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Written By:

Jack Bottomley

’Tis the season for Christmas movie folly, tra-la la la la La-la la la. Whether Hallmark junk or off their trolley, tra-la la la la La-la la la. Sugary romances or murderous grinches, tra-la la la la La-la la la. Still we never thought Santa would be giving out stitches, tra-la la la la La-la la la!

Righto, enough of that. Let’s get serious. It may be the most wonderful time of the year but the best present we can get at Christmas time is a festive film that dares to be a little different. And with its anti-hero sledgehammer-swinging Santa, Violent Night is that film! A film you can welcome as a new alternative Christmas classic to cherish and add to your film collection. 

David Harbour’s St. Nick is in a not-so-jolly frame of mind, as he feels Christmas has lost its warmth. However, one night plenty of creatures are stirring, at the lavish home of a wealthy family, as a group of mercenaries take the family hostage and Santa finds himself right in the middle of the bullet-riddled chaos. Urged into action to save a young girl who is not only on his nice list, but might just be the one to remind him of why Christmas matters.

Starting as a Bad Santa-like story, the film soon swings out into Die Hard (or rather Die Hard 2) meets Home Alone (and it knows it), starring one helluva badass big screen Mr. Claus. At once a film seemingly defiant of the modern-day Christmas celebrations but which ultimately is a loving tribute to the true spirit of it, Violent Night comes bearing far more heart than you might expect, alongside its profane laughs and gory scraps!

Daring to fill the screen with a fair share of unlikeable – and nastily rich – characters, the movie makes a statement about how greedy, corporate and selfish (and drained of magic) Christmas has become but shows how, in just one child’s inner goodness, that age old hope and joyous soul can remain. It’s quite refreshing to see this very genuine sentiment done in a way that’s not too sickly.

David Harbour is everything here as Santa, and carries the film as effortlessly as the sack on his back. Very funny, poignant and flawed, he gives us a well rounded (and heavy drinking) take on Santa, as a former barbarian-turned-hero, who generations later has lost himself in the face of a very vapid age but who fights for the right cause, and he commands the screen. While the likes of Leah Brady as Trudy, John Leguizamo as the villainous “Mr. Scrooge” and Beverly D’Angelo as foul-mouthed matriarch Gertrude, all have fun in supporting roles. 

The John Wick-influenced action is excellent and not overused, not to mention with some original sequences (the climactic fight is particularly inspired), while the Christmas film references are apt ad well placed, as is the Yuletide soundtrack. 

Even if some plot points don’t all hang together neatly, and the concept does every now and then veer a tad off course, this is a great genre film, lovingly laced with Christmas cheer, and the results are a very entertaining and refreshing dose of decking people’s halls and seasons beatings! 

Ho ho wholly enjoyable!

Jack Bottomley

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