We’ve had an array of boozy Santa’s from Dan Aykroyd in Trading Places to Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa but all of these were characters in the film pretending to be Santa. The only one we recall in recent memory where it was the real Santa being bad to the bone was in 2010’s Rare Exports. Well now we have Violent Night where we meet a tanked up Santa sitting in a bar in Bristol of all places on Christmas Eve downing beers before flying off in his sleigh vomiting on the bar maid as he does so. Yes, that sets the tone set for Violent Night where a boozy Santa starts his rounds of delivering presents taking the opportunity to plunder each house ‘s drink cabinets.
But his night is about to change when he calls at the enormous estate belonging to Gertrude Lighthouse (Beverley D’Angelo looking like Edith Bowman’s mum) the enormously wealthy matriarch of the family hosting a family gathering where her son Jason (Alex Hassell looking like the union of Jake Gyllenhaal’s and Peter Serafinowicz) and his estranged wife and their daughter Trudy (Leah Brady). Also there is Jason’s spiteful money grabbing sister Alva ( Edi Patterson) her aspiring egotistical actor husband Morgan and their teenage influencer son Bert ( Alexander Eliot) obsessed with live streaming to his followers. Having hired staff to serve drinks and food they soon find the staff turn on them and, led by ringleader Scrooge (John Leguizano), wipe out the security staff taking the family hostage in their plan to break into the house safe where $300m of siphoned off government funds are kept. All of this coincides with Santa doing his gift drop there and finds himself cornered in a room accidently killing one of them. Cue the carnage commencing as the gang start hunting him down before he thwarts finally begins starts to thwart their efforts to get the money.
Behind Violent Night is producer by David Leitch, director of recent summer blockbuster ‘Bullet Train’ another one of his extraordinary fights fests so it will come as no surprise that this is along the same lines with Santa’s back story involving a Viking warrior origin and his weapon of choice a sledgehammer called the skull crusher it’s not long before the muscle memory returns and in one barn storming (literally – it’s set in a barn) wipes out a multitude of armed-to-the-eyeballs mercenaries. Directed by Tommy Wirkola the action here is not the bonkers bullet ballet of Leitch’s John Wick films yet there is something pleasing about Santa laying waste to bad guys. But even before the action really kicks in the interplay between the family at the mansion is just as violent though verbally so led by Beverley D’Angelo as a deliriously potty mouthed matriarch. Cam Gigandet as the wannabe action superstar is deliciously dim and we especially enjoyed Bert the grandson an aspiring influencer with a phone clamped to his hand with a misplaced sense of his own importance which seemed to go right over the heads of the many influencers and their lack of self-awareness that we encountered at the screening and are increasingly the bane of film journalists lives – now that’s where we really needed Santa on a sledgehammer frenzy. David Harbour, a bear of a man, inhabits the role as a kick ass Santa and pulls off the action with suitable aplomb making Violent Night an Unholy Night.
With their being something of a dearth of theatrically released Christmas films this year Violent Night is the sole offering and It’s a Wonderful Life it is not. Instead its something of a Die Hard meets Home Alone mash up all set to a score that slyly drops in famous Christmas carols though best of all Slade’s Crimbo classic plays over the end credits. As we approach the end of the year with an economically challenging one ahead of us Violent Night is a pressure release valve of a film and that’s no bad thing.