Bone-breaking violence and festive cheer come together like wrapping paper and ribbon in the delightfully subversive Christmas action movie Violent Night. David Harbour Stars as Santa Claus, but this isn’t the jolly old man you remember from shopping mall grottos and the side of a big red van, oh no.
This version of Old Saint Nick is a jaded old drunk who’s sick of delivering presents and wants to be done with the whole Christmas thing. But when a young girl, Trudie (Leah Brady), and her family are taken hostage by a group of deadly mercenaries, Santa’s forced to find his Christmas spirit once again to rescue the girl.
Can Father Christmas save Trudie and defeat their mysterious leader Mr Scrooge (John Leguizamo)? Well, we can’t tell you. We’d end up on the naughty list. What we can say, though, is that Violent Night is an absolute action-packed delight from start to finish, which manages to be both hilariously violent and surprisingly heartfelt at the same time.
Before Violent Night was released, when all we had to go on was a trailer, many people were comparing it to Die Hard. It’s understandable. Die Hard has become the gauge by which we measure alternative Christmas movies, but it’s actually probably not an entirely fair comparison.
Violent Night is a lot more violent, for lack of a better word, than Die Hard, with Santa tearing through mercenaries like a kid working through his pile of presents on Christmas morning. In fact, I would say it’s ludicrously brutal at times, with Santa turning plenty of baddies into cranberry sauce, if you get my meaning.
It’s also a very arch movie. I mean, it has to be, really, the main character is the mythical Sant Claus (If you’re under ten, sorry, he’s definitely real), not a beat cop from New York. As such, it’s not afraid to be silly, and director Tommy Wirkola embraced all the tropes and cliches we’ve come to expect from Santa, using them for great comedic effect.
We don’t want to spoil anything, but one particular highlight has Santa using his magic sack of presents to try and find the perfect weapon to murder a mercenary and struggling because even he can’t kill anyone with just a video game.
Honestly, the film it most reminded me of was Michael Dougherty’s wonderful Christmas horror movie Krampus. Don’t worry. There are no goat-people condemning people to Hell (unless we missed that bit), but it captures the same manic, slightly unhinged spirit that the festive season brings about.
Speaking of unhinged, we’d be remiss not to mention Leguizamo’s villain. He’s like Hans Gruber if the master thief was always on the edge of a nervous breakdown, brilliant but bonkers, and it’s a great turn from Leguizamo, who you’re so used to playing warm and compassionate characters. He’s genuinely terrifying in this at times, and he clearly relished playing a maniac.
It’s not all cartoonish violence, though. There’s a beating heat under the gore-stained surface that’s surprisingly sweet. After all, the reason Santa got mixed up in this whole affair was to rescue a little girl.
We’ve seen in the Netflix series Stranger Things that Harbour knows how to work with kids, and he works brilliantly with Brady. He’s just got such sweet dad energy throughout this, and I really enjoyed the relationship between Santa and Trudie.
It’s violent, it’s funny, and it’s weirder than getting a toilet seat as a gift; Violent Night may just be a new Christmas classic.
Violent Night hits cinemas on December 2 2022.
Violent Night is the the perfect Christmas movie for people who love the festive season’s manic side.