This was so up my alley that I am not even sure a review is necessary. The trailer above is filled with spoilers of some of the best moments in the film, and I still managed to enjoy, laugh and groan at the things that I’d already been tipped off to. This is the kind of counter programming movie at the holiday season that I thrive on. Like “Krampus” and “Anna and the Apocalypse“, “Violent Night” goes to some dark places at the most joyous time of the year. Don’t get me wrong, I still love a sentimental Christmas movie, in fact I’m in the middle of a Movie A Day Christmas watch that is filled with Netflix fodder as well as classics, but you have to take a break every now and then.
The set up of this movie is easy. This is “Die Hard” crossed with “Home Alone” and Santa is John McClane. David Harbour has just the right feel as a sadly dissatisfied Santa, weary of the instant gratification culture that modern Christmases present. He has not gone completely to seed, but he has been tippling a bit on Christmas Eve and his fuse is getting shorter with every stop he makes. Maybe the one weakness of the film is that Santa has magical powers, but they don’t protect him from physical harm, and he can be hurt. The problem is that those powers are inconsistent, and sometimes he can use a magic trick and sometimes he can’t. The only explanation we get is that Santa doesn’t understand how it works either.
Santa is also given a slightly different backstory here than you will find in most traditional origin tales. His history as a Viking Berserker, being redeemed by love and the opportunity to be kind to the world, means that when he has to get down and dirty in this story, we can believe he has the skills to do so, and boy does he let loose with those skills. As John Wick is to a Gun, Santa is with a Hammer. Yeah! His reluctance to engage at first is understandable, but when his conscience gives him permission, he takes off and it is a lot of bloody, violent fun.
John Leguizamo plays a part that feels like it could have been done by his character in “The Menu“. He is all scenery chewing badguy, and his unfettered resentment at Christmas reflects his narcissism. Beverly D’Angelo gets to play the matron of a family at Christmas time again, but this time she is hard-bitten and bitter rather than Griswold sweet and patient. Alexis Louder was my favorite thing about “Copshop” but it is not until the end of the film that she gets to shine a little. There are several other supporting players who also work primarily because they are well cast and the caricatures that they play are so easy to pick up on.
If you are not the kind of person who thinks violence can be played for laughs, you may want to skip this one. If however, you wanted to see what would really happen to Marv and Harry if Kevin’s traps were real, this is a film you should embrace. The nail on the ladder scene will be enough to justify your ticket price, but there is so much more. Dash away, dash away, dash away now, to your nearest multiplex, before the woke sugar plum fairies realize what a demented bunch of fun this is.