Violent Night, Holy Crike | #reviews
David Harbour is Santa Claus. From here on out, this is true for me. Goodbye Tim Allen.
Violent Night is a hyper-violent Die Hard inspired Christmas movie that will remain in my holiday rotation for years to come. The story may start out a little heavy-handed with a purposefully hokey B-movie vibe that almost overstays its welcome, but once Santa starts talking with the charming little Trudy Lightstone (Leah Brady) the heart of the movie balances out the hokey dialogue and all of it is greatly enhanced by the intense, bloody action that Santa dishes out on these unfortunate and (mostly) nameless Naughty-listers.
The movie opens on a fractured family unit as Jason and Linda have agreed to look past their obvious differences and attend a family gathering together in order to protect Trudy from the harsh reality that their marriage is falling apart. Also, they apparently have to put on a face for their main source of income, the matriarch of the Lightstone family, Gertrude Lightstone. Gertrude is a high-powered businesswoman played by a Christmas movie favorite Beverly D'Angelo (from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation) and a horrible parent who uses the Christmas holiday to gather her family in one place so they can all grovel at her money-laden feet. Jason is not the only child in this rich ass family, his sister Alva (Edi Patterson), her boytoy husband (Cam Gigandet), and their older son Bert (Alexander Elliot) have been hanging out in Mama Lightstone's mansion all day waiting for the family's Christmas Eve get-together to begin. Eventually Scrooge (John Leguizamo) and his goons show up to ruin the party and rob these one-percenters of their family fortune.
Enter, the man of the hour, Santa Claus. We meet Santa drinking at a bar next to another man who is also dressed as Santa and the inherent confusion that brings to these scenes is the premise for most of the movie's jokes, as this is a world where Santa most definitely doesn't exist. And if he did, why would he be drinking at a bar in London on Christmas Eve? But most of these jokes are executed with near perfection throughout the film. A lot of that success is due to David Harbour. He plays the role of jolly old Saint Nick with a grounded realism that makes this fantastical figure, who is full of "Christmas Magic he doesn't understand", someone we can all relate to and root for.
Santa is on his route to deliver presents all around the world and makes his stop at the Lightstones' mansion right before the shit goes down. This version of Père Noël is a little down this Christmas, because he's pretty certain all kids these days are soulless, video-game obsessed, wastes of space. However, he finds himself trapped in the house after his reindeer leave him behind and in spite of all that negativity decides to help the Lightstones escape the trouble they're in. Eventually he hears the voice of Trudy coming from a radio and they begin to work together to rid the house of the bad guys.
There are some genuinely hilarious moments that either come from the big man himself spitting out one-liners, the over-the-top action that Trudy ends up joining in on towards the end in a violent homage to Home Alone, or from the shitty 3-piece band of sister Alva Lightstone, Morgan Steel, and their son Bertrude (Gertrude with a B, lolz).
Edi Patterson is hilarious as always playing Alva, I love her in Righteous Gemstones. But Mr. Cam Gigandet (whose previous credits include more serious movies like Never Back Down and Twilight) surprised me while playing action star Morgan Steel and perfectly captured what it might be like if an over-eager and foolish celebrity were caught up in very real circumstances that mimicked his movie roles. This easily making him one of the standouts in the movie.
The action in the film is all built around this idea that Santa used to be a great Viking warrior thousands of years ago before he took up the mantle of Santa Claus. He wields a sledgehammer, and other various items, like a surgeon of death in an operating room that you're not meant to leave. I thought that was a hilarious choice that was played absolutely straight and borderline terrifying by the tatted up Mr. Harbour.
I also really enjoyed that within the story of Santa saving a family from a group of thieves is a story about 2 parents who are trying their best to keep their family together. I definitely shed a tear or 2 as we found out that the only thing Trudy wanted for Christmas this year was for her parents to get back together. This moment could have been an eye-roll but the way they captured it happening from the perspective of the parents listening in on their child's one-way conversation made us focus more on the potential tragic reality of raising Trudy in a broken home.
On top of that it was so heart-warming to see Trudy and Santa help each other through what could have been a much worse Christmas holiday for them both. Trudy was just told the "truth" about Mr. Claus and needs him to help her maintain her innocence and find happiness in the face of her parents' struggles this year. And Santa had been drowning himself in alcohol trying to just get through another year of giving presents to an entire generation of seemingly ungrateful and spoiled children. But in the end they inspire each other to work through their issues by joyfully murdering a bunch of thugs.
All in all if you are someone who stands firm on the idea that Die Hard is in fact a Christmas movie and can accept the notion that this movie does not live up to that perfection but strives to honor it as best it can, then this movie will keep you laughing and thoroughly entertained for a fast-paced 2 hours.