From writer/director Eran Creevy, the British crime thriller Welcome to the Punch is the story of two arch-nemeses, detective Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy) and master criminal Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong). When Jacob escaped after a robbery, three years ago, Max was left emotionally and physically scarred, but as Max delves deeper into the case and looks for a way to catch Jacob, once and for all, he uncovers a conspiracy that he never could have expected.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, filmmaker Eran Creevy talked about how the film came about, his desire to pay homage to the film of the heroic bloodshed era in Hong Kong, that he finds the process of writing quite hard, how he has quite a few deleted scenes and bits of backstory that he’d like to include on the DVD, how he already has ideas for a possible sequel, and that he’s currently writing a Korean style revenge tragedy, set in New York and called Cry Havoc. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
ERAN CREEVY: I had made my first film, Shifty, which I wrote and directed. That was a very low-budget, socio-realist, urban thriller that was set around my hometown, where I grew up in England. It was very much like a Shane Meadows/Ken Loach/Mike Leigh style of movie. It was very realistic. I got nominated for a BAFTA for it and won the Writer’s Guild for Best New Writer. So, it becomes expected that you’re going to make another Ken Loach/Mike Leigh type movie, but I actually grew up on a diet of graphic novels and Hong Kong action cinema.
I was a huge fan of the heroic bloodshed era in Hong Kong, in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, with John Woo and Hard Boiled, and Ringo Lam and City on Fire. I wanted to do something in homage to the Hong Kong action cinema that I grew up loving, and still love now, like Infernal Affairs, but I wanted to set it in London. So, I set about writing the screenplay and I wanted to work within the archetypes. The heroic bloodshed era is identified by overly stylized action and it deals with themes of brotherhood, redemption, vengeance and violence, and I love all those themes. Aside from brotherhood, I wanted to explore those other themes in Welcome to the Punch. Even though it’s a serious version, it’s like my version of Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz.
Did the writing process come fairly easy for you, or did you spend a lot of time working on this script?
CREEVY: I wrote my first script, I wrote this one, and I’m writing a new screenplay, at the moment, for the BFI, called Cry Havoc. I think writing is one of the toughest things. Directing is for pussies. That’s the thing that gets me ill. I get ill when I’m writing because I’m so focused on it, and it can take a year or two. Often, I knock out the first draft very quickly. I can do it in five to six weeks. Then, it takes a year of rewriting it and rewriting it. I threw on the making of Young Frankenstein and Mel Brooks said, “You can’t make a sculpture until you’ve got a lump of rock.” So, the lump of rock comes really quickly, but it takes ages to make the sculpture. I find the process of writing quite hard, but I’ve got a really good producing team, with Ben Pugh and Rory Aitken, and we develop it together and we worked hard to streamline the screenplay. Even though it’s a fast-moving cops and robbers movie with lots of action, we made sure that the theme of justice ran through every single character.
And then, when we made the movie, we looked at how we were going to shoot it, and whether we were going to shoot it in flat space or deep space, with a real convergence of lines. So, you get the screenplay done, and then you move into the theory side of it. We were so keen to get this film made after Shifty, to show that we were aspiring to be bigger filmmakers and could do that style of American action in London. It’s often done very badly, or the films are very parochial. We wanted to showcase London, as well, and make it look aspiration and inspired by international thrillers that you get in France and Hong Kong and America. You guys are so used to having films that look like this, while we’re used to seeing a film about some guy who goes to Cornwall to visit the grave of his dead dog. I wanted to make something that is inspired by my heroes, like Tony Scott and Ridley Scott, which was one of the reasons it was amazing that Ridley Scott came on board as an executive producer.
Are there many deleted scenes that you might include on the DVD release?
CREEVY: Yeah. There were consistent panic attacks that Mark Strong’s character had, throughout the entire film, like Hank does in Breaking Bad. He kept having these horrific anxiety attacks, and it happened before every action sequence. And I had this monologue about his wife and how she had died. There was more history and more backstory to who he was, but it was a cops and robbers movie, so it had to remain in the present and the choices these characters were making now, rather than dwelling in the past and having these anxiety attacks that were connected to what had happened to him. So, I decided to cut it out of the film. There are still quite a few bits and bobs of backstory, and more personal moments between Andrea Riseborough and James McAvoy, flirting and getting closer, but it slowed the film don’t. People said that the film moves to fast, but I did it on purpose. If you go see a cops and robbers movie, it should move at a certain pace. I’m bored of going to see two-and-a-half-hour movies where I’m falling asleep, so I was quite keen to bring it in at an hour and a half. So, I cut some of the backstory out, but hopefully we can put it on the DVD.
CREEVY: Yeah. I never conceived the film as a sequel. Whether we can continue the franchise or not is totally down to whether it makes any money at the box office or not. But, if it did make some money and someone approached me with the idea, I’m so obsessed by Hong Kong that I could see that Jacob (Mark Strong) could escape to Hong Kong and that he is now living out his life in solitude in the city. And Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy) has been in prison for what he’s done and he’s taken the brunt of the blame for what happened to Sarah Hawks (Andrea Riseborough). And then, there’s this thing where the British government approach him to track down Jacob Sternwood. And I was going to call it The Hong Kong Sector. So, I’ve been thinking about it. We’ll see what happens. If I do a sequel, I’m just going to go balls-to-the-wall and go ten-fold. We’re going to go to Hong Kong and just have crazy, mad, John Woo style, Hard Boiled, The Raid action, with James McAvoy and Mark Strong. We’ll see how it goes.
What is that script about that you’re currently writing?
CREEVY: It’s called Cry Havoc. I’m obsessed by the Far East, at the moment. I’ve watched a lot of Korean movies, like The Yellow Sea and I Saw the Devil and The Chaser. So, I’m doing a Korean style revenge tragedy, but it’s set in New York. It’s about a New York Times journalist whose wife is murdered in what seems like a senseless killing, and he uses his undercover journalistic skills to try to figure out what happened to her. It also tells the story of a Sri Lankan immigrant who’s come to New York to buy his wife a new liver on the organ black market. It tells these two men’s stories, and how they collide and come together. It moves into a much more real world than Welcome to the Punch. It’s about the futility of revenge and the concept of atypical justice, like those Korean films.
Welcome to the Punch is now playing in limited release.