Christmas Movie 'Violent Night' In 'Die Hard' Mode
The idea of a bad Christmas movie isn't new, but "Violent Night" still pulls it off by mixing action in the style of "Die Hard" and "Rambo" with a lot of hokey hokey hokey.
David Harbour is a great grumpy, butt-kicking Santa in a movie that gives the kind of shared experience that should bring much-needed cheer to theaters.
Violent Night is a movie directed by Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow) and written by Sonic the Hedgehog writers Pat Casey and Josh Miller. Stranger Things star David Harbour plays the Christmas character with a beard who gives gifts.
Violent Night Putting Santa In 'Die Hard' Mode
Violent Night - Official Trailer
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Violent Night, like many of Wirkola's other movies, doesn't try to be subtle. Instead, it wears its influences on its red-and-white woolen sleeve.
This movie's plot is based on the plots of several Christmas movies that came before it. Violent Night takes a little bit of Bad Santa, a little bit of Die Hard, and a little bit of Home Alone and puts them all in a blender with a lot of spiked eggnog and Harbour's gritty charm.
The result is a cocktail strong enough to make even the most jaded Grinch enjoy the holidays. Harbour's Santa Claus is first seen getting drunk in a London pub between deliveries. It's clear that he has lost his appetite for his assigned rounds.
Because of this negative attitude, he takes a break that includes stopping to drink (okay, steal) some very expensive brandy while visiting a huge mansion in Connecticut, right before an elite team of armed thieves come in and take the family hostage.
Alex Hassell and Alexis Louder are the separated parents, and their daughter, Leah Brady, is still young enough to believe in Santa and makes a point of saying she just watched "Home Alone" for the first time.
Santa has to fight the bad guys, who are led by a Christmas-hating mastermind named Mr. Scrooge (John Leguizamo, who has the same over-the-top enthusiasm as Harbour). At first, Santa just has to defend himself, but the fight gets more and more intense and bloody.
The movie was put together with a lot of energy by Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola from a script by Pat Casey and Josh Miller. It was made by people who worked on the "John Wick" and "Deadpool" series, and it shows.
Still, "Violent Night" does a good job of combining over-the-top violence, silly comedy, and (in this case) Hallmark-style meaning-of-Christmas stuff. The setting is a bit cramped, but "Violent Night" mostly gets past that.
Even though "Stranger Things" made Harbour a better actor, his gruff anti-hero in "Black Widow" is the closest thing to a model for his performance here. Santa may have a few magical advantages, most of which he says he doesn't fully understand, but that's a smart move on his part.
He's far from invulnerable, and they're certainly not enough to keep his beard from getting cut. Some of the changes in tone can be jarring, and it wouldn't have hurt to cut a few minutes from the movie.
But perhaps most importantly, the movie feels like it was made for a theater experience in a way that most prestige titles coming out at the end of the year don't. It got a lot of oohs, groans, and laughs.
This might not be the best way to make a holiday movie that everyone in the family enjoys, but "Violent Night" is good enough that people rarely stay quiet for long while they watch it.
With so many holiday movies already out there and more coming out every year, it's hard for any one movie to stand out. Violent Night, on the other hand, has no trouble doing so and gives us something very different from the usual Christmas movies.
It's not for everyone, and definitely not for kids, but Violent Night is a good movie if you like the idea of a grumpy Santa Claus with anger issues going up against a group of mercenaries who hate Christmas.
In fact, it's more likely to exceed people's hopes because it has a talented cast, a smart creative team, and an idea that it sticks to from the beginning.
Given what most holiday movies are like, it seems like a Christmas miracle that Violent Night even exists, and it's even more of a Christmas miracle that it's as fun as it is. Happy Christmas, for sure.
A movie theater is the best place to see a movie like "Violent Night." But at some point, as the action gets crazier and crazier, it all comes down to whether or not the movie can nail that big final moment if it can come up with a resolution that is better than all the crazy stuff that led up to the big finish.
If Violent Night's only goal was to be a Christmas movie for adults who want to see blood after making it through the parking lot of a mall, then it did its job.