It’s Christmas Eve and Santa Claus (David Harbour) is getting drunk. The kids of today don’t appreciate the gifts they’re given as their greed often overcomes a meaningful Christmas season. Time spent with family and the joy of being together should outshine obtaining whatever shiny new toy consumes that particular year. Santa has had enough and contemplates retirement.
Gertrude Lightstone (Beverly D’Angelo) is a wealthy tycoon whose children do nothing but suck up to her in hopes of being the beneficiary of her wealthy business when she finally chooses to retire. Her daughter Alva (Edi Patterson) and her husband, B-movie action star Morgan Steel (Cam Gigandet), intend to do whatever it takes to be Gertrude’s heir.
Meanwhile, Gertrude’s son Jason (Alex Hassell) seems to be more interested in fixing his marriage with Linda (Alexis Louder) while trying to make a memorable Christmas for their daughter Trudy (Leah Brady). However, Jason seems to be hiding something from everyone.
Deep within the vault residing in the basement of Gertrude’s mansion is a cool $300 million that nobody seems to know about except for a man referring to himself as Scrooge (John Leguizamo). Him and his Christmas themed team have planned a heist to steal Gertrude’s fortune. Enter a drunken Santa Claus to save the day and reignite his passion for the Christmas season.
Violent Night is from director Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow 1 & 2, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, The Trip) and screenwriters Pat Casey and Josh Miller (Sonic the Hedgehog 1 & 2). Wirkola typically sticks to a campy and ridiculous kind of style while incorporating bloody action and absurd dialogue.
It’s as if Casey and Miller decided to combine Bad Santa, Die Hard, and Home Alone into one film without hesitation or remorse. Violent Night is arguably just those three films smashed into one two hour chunk of cinema with its only unique characteristic being its blood splattered action sequences.
The script is incredibly dumb. John Leguizamo is masterfully schlocky as Scrooge. His charisma is undeniable as the main villain of the film even if his terrible lines of dialogue leave you shaking your head in disbelief.
Most of the Lightstone drama, besides the running joke of Alva and Morgan’s son being named Bertrude and Alva and Linda’s bickering while Scrooge’s henchman Krampus (Brendan Fletcher) holds them at gunpoint, is idiotic even when it’s accidentally amusing. There’s a genius moment where Santa is sewing up a gunshot wound and mends it with a piece of gift wrap and a ribbon. Violent Night can be laugh out loud funny solely for how stupid it is.
The action comedy feels like it half-introduces intriguing concepts to the Santa Claus lore. We get little nuggets of back story when it comes to who Santa was before he delivered toys to children every Christmas Eve. He’s apparently been married to Mrs. Claus for 1100 years and was a Viking that slaughtered people for fun with a sledgehammer known as Skullcrusher.
Any sort of character development after that feels like Casey and Miller either ran out of time to write anything or just simply gave up and took a lazy approach. So many elements involving Santa, like how he he’s able to go up and down any chimney with ease, his never-ending sack of toys, or how he’s simply this immortal being capable of impossible things, is referred to as magic or Santa states, “I don’t really know how that works.”
This is never questioned or addressed as everyone just kind of shrugs and they move on to the next part of the story.
This films feels like a bit of redemption for David Harbour after Neil Marshall’s 2019 Hellboy reboot flopped. Harbour plays Santa without an ounce of sarcasm and a deadpan expression while his performance is all the more enjoyable because of it. However, his action sequences, particularly his sledgehammer sequence in the shed, are a bit clunky in execution.
Santa’s on screen relationship with Trudy comes off as corny and melodramatic rather than touching and sweet as intended, but Harbour’s drunken presence is easily the most enjoyable aspect of Violent Night. His tattooed dad bod, shameless portrayal of being completely out of shape, and the fact that he gets the crap kicked out of him at every turn only makes you like the character more.
Violent Night overcomes its weak script and familiar concept with enough ooey gooey squelchy violence to appease bloodthirsty horror fans and action junkies alike. It still manages to be a bloody festive blast filled with head squashing Christmas carnage.
- David Harbour
- John Leguizamo
- Most of the blood soaked mayhem
- Incredibly stupid dialogue
- Lazy writing where most of the humor is half-witted at best
- Action sequences are clumsy at times