Movie Review: Violent Night (2022)
Synopsis: Frustrated with the growing greed at Christmas, Santa Claus has become a shell of his former self, drinking heavily and just going through the motions as he delivers presents to the few remaining children on his nice list. While making a delivery at a mansion owned by Gertrude Lightstone for her granddaughter, Trudy, Santa falls asleep in a chair and is awoken by the sound of gunfire and attacked by one of a group of men attempting to steal $300 million hidden in a safe inside the mansion. He fends off the attacker, but his reindeer fly away, leaving him stranded. When he attempts to escape on foot, he realizes Trudy and her family are in danger and decides to stay to help, calling upon his previous life as a warrior.
Review: Mixing the Christmas holiday with action/thriller movies isn't a new concept. And more often than not, it doesn't mesh as well as the filmmakers think it does. That's why I had quite a few doubts about this movie even though my oldest daughter saw it at the theater and liked it (her and I don't have the same taste in films). However, my wife and I finally watched it last night and I have to admit, it was a lot better than I was expecting. In fact, it might be one of my new favorite Christmas movies.
I think the thing I liked best about this film is it didn't try to overcomplicate things. A lot of films try a little too hard to create overly complex plots with various (seldomly) unexpected twists or detailed backstories when all anyone really wants from this genre is a lot of violence. Santa (Harbour) has the most complex backstory of every other character and that's just summarized through a couple flashbacks and a brief expositional conversation with Trudy (Brady).
The lack of complexity helping the movie is especially true of the bad guys. Scrooge (Leguizamo) doesn't have a lot of depth, he just wants to steal the money and, if necessary (and probably even if it isn't necessary) kill his hostages before escaping. Other than a brief interaction with Santa explaining why he hates Christmas; you aren't bogged down by a pointless backstory that tries to make us think of him a victim.
What really sold this movie for me though were the fight scenes. I think the best way to describe this is it made me think of the movies Home Alone and Die Hard if they were merged into one film. The attic scene involving Trudy defending herself against two goons was hilarious. And seeing Santa remove his shirt, revealing a bunch of tattoos, then swinging around a sledgehammer, were two things that were very memorable and even a bit unexpected.
I also liked how the movie focused on the action rather than the gore. Gore in horror movies is fine. Excessive gore just makes them seem silly. The filmmakers found the right combination with this one and other movies should pay attention to it as a result.
Final Opinion: As I said, this made my list of favorite Christmas films, especially since it even has a subtle message about the importance of Christmas spirit and family. I don't know if it's a film everyone would enjoy, but I certainly had fun watching it last night.
My Grade: A