Recently I broke down some of the great modern Christmas movies and had I waited until today I would have gladly added Violent Night to that list. This was a great example of a movie meeting all expectations and being exactly what you needed it to be. While its certainly no Casablanca it’s a going to be a great midnight holiday watch for years to come.
The story focuses on Santa (David Harbour) stepping in to save a wealthy family being held hostage on Christmas Eve by a holiday hating thief (John Leguizamo) and his team of merry henchmen. The cast also features Alex Hassell (The Boys), Edi Patterson (The Righteous Gemstones), Alexis Louder (Watchmen), Cam Gigandet (Twilight), and Beverly D’Angelo (National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation). I mean this in the best way possible but Harbour’s Santa feels very much like Jim Hopper in a red suit. Aside from him, Patterson is the real standout in the cast, which should be no surprise to anyone whose seen her in the The Righteous Gemstones.
This appropriately titled film stands out for a few reasons. First off, as assumed by the ridiculous premise the film is darkly funny. In addition to the over the top fight scenes and hammy dialogue the constant bickering between the Lightstone family is fierce, funny, and not afraid to offend. If you’re expecting Beverly D’Angelo to play the supportive, straight woman matriarch of the Griswold family then you are certainly in for a surprise. Second: It is quite violent. I love what they did with giving Santa a background that is very much the anti-Klaus story and the film is at its best when Santa is ripping apart henchmen. Plus there are a number of Home Alone-esque bits that are sure to make even the least squeamish of viewers churn.
As much as I enjoyed it there are certainly a few issues with the film. For starters, outside of the fight scenes and the watching the Lightstone family bicker amongst themselves the supporting storylines are pretty stale. Jason (Hassell) and Linda (Louder) trying to salvage their marriage for their daughter, Trudy (Leah Brady), watching Santa try to explain Christmas magic to Trudy, and almost anything involving Leguizamo’s background bring the film to a screeching halt several times throughout the film. Constantly having to re-gain momentum catches up with the film eventually as the premise becomes a bit repetitive while never taking a step into B-list action movie greatness.
One thing I didn’t realize about the film before viewing was that it comes from director Tommy Wirkola. If you’re not familiar with the Norwegian writer/director that’s totally understandable but he is responsible for a film my friends and I absolutely loved growing up called Dead Snow. It’s a Norwegian film whose logline equates to “Nazi-Zombies The Movie!” It’s incredible and there’s a lot of the same humor and action on display in Violent Night.
In all, I’d say this isn’t a film that demands to be seen in theaters but I can’t wait for it to come out on streaming in the coming years so I can watch this become a holiday cult classic for years to come. Until then, the film is currently playing in theaters everywhere.
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