‘Violent Night’: Delightfully Naughty, Short of Nice


(Courtesy Universal Pictures and 87North Productions)

By Zach Anderson, Arts Writer


In the newest action movie from director Tommy Wirkola and David Leitch’s production company 87North Productions, Santa Claus is far from the bowl full of jelly we see on our Coca-Cola bottles every year. When a terrorist group led by a man called Scrooge, played by John Leguizamo, invades the home of a rich family on Christmas Eve, a drunk, belligerent and ever-so-violent Santa Claus played by David Harbour comes to their rescue.

As absurd as the premise sounds, “Violent Night” delivers on its hard-R rating. The hilarity of watching Santa Claus, who was canonically a Viking before donning the red suit, beat terrorists to a pulp was entertaining for a while, but as I tried to take away something substantial from this gorefest, there were no presents under that tree. 

Deck the Halls with Tons of Bodies

Going into this movie completely blind, I had no clue what to expect tonally but a feeling the filmmakers would pull a few punches for an icon of childhood joy. However, I wasn’t expecting Santa to get this gory. Not just a regular kind of gory, but an excessive, over-the-top kind. With scenes of Santa slaughtering soldiers with a sledgehammer and people getting stabbed in the eye with a tree topper, I was delightfully surprised by the amount of Christmas-themed items Santa used as weaponry. However, after two hours, it got staler than a gingerbread house on New Year’s Eve.

When the movie decides to progress its already paper-thin plot with an action sequence, it almost makes me want to be invested in the struggle between the characters. “Violent Night” is stuffed so full of action you don’t know what to care about and what not to. Luckily, Harbour’s performance adds much-needed rapport to scenes that involve the token little girl, Trudy Lighthouse, played by Leah Brady, but he never left me convinced that he was Santa Claus. It was either Harbour in a Santa Claus costume, or worse, playing violent Santa in an SNL skit.

Every Christmas Movie You Love … Again

It’s apparent Wirkola wanted to make their own version of “Die Hard” and “Home Alone” at the same time, all the while trying to be an anti-Hallmark movie for those who don’t want to watch another bride fall in love with a boy from the country. Funnily enough, the movie still ends up giving a surface-level Hallmark lesson in the end with your typical “learning the true meaning of Christmas” malarkey every other movie does, from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” to “Daddy’s Home 2.”

With such a humorous premise, I would’ve liked to see the creators break more of the conventions of Christmas movies and not try to remake another one. Letting each movie rest with its own gimmicks instead of stealing the walkie-talkies from “Die Hard” and the traps from “Home Alone” would’ve enhanced my enjoyment far more.

If you’re looking to rewatch “Die Hard” this holiday season but are looking for something in theaters, you might have to put “Violent Night” on your watchlist. 


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