Director: Tommy Wirkola
Starring: David Harbour, John Leguizamo, Alex Hassell, Alexis Louder, Edi Patterson, Cam Gigandet, Leah Brady, and Beverly D’Angelo
Movie Length: 1 hour 52 minutes
If you took a bunch of Christmas Movies (Die Hard – yes it is a Christmas movie, Home Alone, Bad Santa) and threw them in a blender with uber violent action movies like John Wick, you’d get Violent Night. David Harbour (Stranger Things) plays a beaten down Santa who drinks to excess and bemoans the loss of the true Christmas spirit. The twist is, he really is Santa. As he staggers through his present giving run, going through the motions, he finds himself in the middle of a hostage situation. Extreme violence (and some hilarity) ensues.
This movie isn’t shy about the fact that it steals from other movies. The hostage situation is basically Die Hard, and the movie winks at that by name checking the movie. Making Home Alone booby traps is also a reference they drop. In addition to movie references, it is chock full of action movie quips that double as Christmas puns. Violent Night doesn’t take itself too seriously and is better for it.
Harbour is the glue that holds the movie together. He brings the same weary charisma that made his Stranger Things character so popular and his Black Widow role such a scene stealer. His delivery of his lines elevates the (often cheesy) material. He manages to create a character that somehow feels like a Santa, even though no depiction of Santa I am aware of has ever smashed bad guys’ heads in. The movie also gives him a worthy adversary, with John Leguizamo (House of Buggin’, Ice Age) bringing a frenetic energy that serves as a great juxtaposition to the slower pace of Harbour. The script also does a good job giving the supporting bad guys individual personalities.
This movie is a hard R, with cursing and tons and tons of violence. While the plot is an homage to Die Hard, the movie is more like John Wick in that it finds a multitude of (Christmas related) ways to kill people. Yes, the movie is ridiculous, but I had a blast watching it. There is a mid credits scene so you may want to stick around for a few minutes afterwards.
Score: 9 (out of 10)
Here is my audio version of this review (along with some discussion of Strange World): https://anchor.fm/darren-shulman/episodes/Violent-Night-and-sort-of-Strange-World-Review-e1rm406
VIOLENT NIGHT is now in theaters.
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