Genre: Action and Crime Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 41 min.
Release Date: December 2nd, 2022 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Tommy Wirkola Actors: David Harbour, Beverly D’Angelo, John Leguizamo, Alex Hassell, Alexis Louder, Leah Brady, Cam Gigandet, Edi Patterson, Alexander Elliot
t’s Christmas Eve, and nothing is stirring at the Lightstone Family compound except an armed group of mercenaries intent on stealing millions of dollars in cash from the underground vault. As Lightstone matriarch Gertrude (Beverly D’Angelo) once again attempts to force her children to grovel and quarrel for her affection during their yearly holiday gathering, daughter Alva (Edi Patterson) and her husband Morgan (Cam Gigandet) gladly acquiesce, but son Jason (Alex Hassell) decides this is the last Christmas for petty familial squabbling and instead focuses his attention on repairing the strained relationship with his wife Linda (Alexis Louder) and young daughter Trudy (Leah Brady). When the thieves, led by Christmas-hating grump Mr. Scrooge (John Leguizamo), besiege the upscale residence and begin tormenting the Lightstones, only one man stands in the way of their dastardly scheme – a jolly old fat man (David Harbour) dressed in red and white.
It begins with “Bad Santa” potential as the embittered Kris Kringle fixates on the greed of children, their short attention spans, and their casual subscription to consumer culture, all while downing beers and burping and muttering. It becomes almost whimsical when the Christmas music medleys start streaming, but it’s also overly vulgar in an anticipated yet no less laughable way. There’s something entirely captivating about materializing a soiled, slovenly, cursing, whisky-drinking, sledgehammer-wielding Santa Claus to right wrongs in vigilante fashion during the holiday season. Interestingly, the television shows “Futurama” and “Invader Zim” did something in the same vein when they envisioned the jolly gift-giver as a monstrous murderer who comes for misbehavers as if Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers.
“Welcome to your worst Christmas ever.” Here, there’s no shortage of villains in need of attitude adjustments; even the besieged family is comprised of comically despicable, easily detestable stereotypes (Edi Patterson is exceptional in this way, as always) who probably ought to face the music of Santa’s wrath. And at the start, the movie certainly lives up to its name, demonstrating a flair for outrageously over-the-top violence as the plot tiptoes around the premise of “Die Hard” with no real concern for comparisons. At least everyone contributes to the comic relief, which is definitely needed when excessive bloodshed starts to grow repetitive; the film isn’t without a couple of lulls, which appear obvious when the antagonists choose to talk rather than kill, or when various scene transitions are used to stall for time.
Strangely, “Violent Night” opts to tell a tale of supernatural entities, rather than simply having a family member dress up in the silvery beard and crimson robe, secretly possessing former black-op skills. Instead, when utilizing a mythological creation, firm definitions are scarce; not only is Santa not really vulnerable, but his abilities and limitations are entirely unknown – a conundrum faced by a great many superheroes. This leads to numerous sequences that must rely on an explanation such as, “I don’t really understand how it works, either.”
Nevertheless, the hand-to-hand combat is engaging, while the dialogue is hilarious; it’s all quite cheesy, but in a fun, big-budget way, especially as countless yuletide tropes are sent up and ridiculed. It’s difficult not to laugh at the creativity of a nutcracker torture device or a candy cane weapon or using wrapping paper and decorative ribbon to patch a bleeding wound. Unfortunately, a few scenes tend to go too far, particularly when little Trudy designs some unusually sadistic “Home Alone”-type booby traps, which aren’t as funny as they are unsettling; it’s natural to chuckle at hi-tech, heavily-equipped soldiers succumbing to an unarmed Saint Nick, but it’s completely different to watch henchmen (and henchwomen) get mutilated to the delight of a child. Still, the bulk of the comedy moments are effective, with Harbour remaining convincing and entertaining throughout as he mows down naughty-list offenders, exhibiting increasingly more bloodthirsty, wintery, Christmas-themed destruction.
– The Massie Twins