Violent Night (2022)

Quick synopsis: An elite group of mercenaries (all with Christmas-themed codenames) plan to steal a family’s millions, not counting on their heist being interrupted by a drunken Santa Claus.

I won’t say this often, but this is better than the trailer made it seem. The trailer makes it seem like Santa was magically wished into the house because he answered the call of a child in danger, which makes you wonder why it doesn’t happen more? Of all the children in the world to help, he only answers the call of a girl in a large house who is being held hostage in an armed robbery? Not children being abused, or abandoned? That kind of motivation sort of makes him a dick. Luckily that’s not the case in the actual film. In the film itself, he just happens to be in the house when it happens, and his deciding to fight against the robbers isn’t just a case of “It’s the right thing to do”, but because the reindeer fly off. The film leaves it open as to whether he would have just left if he could, he’s certainly conflicted about staying or not, but the character losing that agency makes him a more interesting character, there’s a moral ambiguity to him at the start of the film, his character is more a shade of grey than morally black or white (well since it’s Santa, more red and white). That’s as it should be, this isn’t a happy jolly Santa, it’s one who’s bitter and jaded. So him having heroic actions thrust upon him means that the moments later on in the film when he CHOOSES to be a hero have more weight.

It makes sense he would hesitate to fight, this Santa comes with a violent history he’s trying to atone for. Again, that makes him a much more interesting person than he would otherwise. The violent history also means that you know that when he lets loose, it’s going to be spectacular, and it is. The violence in this film is damn fun, not just from Santa, but also from Trudy, the small girl who he wants to help. She sets up some Home Alone-style traps, doing a great job of demonstrating just how much damage they’d do in real life.

The violence is improved by how well we know the characters. They’re all so well-written and defined that it helps us feel their pain. Well written, but not likeable though. Most of the characters in this are selfish, boorish, and kind of stupid. They’re so believable though. They suit the cynical tone of this. This is one of the most cynical Christmas movies I’ve seen, but it’s cynical with a hopeful message. It’s saying “yes, people are shit, but they can do better”. It’s the hope, and the heart, that ultimately drives this film. It’s what elevates what could be a standard action movie into a real delight. As do the performances. Alex Hassell has leading-man quality by the bucketload, not “Major Hollywood Leading Man”, but he’d be perfect for a Hallmark Rom-Com. Alexander Elliot is amazingly detestable. David Harbour is absolutely perfect as the lead, like he was born to play a violent Santa. Leah Brady has a great future. Plus it’s nice to see Beverly D’Angelo in another Christmas movie so she still gets Christmas residuals without having to be reminded of working with Chevy damn Chase.

So go see this, it’s funny, weirdly heartwarming, and violent as hell.

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