You know violent night is a Christmas film because all the seasonal signifiers are there: the snow, the tree, the fat man in the sleigh. Pretty quickly, however, as the stabbings and gunfights pile up and some nasty kicks in the throat and leg cracking are mixed in, it becomes clear that this definitely isn’t your parents’ Christmas movie. It’s brutal and gory, and there’s no denying it, it’s also very funny. Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola credits two wonderfully goofy Nazi zombie horror comedies (dead snow 1 and 2). And the new film’s production company, 87North, will be helmed by master stunt choreographer David Leitch, who worked on all three, among other things John Wick Movies – which are also brutal and gory, you know, and also kind of funny.
It’s hard to imagine this movie working without David Harbour, who plays Santa with a disheveled, world-weary sweetness. His character isn’t just a cheesy Santa Claus in a mall: he’s the real deal, the man with all the toys. He’s gotten a little cynical over the centuries and is currently traveling with his wife Mrs. Claus (whom he’s been married to for 1100 years). He’s also developed a confusing whiskey habit. But he’s still on the job and still trying to believe – in himself and in the billions of children around the world who cry out for his gifts every year. (One small recent petitioner only asked for cash.)
The story begins, of course, on Christmas Eve at a large, fenced-in estate in Greenwich, Connecticut, where members of the wayward Lightstone family prepare for their annual bout of non-stop holiday bickering. On hand are family matriarch Gertrude Lightstone (Beverly D’Angelo); her adult children Morgan (Cam Gigandet), Alva (Edi Patterson), and Jason (Alex Hassell); and Jason’s estranged wife Linda (Alexis Louder) and their teenage daughter Trudy (Leah Brady, a child of otherworldly cuteness). Also present, no one cares, is Alva’s son, a brat named Bert (Alexander Elliot).
Already this is a crowded house. But many other guests are also on the road. First up is Santa Claus, who’s walking straight out of a bar, completely insane, and has already puked all over the side of his sleigh. After shooting their way through the manor’s gates, a gang of armed thieves are next on the scene, led by a snarling trunk named Jimmy (John Leguizamo), who has changed his name to “Scrooge” for the night because he plans to rob the Lightstones of the $300 million in cash they reportedly stashed in a vaulted basement. (Those who think this is an unlikely plot detail probably don’t believe in Santa either.) One of the many clever ideas embedded in the story is that Santa already knows these bad guys — they’re all longtime residents of his famous naughty-not-nice list.
The film admits the obvious when Trudy and Santa eventually find themselves trapped in an attic, wondering what to do next. Trudy has the solution: “I can set off booby traps,” she says, “like in Home alone.”
This 32-year-old kiddie mayhem classic was clearly a model for this film, but there’s one key difference between the two images. in the Home alone, when Kevin McCallister unleashes an arsenal of pranks on the “Wet Bandits” trying to break into his family’s home, the results are partly hilarious because none of the characters are seriously injured. in the violent night, people are mowed down in droves. (In one scene, Jimmy even machine guns a Christmas tree.) One villain is cruelly impaled, another beaten to death with a hammer, another is taken out with a pointed tree ornament stuck in his eye. Like in wick Movies, all of this is staged in a thrilling way. But after a while, the walloping action feels like a cutting contest between two kids vying to shock their parents with an anti-Christmas attitude. And then there’s the plethora of faux-edgy dialogue. “Bah, Humbug, Motherfuckers” isn’t a top-notch prankster. “Time for some seasonal punches” is.