It’s that wonderful time of the year when Christmas films start to seep into the cinema. And every now and then a weird one will pop in to mix it all up. This year it is director Tommy Wirkola’s brutal Violent Night starring David Harbour as jolly old Saint Nick.
The film opens with a disillusioned Santa Claus as he drowns his sorrows in a pub in Bristol. He laments how corporate Christmas has become. How children have become greedy goblins and he feels like this might be his swansong. As he heads off to finish his rounds we are introduced to the Lightstones. Trudy and her parents are going to visit their inlaws and while the usual crap happens, infighting, grovelling and bitching, Trudy just wants her mom and dad to stop fighting and get back together. Enter Mr Scrooge and his “elves”. These mercenaries have planned to steal $300,000,000.00 from the Lightstones. What they didn’t count on was Santa reluctantly coming to the rescue of Trudy. After all, she is on the nice list and believes in the big guy.
I gotta watch
Violent Night is a lot of fun. The simple premise of the old man proving he’s a badass is one that’s been going on for a while now. However, Violent Night’s twist on it with the old man being Santa Claus is welcome. David Harbour’s Claus is a disillusioned mess of a character who finds purpose again in seeing that not everyone is a complete asshole. And it is these people he has to fight for. Young Trudy is a brilliant little partner in scenes with him as she reminds him of why he got into this business. Leah Brady is a lot of fun as Trudy, coming across as naive but also quite intelligent. This is especially apparent when Trudy has to get in on the action.
Speaking of the action, it is wonderfully over the top. Santa is never outright owning each brawl he finds himself in. In fact, for a large portion of the film, he is falling into each fight and is barely making it out alive. There is a strange charm to the fact that this ancient being (at least 1100 years old) doesn’t understand modern technology, so he never uses a gun as a weapon. It means the team behind the film had to get creative in the design of each fight and try to keep the festive season in mind when it came to how the battles would play out. There is a Home Alone section that is incredibly brutal and in the audience I was a part of there were a lot of gasps and laughs.
The film is also gorgeous looking. A lot of warm colours give it that festive warmth, which is a hilarious juxtaposition to the brutal violence of the film and the majority of its characters. The film is also filled with a ton of festive tunes and the score is equally as festive, even if it comes off as somewhat generic in its execution.
With its brutal action and ridiculous characters, Violent Night is a lot of fun. Unfortunately, as the film went on it began to lose a lot of its charm. This has to do with it not ending particularly strongly. It even includes quite a generic ending which could have been handled better. Thankfully though even with a weaker third act, there were still blisteringly brutal presents to open which brought me back.
Violent Night isn’t quite a Christmas classic, however, it will definitely be one to revisit ahead of Christmas in my household. Especially from the cheeky charm coming from David Harbour.
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