Director: Tommy Wirkola
Cast: David Harbour, John Leguizamo, Edi Patterson, Cam Gigandet, Alex Hassell, Alexis Louder, Beverly D'Angelo
Runtime: 1 hr 52 mins
Rating: M18 (Violence & Coarse Language)
Released By: UIP
Opening Day: 1 December 2022
Synopsis: To hell with "all is calm." From 87North, the bare-knuckle producers of Nobody, John Wick, Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2 and Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw comes a coal-dark holiday thriller that says you should always bet on red. When a team of mercenaries breaks into a wealthy family compound on Christmas Eve, taking everyone inside hostage, the team isn't prepared for a surprise combatant: Santa Claus (David Harbour, Black Widow, Stranger Things series) is on the grounds, and he's about to show why this Nick is no saint.
Comparing Violent Night with Nobody is inevitable consider that both features over-the-top violence and action set pieces. And coincidentally enough, both stories start from a break-in.
The story is relatively fuss-free and simple. On Christmas eve, a group of mercenaries led by “Mr Scrooge” (John Leguizamo) barged into the home of a wealthy family in order to rob their money which is locked in a hi-tech vault. The family involves a young girl, Trudy (Leah Brady) and her estranged parents and extended family members including their matriarch, Gertrude (Beverly D’Angelo). Apparently, their riches derived from siphoning government money but this is not a movie about it.
In comes Saint Nick (David Harbour), yes that generous uncle we all known as Santa Claus except that this version of Santa is disillusioned in life, alcoholic and happened to be in the wrong place. And apparently he is about to save our dear wealthy family from the villains. So the movie’s highlight is not merely the wicked action but an added touch of whimsical fantasy and outrageous humour courtesy of the writers from the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise.
As expected, the most compelling character here is Santa and Harbour nails down the role perfectly. His comic timing is flawless often driven by the character’s sarcasm and naughty one-liners. In fact, it reminds one of Red Guardian, the fumbling Soviet superhero Harbour plays in Black Widow only this time he has no Scarlett Johansson or Florence Pugh to compete for his screentime.
There’s also occasional flashbacks that showcases Santa’s past life as a Viking warrior of sort and mention of a certain Mrs Claus though these interesting inserts weren’t touch upon perhaps for obvious reasons, the filmmakers are reserving them for a prequel or sequel.
The rest of the characters unfortunately are given paper-thin characterization. Mr Scrooge is not exactly a scenery-chewing villain we love to hate even though Leguizamo as usual puts in a lavish performance as a Christmas-hating terrorist who talks more than he shoots. Despite the movie having a Die Hard vibe all over, Leguizamo’s character simply lacks the charm of Hans and Simon Gruber to win us over.
No Christmas movie should be without a kid and Trudy Lightstone is here to spread some holiday messages and as you guessed it, Trudy is a good kid all year round and that’s why Santa is going all out to save her and her questionable family members who actually has more questionable morals in life than the average person. That leads us to one question, why did Santa has to go through so much trouble to save them from the ruthless home invaders?
Violent Night does have its slower moments, mostly just touching exposition between Claus and Trudy. Otherwise, it’s just building up to the next fight scene which gets more and more atrocious when more of Mr Scrooge’s henchmen turned up. The choreography here is less fluid, proficient or sharp than say Nobody and John Wick because Santa is not a trained spy or agent, he is basically a former Norse warrior armed with his “skull crusher”. Santa gets roughed up easily from the process but that doesn’t stop him from utilising some cool Christmas décor as weapons for example, a Christmas tree star should come in handy. There’s also a gruesome, laugh-out-loud scene inspired by none other than Home Alone which involves some nails and a ladder.
Harbour’s versatility is obvious right here and he sure served up some need be festive cheer and together with director Tommy Wirkola (Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters) their very own version of ultra-violent Christmas magic. Die Hard finally has a competitor in the Christmas Action Movie category and we hate to choose only one.
(Violent Night is definitely on our nice list)
Review by Linus Tee