though Boyle masks a lot of the script’s problems with some nifty visuals and the same kinetic energy prevalent in his other films, the frantic pace only lasts so long before the story grinds to a halt, suffocated by a never-ending series of twists and red herrings that makes it almost impossible to discern what’s real. That’s obviously the point, but by the time the movie arrives at its climactic ending, it becomes one twist too many, and instead of a brilliant mind-bender, it feels like a cheap trick written by someone trying to outdo “Inception.” The movie is ultimately saved by Boyle’s ingenuity and some strong performances, but for a film with such a unique premise, “Trance” should have left a more lasting impression.

EXTRAS: There are six production featurettes (including one on the making of the film), deleted scenes, a retrospective on director Danny Boyle and the short film “Eugene.”

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Welcome to the Punch”

WHAT: After failing to capture master thief Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong) several years earlier, detective Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy) is given a second chance to bring down the elusive criminal when Sternwood returns to London following his son’s death, only to uncover a much deeper conspiracy within his own police department.

WHY:Welcome to the Punch” has garnered a few comparisons to Michael Mann’s cat-and-mouse thriller “Heat,” but the movie pales in comparison. Though it boasts a similar visual style to a lot of Mann’s films, the tension is almost non-existent, and despite an interesting dynamic between McAvoy’s cop and Strong’s robber, it’s never fully explored, nor does it have the same allure of seeing Hollywood heavyweights like Robert De Niro and Al Pacino face off. This is a movie in dire need of a better script, because not only does it lack personality, but it’s too complicated for its own ogod – a tangled mess of half-baked ideas and telegraphed plot twists that never properly explains anything. It’s a generic crime thriller in just about every way, and although it looks great and features a couple of nifty gunfights, the film is ultimately a case of style over substance, and one that its top-notch British ensemble is unable to rescue.

EXTRAS: The single-disc release is a little light on bonus material, but it does include a making-of featurette and interviews with the cast and crew.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

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Movie Review: “Welcome to the Punch”

Starring
James McAvoy, Mark Strong, David Morrissey, Peter Mullan, Andrea Riseborough, Daniel Mays
Director
Eran Creevy

The British film industry is overflowing with a wealth of talent, which is what makes its poor output of quality movies so maddening. While there’s never been a short supply of stuffy period dramas and gritty gangster flicks, very few other genres have managed to find much success overseas. Evan Creevy’s sophomore effort, “Welcome to the Punch,” attempts to bridge that gap by delivering a Hollywood-style crime thriller on an indie budget, but although he’s landed an impressive cast of A-list British talent, it’s mostly squandered on a bland and overly predictable script. “Welcome to the Punch” displays a lot more potential than the recently released “The Sweeney,” but it still falls short due a lack of suspense and personality.

Ambitious young detective Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy) is hot on the trail of master thief Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong), but after tracking him down to the scene of his latest heist in progress, Sternwood manages to escape and Max gets a bullet in the kneecap for his troubles. Three years later, Jacob is still coping with the events of that night (the scar and accompanying knee pain a constant reminder of his failure), but when Sternwood’s son is fatally wounded during a gun deal gone wrong, Sternwood emerges from his Icelandic hideaway to smoke out the men responsible. Convinced that Sternwood’s vendetta will lead him back to London, Max is given another chance to capture the elusive criminal, only to uncover a deeper conspiracy within his own police department connecting the two crimes.

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