Movie Review: ‘Violent Night’

Director: Tommy Wirkola

Cast: David Harbour, John Leguizamo, Cam Gigandet, Alex Hassell, Alexis Louder, Edi Patterson, Leah Brady, André Eriksen, Beverly D’Angelo

Plot: The wealthy and powerful Lightstone family gather on Christmas Eve, only for a group of highly trained criminals take them hostage in order to empty their vault. The youngest member of the house reaches out the Santa Claus for help.

Review: A sincere, family orientated Christmas movie feels like it’s never going to make it to the multiplexes in this day and age. It’s a complicated and difficult time, and people aren’t going to buy into something like Santa Claus: The Movie, or Miracle on 34th Street. What we’re left with are cheaply made, cheesy streaming movies that people watch ironically, and subversive takes on classic stories. Violent Night brings us a violent and dangerous take on Santa, and even that has been done a dozen times. We’ve had Santa’s Slay, Silent Night Deadly Night, Krampus and even Futurama. What made our ears prick up this time around is the perfect casting of David Harbour as a Santa Claus forced into a kill-or-be-killed situation.

We get introduced to Santa in the first scene, breaking up the chore of delivering presents by getting tanked in a bar. Dismayed with the changing values and tired of delivering cash and video games to increasingly greedy children, Santa is ready to hang up his hat. Puke-drunk, he finds himself delivering gifts to the Livingstone compound just as Mr Scrooge (Leguizamo) has turned up with his heavily armed gang to terrorise the family. The family itself are mostly narcissist, greedy pricks with the outliers being Linda (Louder) and her daughter Trudy (Brady) being estranged from the group but wanting to enjoy a family Christmas. Trudy is an innocent in all this, and it’s her that inspires Santa to intervene and engage with his long forgotten self.

Whilst not invincible or especially powerful, Santa is imbued with some Christmas magic, pulling presents out of his sack and being able to travel through chimneys. Despite his long life he appears mortal enough to be injured or killed. In this mythology though, Santa was originally a Viking Raider known for caving in people’s heads with a warhammer. Connecting with his past self gives Santa a fighting chance against the well-trained and prepared intruders. It takes a while to get up to speed (helped with the introduction of some redshirts), but the creative fights and kills ramp things up in a spectacular manner. Some of the more shocking methods of dispatching foes inspired a big audience response, and a sequence that recreates some Home Alone booby-traps is huge fun.

John Leguizamo is a fun foil, but this is David Harbour’s show. His first major lead role following his break-out success on Stranger Things was the disappointing Hellboy. We’re glad that he got this fresh chance to bring his grizzled but kind-hearted demeanour to this role. What is more perfect for him than a Santa Claus who fights people with a mallet? They don’t get into too much or the lore beyond ‘was Viking, now Santa’, so he really does put his own spin on it.

There’s enough twists and turns to keep things engaging, even if some scenes are padded out to fill the run time. Some action scenes just keep on going when it’s time to mix up the setting. If you’re looking to start your Christmas viewing with something messy then this will fulfil your wishes.

Rating: SEVEN out of TEN