There’s a certain irony knowing that Hong Kong action maestro John Woo is going to direct a film titled Silent Night because it’s sure to be anything but silent and that’s certainly the case here with this his latest film and return to Hollywood after an almost twenty year absence. Opening with a frantic foot chase with father Brian (Joel Kinneman) sprinting along the downtown back alleys in pursuit of two speeding vehicles engaged in a shoot out. That Brian is wearing that crime against fashion, the Christmas jumper, made worse by him also wearing a jingle bell on a necklace and with the sort of unerring stare that would see him slapped with an injunction not to be near any school gates. It all ends badly for most parties with a terrific car crash but Brian himself shot in the throat by two dimensional Mexican gangster Playa (Harold Torres) with what look like skid mark tattoos on the side of his head.
But Brian hangs onto life though the bullet has robbed him of his voice and its whilst he recuperates at home that we learn that his pursuit of the vehicles was due to his a stray bullet from the warring gangsters having killed his four year old son. The death of his son has strained his marriage to breaking point and his separation from his wife only serves to further fuel his desire for revenge. And so we have that staple of action films – the montage where he rebuilds his car, starts weight training and teaches himself hand to hand combat and firearms skills and forty five minutes into the film he’s all ready and tooled up for his roaring rampage of revenge but there’s a cop from the local Gangs unit who also has an eye on Brian especially when Brian has sent him a parcel of evidence of photos, and intelligence about the drug running cartel suggesting that the only work the cops in the gangs unit do is spending their days playing Grand Theft Auto and claiming it as research.
This being a John Woo movie all the trademarks are there – the slo-mo action, the presence of symbolic birds, the good guy & amoral guy uniting for the greater good at a critical moment and of course the signature pistol in each hand of a character shoot out. Woo, so keen on his symbolism, here throws in the Newton’s cradle, a bit of a sledgehammer suggestion that every action has an equal and opposite reaction as Brian goes out to get his own back on Playa and his huge gang who are there purely to add to the increasing body count.
Woo still has his flair for action and there is wall to wall gun play but times have moved on with the likes of stuntman turned director Chad Stahelski upping the ante for this sort of creative and bloody mayhem and Woo’s unholy trilogy of action masterpieces The Killer, A Better Tomorrow and Hard Boiled whilst undoubtedly influential and still great films seem a distant memory.
With his character speechless Kinneman has no lines to remember making it possible that even Brooklyn Beckham could have been cast albeit leaving him only having to contend with holding a gun the right way around. And Kinneman as decent enough as he is in the role at times looks alarmingly like the great Mark Heap as neighbour Jim in Friday Night Dinner
But Silent Night is a simple tale of revenge competently shot but ultimately this is The Punisher in a Christmas jumper.
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Here’s the Silent Night trailer…..