Lives up to its name and delivers a merry ass-kicking and a cup of good cheer
Violent Night is the kind of film that sounds like a viral stunt-casted SNL skit a la Dwayne Johnson’s infamous Bambi. Santa Claus, played by David Harbour, is stranded on Christmas Eve at a wealthy family’s Christmas party that’s under siege by paramilitary robbers with holiday themed codenames led by John Leguizamo. Santa attempting to save a little girl’s Christmas is forced to dispatch those on his naughty list to salvage a little girl’s holidays spewing Christmas inspired one-liners. But Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow) and the writers from the Sonic films, hilariously enough, Josh Miller and Patrick Casey earn every minute of this film’s 1 hour and 52 minute runtime with a script that is as clever as it is charming in its take that is equal parts Die Hard, John Wick and The Santa Clause.
David Harbour here plays a jaded Santa, when we first meet him he’s grabbing a drink in between his Christmas Eve deliveries at a bar and lamenting about the current batch of materialistic kids who want nothing other than cash and video games. It’s on a routine stop at the Lightstone family compound where he is left stranded when his reindeer are scared off by a criminal crew led by John Leguizamo who’s after 300 million in cash that resides in the family’s safe. It’s the Christmas spirit of one young Trudy Lightstone (Leah Brady) at the gathering with her recently separated parents, that draws Santa into this situation, thanks to not only her belief in Kris Kringle, but her selfless wish of her parent’s reunion.
This has Santa who in this reality was once a Viking raider, and killed anyone who crossed his path with his trust hammer “Skull Crusher” saving the young girl’s holiday and her terrible hilariously entitled family. If you had any doubts about David Harbour’s action hero chops after dispatching demigorgons with Conan’s actual sword at the end of season 4 of Stranger Things, his bonafides are on full display here. Not only do we get hand to hand and hammer fights, we get Christmas decorations and presents used as fighting implements in choreography that would make John Wick’s fight team proud. Harbour along with his pint size costar manage to even deliver some really endearing performances through all this that imbues the film with some Christmas magic as the disenfranchised Santa once again finds his purpose as the bodies pile up.
At the end of its run time Violent Night ascends upon the throne of the greatest Christmas action movie of all time in my book. It’s not just because of the action, which in my mind alone makes this case, but it features the actual Santa Claus doing all of these things to save a little girl’s Christmas – sorry John McClane. This thing alone was so unexpected and really adds something different to the formula we are probably more familiar with in films that are action films, that just happen to take place on Christmas. It also couldn’t have been an easy balancing act considering it could have toppled into camp at any moment. But I loved everything about this film from the action, to the humor, to the heart this film has it all, along with a body count. Violent Night isn’t simply satisfied to live up to its name, but delivers an action masterwork to all the action fans this holiday season.