SYNOPSIS: From legendary director John Woo and the producer of John Wick comes this gritty revenge tale of a tormented father (Joel Kinnaman) who witnesses his young son die when caught in a gang’s crossfire on Christmas Eve. While recovering from a wound that costs him his voice, he makes vengeance his life’s mission and embarks on a punishing training regimen in order to avenge his son’s death. Full of Woo’s signature style, Silent Night redefines the action genre with visceral, thrill-a-minute storytelling.
Before John Wick, there’s John Woo, the legendary HK filmmaker behind A Better Tomorrow, Bullet to the Head and Hardboiled. Woo of course is known for his stylistic “bullet ballet” action movies and his frequent usage of slow-mo, white doves has over the decades become his well-known trademarks.
After an absence of two decades, Woo returns to Hollywood with Silent Night, a revenge action thriller led by Swedish actor Joel Kinnaman (Suicide Squad, the remake of Robocop) and features almost zero dialogue.
Kinnaman plays Brian Godluck, a working class electrician whose life is turned upside down after his young son is killed in a gang crossfire on Christmas Eve. His marriage is ruined and he also lost his voice after suffering a near fatal gun wound. After his recovery, he trains in secret via YouTube, fighting with a dummy and practices in a shooting range vowing to kill all the gang members the following Christmas Eve.
Silent Night has the potential of being the next mindless, entertaining John Woo actioner, just check out his Hard Target and Broken Arrow. However majority of the movie is ruined by the “silent movie” gimmick making the entire affair utterly pointless and boring. Employing loud sound and background effects aren’t a great way to sustain your attention.
A police detective played by rapper Kid Cudi is not shown to be investigating the gang but he is somewhat determined to assist Brian in the killing spree in the end. Catalina Sandino Moreno plays Brian’s suffering wife and they simply communicate via sms. Unbelievably so. The leader of the gang (Harold Torres) is expectedly a Latino with scary tattoos and he basically has zilch characterisation and development to be a truly memorable villain.
If you are here in the capacity of a long-time John Woo fan, there’s zilch gun-toting scenes that stood out in the 104 minutes movie. The pacing is horribly slow and it’s not even that engaging watching Brian's training montage. And even when the carnage starts, there’s none of the creative elements which Woo has showcased in his previous action spectacles. There’s plenty of bloodshed no doubt but it’s simply just teams of hardworking stuntmen going through the motions of falling down and getting shot at.
While Kinnaman turns in a decent performance as a grieving father mourning the loss of his son and his hatred and desire to rid the criminals, this tale of vengeance helmed by the great John Woo never seems to hit the mark. The kindest thing we can think of is at least the 77 year old auteur is making a minor not silent comeback.
Review by Linus Tee