TL;DR – The sleigh bells ring as Santa takes out one henchman after another.
Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit scene
Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film
Violent Night Review –
Some concepts for a film intrigue you by their very existence. For example: what if Santa must carve his way through a pile of mercenaries to save a young girl who truly believes in him? A concept that answers once and all the question ‘is Die Hard a Christmas film?’ by straight up making it one. Well, that is a film that gets my immediate attention.
So to set the scene, Santa (David Harbour) is getting wasted in a bar in Bristol, England. The constant consumerism of Christmas is wearing him down, and this might be his final year. Meanwhile, in Greenwich, Connecticut, Linda (Alexis Louder) is picking up Jason (Alex Hassell) so that their daughter Trudy (Leah Brady), can have a normal Christmas. Well, as normal as you can when you are separated, and you are part of one of the wealthiest families in America under the all-seeing eyes of matriarch Gertrude (Beverly D’Angelo). But as Santa arrives at the house to drop off Trudy’s presents, Mr Scrooge (John Leguizamo) and his gang storm the house, kill the staff and take the whole family hostage. There is $300 million on the line, and now Santa is stuck in the middle of it.
Now while the title and/or the trailer may have suggested this, you need to know before going in that this is not a children’s film in any way, shape, or form. Violent Night is an MA15+ film that hits that rating hard in places. For example, the first significant thing that happens in the movie is the extermination of all the staff, some in a gruesome fashion. Though, to be fair, thematically, the film has to start this way because, without that cold-blooded murder, the audience would probably end up supporting the kidnappers, given how awful the family is.
Violent Night is a film that wears its influences on its sleeves, all red soaked with white fringes. There is, of course, the before-mentioned Die Hard, but also Deadpool, John Wick, Home Alone, and even a little bit of Oldboy and Rumble in the Bronx. Some of these would probably not be a surprise given the production company behind the film, but if you need a lot of quality stunt action work, well, they are some of the best in the business. All of these disparate influences could have pulled the film apart if they were not anchored in the charisma of David Harbour. He commits to the Santa that is worn down with an energy I can deeply respect. Another strength came from Leah Brady as Trudy Lightstone, who gets to revel in her role and gives the film the heart it desperately needs.
The action is where we see a lot of the film’s strengths but also some of its weaknesses. To be honest, the first couple of fights were a bit of a disappointment, with some shaky camera work not helping the style of hand-to-hand combat they were after. There was a long single take style moment that did not come together and that flagged immediate warning signs. Add to this just how long it starts for the story to get going and the fact that any part of the family’s narrative is the least exciting thing in the movie. There was a point in this film where I started to wonder if they had run out of steam at the end of the first act. But at that lowest point, the film found its muse. First, by dabbling in a little bit of Norse Mythology and then in the form of a weapon that I won’t spoil, but it had the audience gasping in shock.
In the end, do we recommend Violent Night? There is a lot of violence and language, which will be a deal breaker for some people. Add to this. It takes far too long to get going with characters, which can sometimes be frustrating. However, when it finally got going, it had been a while since I last gasped in shock at an action film, and Santa does a lot of sleighing tonight. If you liked Violent Night, we can also recommend to you Nobody.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Violent Night
Directed by – Tommy Wirkola
Written by – Pat Casey & Josh Miller
Music by – Dominic Lewis
Cinematography by – Matthew Weston
Edited by – Jim Page
Production/Distribution Companies – 87North Productions & Universal Pictures
Starring – David Harbour, John Leguizamo, Alex Hassell, Alexis Louder, Leah Brady, Beverly D’Angelo, Cam Gigandet, Edi Patterson, Alexander Elliot, Brendan Fletcher, Mike Dopud, Mitra Suri, Stephanie Sy, André Eriksen, Sean Skene & Erik Athavale
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; Germany: 16; New Zealand: na; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R