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Release Date: 12/02/22
Genre: Action/Comedy/Crime

Studio: Universal Pictures

"When a group of mercenaries attack the estate of a wealthy family, Santa Claus must step in to save the day (and Christmas)." 


“Christmas dies tonight!”


Is it even the holiday season if there isn't a raucous and inappropriate comedy/action film to offset the light-hearted fare that makes up the bulk of holiday cinema? 


Violent Night, an action film that truly lives up to its namesake, takes that mantle this season, ensuring the white and red Christmas color palette is made entirely of snow and blood. Violent Night is an action comedy directed by Tommy Wirkola and stars David Harbor (Stranger Things) as jolly old St. Nick. Harbor's Santa is surly and rude; he performs his duties with a chip on his shoulder, but more on that later.


During his nightly Christmas Eve rounds, Santa Claus visits a mansion overrun by armed robbers led by the wondrous John Leguizamo. This set-up leads to a paint-by-numbers "one good guy vs. many bad guys" trope; does this premise remind you of any particular quasi-holiday-themed flick? Among the hostages is a young girl named Trudy (Leah Brady), who still believes in Santa and the holiday spirit. Trudy is held hostage with her divorced parents, her aunt, cousin, and grandmother, the family matriarch and primary target of the villains. Beverly D'Angelo plays that matriarch, Gertrude Lightstone, a woman of inexplicable wealth and power.  


The plot does little to surprise or shock. Violent Night is a homogeneous blend of tired holiday action flicks, holiday flicks, and action flicks. 


This film was seemingly manifested as if someone was so irritated by the world declaring a Christmas film out of Die Hard that they decided to make a Die Hard movie out of a Christmas film instead.


Because that is what Violent Night is: Die Hard with a literal Santa Claus. 


Let's not forget Trudy, who the screenwriters graciously let be known that she had just watched Home Alone before the start of the film's events. This cute Chekhov's Gun leads to an arguably fun set-up where Trudy can play out a sadist fantasy with booby traps and catchphrases. 


Violent Night does indeed live up to its name; there is a lot of blood and violence throughout that isn't entirely gratuitous. But you will get your money's worth. Harbor's Santa has an intimidating big frame as he slumps around the house and yard, taking out bad guys like he is checking off his naughty list. He does this primarily with a giant hammer. This artifact is vital as there are hints and nods to Santa's life before he traversed the world year after year. These flashbacks are flimsy and tease what could have been a more exciting set-up, but only a few unsatisfying nuggets are all we are given. 


The biggest issue I had with Violent Night was understanding this film's level of depth. I may have been digging too deeply. This film could be better; the plot points could be more exciting. Santa finding his magic after a young child believes in him is exhaustingly predictable, and many characters take work to root for. Both Harbor and Leguizamo, whom I would consider talented actors worth every cent, are made to deliver some of the worst dialogue I've heard in quite some time. But while I was scratching my head as the film ended, I had a revelation, an epiphany of such profound awe that I started laughing in my theater chair. 


Violent Night is a textbook example of trolling the audience. 


The filmmakers baited me with a heartfelt holiday romp with blood, guns, and bad language; instead, I watched a film that relished playing with the recipe, barely resembling the original concoction. I'm not giving Violent Night a pass for this, however. It is indeed too long, too predictable, and just too bad. But while this Home Alone/Die Hard mash-up is a lousy, overblown excuse to have Santa get his groove back by beating people to death; I must praise its audacity to try. I would be lying if I wasn't laughing and smiling throughout its entire runtime.

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