In Violent Night, rich family, the Lightstones, gather together on Christmas Eve for an annual holiday get-together at the Lightstone compound. However, what should be a night of festive cheer and celebration, is quickly interrupted by a team of gun-carrying mercenaries who have their sights set on theft.
The leader of the team is aware the Lightstones have $300 million stashed away in a vault. He is keen to relieve the family of the money, and will take it by any force necessary.
However, while all of this is taking place in the main quarters of the Lightstone property, in another part of the house Santa Claus is busy delivering presents, and it isn’t long before he becomes aware of the worrying situation that is unfolding. Although he is reluctant to get involved, Santa worries for the safety of the youngest member of the household, and knows he might be the Lightstones’ only chance for survival.
Calling upon some special skills, which he’s not used in quite some time, Santa prepares to take on the bad guys and save the day. But what the bad guys don’t know is, Santa’s not playing for keeps and he’s ready to slay!
Directed by Tommy Wirkola, Violent Night is a Christmas action-comedy, which is new to UK and US cinemas from today. The film stars David Harbour, John Leguizamo, Cam Gigandet, Beverly D’Angelo, and Leah Brady, and is a gun-toting, hammer-wielding, blood-splattering picture, which is highly enjoyable stuff!
Taking a dash of inspiration from Die Hard, as well as a few other Christmas movies, Violent Night is one of those films that is a lot of fun, so long as you accept the premise is nonsense and you are willing to leave your brain at the door. If you can get on board with the idea of a bad-ass Santa who uses brute strength and a well-placed (and sharpened) candy cane to solve his problems, then this is the movie for you.
The film is daft, very funny, often quite ridiculous, and it is a fine alternative to the onslaught of schmaltzy Christmas films that usually pop up at this time of year. Plus, David Harbour makes for a great Santa Claus, there are a number of very quotable lines, and did I mention that it’s a bit like Die Hard?
OK, so this film wears its biggest influences on its sleeve, and this means it’s not entirely original. The film also suffers from a few pacing issues, including a rather saggy mid-section, which could benefit from a bit more action.
But when this film is doing what it does best, which is allow David Harbour’s Santa Claus to kick all kinds of ass, often in very violent ways (hey, it’s not called Violent Night for nothing), this movie is a whole heap of fun. It knows how to ramp up the spectacle, lean into the brutality, and serve up some festive fight scenes.
Whether it is tussle with tinsel, or a ball bashin’ brawl across a pool table, this film knows when to play to its strengths. It also knows how to mix together action and comedy, leading to some chuckle-worthy sequences.
One of the stand-out scenes in the movie is a homage to Home Alone, which in itself acts as reminder that slapstick is always funny. Meanwhile, the film’s snow-covered finale brings in a couple of good laughs, and there is a bit of room for some toilet humour too, courtesy of some belching and peeing.
To back all this action and comedy up, there is a running thread about Santa being somewhat cynical these days; there is a little bit of backstory to ol’ Saint Nick; and the film also chucks in a spot of Christmas magic. Yes, I said this film is an alternative to schmaltz, but there is a sliver of it in here too, although for the most part it doesn’t feel overly syrupy.
As noted above, David Harbour is great as Santa, while John Leguizamo proves to be a suitable bad guy. The rest of the actors are fine enough, but this really feels like Harbour’s movie.
He is given the most material to work with, and his Santa feels like the most rounded character. Sure, there is a cartoonish element in play, but when Harbour is required to bring the grit, he’s got it in spades.
Throw in a festive setting, a Slade song over the end credits, and plenty of snow, and this film has enough going for it to hit the spot. Yes, there is a bit of bloat in places, and possibly some overindulgence here and there, but it gets most things right.
Should you be looking for some action-packed, seasonal entertainment this Christmas, then Violent Night is one to keep on your radar. If you fancy taking a break from Die Hard or Die Hard 2 (both of which ARE Christmas movies), then give this one a go instead.