Cinephiles have been arguing for years if Die Hard is truly a Christmas film. Universal Pictures has released what might be called Die Hard in a Manger , Violent Night. This festive tale doesn’t have Bruce Willis but the big man himself Santa Claus.
After endless bad Christmas films that are drowning in saccharine, Violent Night tries to be different maybe ambitious. Does it work? A little with plenty of cheese, blood and guts thrown in for good measure
Stranger Things David Harbour is Saint Nick, when we meet him he is no ordinary Santa. A little depressed, frustrated getting drunk in a bar in Bristol, drowning his sorrows. No one realises he’s the real McCoy until the bar woman follows him to the roof when seeing him shoot off with the reindeers and in return she gets covered in Sick. This leaving us wondering will we be getting a Billy Bob Thornton Bad Santa Will.E Soake Santa? No.
This start off the film setting up that this won’t be your ordinary festive tale. A little girl Gertrude (Leah Brady) and her mum (Alexis Louder) meet up with her dad (Alex Hassell) and they head to his Mother’s mansion (Beverly D’Angelo of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation). She’s the boss, potty-mouth, meanwhile Santa himself is doing the rounds delivering presents, munching on those cookies, milk and when he can drinking booze.
His next port of call is the home that Trudy is staying and has been taken hostage by Ben who loves to call himself Scrooge (John Leguizamo). No one was expecting an unexpected combatant, Santa Claus. Who is determined Trudy who is on his good list, Christmas won’t be ruined by those on his naughty list.
Die Hard and Home Alone are two films that have inspired Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow) film. Those films are much loved, that doesn’t mean to say what we are watching is any good. Violent Night is that brainless, violent action that is full of those corny festive jokes from the crackers. Taking those traps Kevin McAllister made and this time they injure even maim or worse.
The film is a bit slow to start, but quickly speeds up when we get to meet the rest of the main cast to the family compound. Learn that Lightstone family are a group of individuals who are selfish, money grabbing and me myself and I is there only rule. When they have to grovel, mother knows all there moves, horrible people all around. You feel at times cheering on Ben (Leguizamo) and his cronies.
David Harbour is the true star of Violent Night. As Santa we quickly learn he is no stranger violence, before he was Santa Claus, he had another life one with a hammer. That story could be one that could set up another sequel or even prequel. This feels like a throw back to those 1990’s festive based action films (Reindeer Games, Die Hard 2). His quips and charms are convincing as are his warrior like moves, a bad ass Santa.
Violent Night is a predictable mess, it was also a film that shouldn’t have really worked. It did to a lesser extent, perfect for those looking for leave your brain at the box office. This has continuity problems, overdoing on the festive puns. The same can be said on the family feuding making things a bit mundane. If there was more Home Alone traps, things might have been a little better and we could have had a better film on the cards. This has the potential of being a cult film in a few years, for now it’s flawed popcorn movie escapism.
Action, Comedy | USA, 2022 | 15 | Cinema | out now | Universal Pictures | Dir. Tommy Wirkola | David Harbour, John Leguizamo, Alex Hassell, Leah Brady, Alex Louder, Beverly D’Angelo, Edi Patterson, Cam Gigandet
This review was originally posted at The Peoples Movies on 15th December 2022 | original review link