Violent Night

Director: Tommy Wirkola
Starring: David Harbour, John Leguizamo, Alex Hassell, Alexis Louder, Cam Gigandet, Edi Patterson, Beverly D’Angelo, Leah Brady, Alexander Elliott
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Runtime: 112 mins. Reviewed in Dec 2022
Reviewer: Fr Peter Malone msc
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Strong bloody violence and coarse language

Violent night. Unholy night. All is not calm. All is not bright. How to describe this home invasion thriller? Fierce and farce! Or, perhaps, a variation on a Christmas pantomime featuring Santa Claus and his reindeers. The writers of the film, Pat Casey and Josh Miller (writers of Sonic the Hedgehog), have certainly been inventive, violence one minute, sentiment the next, and references to Home Alone. Though the home invaders here are very serious.

Probably best to say that those who do not respond well to on-screen violence, an increasing death count, tough fights, lethal practical jokes and weaponry, may find it a bit hard to take.

However, overall, it is not meant to be taken too seriously. We are presented with an arrogant wealthy American family, involved in fraud and embezzlement and a team of no-holds-barred criminals who will not let anything stand in their way – not even Santa Claus.

We first meet Santa Claus in a Bristol pub, having some beers, a bit weary with his Christmas Eve tasks. Then he mounts his sleigh and off into the night, landing in the US to deliver presents in the wealthy gated community.

On the one hand, he really is Santa Claus, though there are some flashbacks to indicate that he began life as a Viking warrior, more than handy with a vast sledgehammer, but a change of heart, especially with Mrs Claus, resulted in taking on the Santa role. And, as played by Harbour, obviously enjoying himself in the nice sequences as well as in the violent sequences, we are tempted to believe in Santa Claus.

John Leguizamo is nasty (and is on Santa’s magic list as a nasty little boy), confronting Gertrude, a foul-mouthed Beverly D’Angelo), who has secreted $300 million in her basement vault. A nice profit if you can get it on Christmas Eve. Gertrude’s obnoxious alcoholic daughter is visiting with her action movie star and boyfriend, and an obnoxious Tik-Tok-ing son who in honour of his grandmother has been called Bertrude! But, there is a nice son, his estranged wife, his extra-nice daughter, Trudy (and no mean opponent with her defences and lethal practical jokes).

Santa links with Trudy, has a Viking reawakening, demolishes the gang of intruders left, right and centre. But, amid the violence, he has time for heart-to-heart confidence and sentimental chats with Trudy. (And, perhaps sometimes to our embarrassment, we burst out laughing at Santa’s demolishing techniques.)

Enemies vanquished. Obnoxious family having a change of heart. Everyone believing in Santa and the reindeers all turning up at the right moment to whisk him away to continue his Christmas present deliveries. (Will probably be revived every year as a variation on Christmas movies)

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