With Welcome to the Punch and Trance, James McAvoy tries his hand at being a big-screen bad boy.

By Samantha Highfill
Updated March 29, 2013 at 04:00 AM EDT

Ready for a James McAvoy double feature? In the next two weeks the Scottish actor stars in a pair of British flicks that show off a grittier side of the guy last seen — or, rather, heard — in 2011’s sweet animated tale Arthur Christmas. First up is March 27’s Welcome to the Punch (see review, page 53), an action thriller in which he plays a hotheaded cop desperate to catch his nemesis. Then comes Trance, a psychological thriller directed by Danny Boyle that finds McAvoy portraying an art auctioneer who might not be as innocent as he seems. “For Welcome to the Punch, getting to play somebody who was slightly less likable was good fun,” says McAvoy, 33, who’s currently starring as Macbeth on the London stage. ”Then Trance came along. That the character was so messed up really did appeal to me.”

McAvoy continues his bad-guy streak in two dramas awaiting U.S. distribution, Filth and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby. But come next summer, when he reprises his role as Professor X in X-Men: Days of Future Past, he’ll be back fighting for the good guys. So will he and Patrick Stewart (who plays the older X) have scenes together? ”Possibly,” McAvoy teases. ”I can tell you it’s set in the ’70s and that we’ll be wearing flares and sideburns, and that will be well cool.”