Violent Night Review:
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.
The film also stars Emmy winner John Leguizamo (John Wick), Cam Gigandet (Without Remorse), Alex Hassell (Cowboy Bebop), Alexis Louder (The Tomorrow War), Edi Patterson (The Righteous Gemstones) and Beverly D’Angelo (National Lampoon’s Vacation franchise).
Directed by razor-edged Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola (Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Dead Snow franchise), Violent Night is produced by 87North’s Kelly McCormick David Leitch and Guy Danella. The original screenplay is by Pat Casey & Josh Miller, the writers of Sonic the Hedgehog. The film’s executive producer is Marc S. Fischer.
The Good Things in Violent Night
Violent Night is a movie that gets the distinction of being my first to screen at a comic convention. That said, despite the poor seating and sub-optimal audio I really found myself enjoying this movie a lot. Violent Night doesn’t try to take itself too seriously and it also doesn’t get too slapstick. The movie does a good job of giving us a basic understanding of Santa Clause and his… uhh.. hobbies? habits? Let’s be honest, Santa has a drinking problem. Old Jolly promptly pukes out of the side of his sleigh on an unsuspecting bartender early in the movie. This is not the Santa that I grew up with. Violent Night does find its bearings and the movie finds a decent balance between grit and comedy.
Interestingly “Santa” and “Scrooge” keep things about as light as any Hallmark Christmas movie in some parts but show bloody violence in others. I imagine the cast having lots of fun filming this one and you can sense it in the performances. John Leguizamo leads the team of kidnappers as Scrooge and masterfully walks between a relatable wrongdoer and an unapologetic villain. Leguizamo sets the tone that everyone in the room tries to match and he controls the scene every time. And, Surprise!, David Harbor is able to pull off a heartwarming well-intentioned man with a drinking problem. What’s cool is that he’s also able to pull off some cool-looking fight scenes which are a Christmas joy to watch.
The Violent Night trailers do a good job of showing you just how violent and gritty things get. It’s always a pleasure to see just how graphic some scenes are with a few moments truly making me squirm. It’s a weird sense of pleasure with the movie switching from scenes with a much lighter tone. There are a few downright Home Alone homages sprinkled throughout the movie that is sure to tickle the nostalgia bone. There are moments that remake some of my favorite Home Alone moments with an added John Wick level of violence. Violent Night is still a Christmas movie and draws a lot of inspiration from the Christmas movies of yesteryear adding to my appreciation for the movie.
Viking Santa. Whoa.
The Bad Things in Violent Night
The tonal shifts throughout the movie sometimes feel disruptive. It’s tough to transition from watching brutal one-on-one fighting to the death to a family drama scene. I understand the intent but the abrupt changes sometimes disrupt the enjoyment. Violent Night also suffers pacing issues throughout the 2nd and 3rd acts of the movie. It feels like the movie just slows to a crawl when there are long periods without any fight scenes. There’s a good portion of the movie that teaches us why Santa isn’t what we imagine but the story is told in pieces. There are also a lot more characters in this movie but they really aren’t written in a way that they were that memorable. The family that Santa is saving is regrettably forgettable and the other kidnappers are too.
My Overall thoughts on Violent Night
Violent Night is a fun holiday movie that isn’t perfect but is a fun blend of a few holiday genres. I think Violent Night is going to be a fun Christmas movie that will resonate with the right audience. I didn’t know I needed it but I wouldn’t mind seeing a modern Home Alone movie if it had this level of gore and violence.
Don't Mess With Santa!
- Acting - 6/106/10
- Cinematography/Visual Effects - 7/107/10
- Plot/Screenplay - 7/107/10
- Setting/Theme - 8/108/10
- Watchability - 7/107/10
- Rewatchability - 7/107/10