Violent Night - New Release Review
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Starring: David Harbour, John Leguizamo, Beverly D'Angelo, Alex Hassell, Alexis Louder
Written by: Pat Casey, Josh Miller
Produced by: Guy Danella, David Leitch, Kelly McCormick
Cinematography by: Matthew Weston
Original Score by: Dominic Lewis
When a group of mercenaries attack the estate of a wealthy family, Santa Claus must step in to save the day (and Christmas).
You can never have enough Santa Claus movies. Especially if Santa Claus is a badass former Viking who now drinks too much alcohol, eats way too many cookies and has kinda lost his Christmas spirit altogether.
Let me start off by saying 'Violent Night' is very violent. There's some action packed scenes and fight sequences that are surprisingly bloody but it's all done in a humorously entertaining way so it never gets TOO dark. It's a wild ride and so much fun.
Our Santa here is played by David Harbour, who is just always fantastic in everything and I've never heard a bad word said about him. He's a bit dishevelled, a bit dispirited and overall just giving off a wholly morose vibe. When we first meet him he's downing drinks with another "Santa Claus" in a bar and the whole introductory scene and sequence that follows sets up his new version of the character perfectly. He's a drunk whose only emotional connection to his "job" is now resentment. But he's not a "bad" Santa. His disillusionment for Christmas feels honest, like it comes from a place of abhorrence at what the holiday has actually become, as we find out during a passionate rant. And to be fair he's not wrong. People (and kids included) have let their greed overshadow the goodness that the holiday can bring.
However a chance encounter with a young girl named Trudy (Leah Brady) helps to rekindle his belief in Christmas. Unfortunately this encounter happens over a walkie talkie in an elaborately rich estate house owned by the lavishly wealthy Lightstone Family, during a Christmas family reunion. Oh and the family have just been taken hostage by a band of machine gun wielding criminals.
'Violent Night' is basically if John McClane had dressed up as Santa Claus at the Nakatomi Plaza. Which makes me wonder if this film actually came to fruition because of the old "is Die Hard really a Christmas movie" debate that got a little out of control.
Harbour is a massive dude so you absolutely believe him in this role from a physical stand point but he also oozes so much charisma that the more sincere moments of the film really do hit home. There's definitely a nice combination of the paternal Hopper from 'Stranger Things' and the more brutish attributes like Hellboy from...well you know.
It's hard to go wrong when you're basically copying the 'Die Hard' template (although there's hundreds, maybe thousands of actions flicks that tried and failed) but what makes this film really work is the fact that it just doesn't take itself too seriously. Even during some of the more darker moments it still sorta takes the piss. The comedy is really well written into the script and doesn't feel like either an afterthought or forced. Most of it lands perfectly. So much so that it made me actually like Cam Gigandet, who plays Morgan Steel, the actor boyfriend of Alva Lightstone, played superbly by Edi Patterson. In fact all the characters are great. Each have their own little nuances and the entire cast are fantastic. Particularly the family members and the head of the family Gertrude, played by Beverly D'Angelo. Even a few of the mercenaries shine more than they ever should and John Leguizamo is a worthy villain.
Other films are referenced too, some more evidently than others, but one of the more notable ones is 'Home Alone'. There's a whole sequence dedicated to booby traps made by Trudy which have, unlike 'Home Alone', super realistic circumstances. The blood and violence is very real but it's also very funny. And there's actually a genuinely nice message that the film is trying to get across about family, the horrible effects of consumerism and also about the innocence of childhood.
'Violent Night' is surprisingly poignant but the big sell here is Harbour's version of Santa Claus giving zero fucks and kicking ass and straight up murdering people in super inventive ways.
- Gavin Logan
'Violent Night' is still playing in selected cinemas in the UK and available to Buy or Rent on Amazon Video in the US