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Quick Review: Violent Night
You Better Watch Out
The following is my review for the film Violent Night. A reminder, you can click this link to see how I score films when I review them.
When a team of mercenaries breaks into a wealthy family compound on Christmas Eve, taking everyone inside hostage, the team isn’t prepared for a surprise combatant - Santa Claus is on the grounds, and he’s about to show why this Nick is no saint.
Tis the season for every streamer and every network to be pumping out Christmas movies, and Hollywood always has one or two major studios that try to create a would-be holiday classic. This year I’ve already been shifting through a bunch of cheap, straight to streaming, Christmas flicks that have left me shrugging my shoulders in apathy at best or rolling my eyes and putting my head into my hands at worst (Check out my Letterboxd if you want to see my ratings on every single movie I see from the year). But we have a major theatrical release for the holidays in Universal’s Violent Night which could be be described as what would happen if a threesome between Die Hard, Home Alone, and Miracle On 34th Street somehow made a baby.
As the title would suggest this is a gory, and at times schlocky, movie that doesn’t shy away from some of the most violent scenes I’ve seen in cinema this year - and that’s saying something given we had *two* cannibal movies this year. This won’t be for everyone, and we’re not talking about the future Christmas classic you put on Christmas Eve night for the whole family to watch. But it doesn’t have to be, this is a Rated-R action packed movie meant to thrill adult audiences and it knows what it is and embraces it.
David Harbour really delivers a fun performance as Santa himself, perhaps only matched (if not surpassed) by John Leguizamo playing a great sinister villain. The movie gives each some mystery to their background and gives us enough nuggets to put the pieces together and get more layers from them. There’s also a funny family story centered around this with the bickering between them delivering some of the biggest laughs my audience broke out into. And speaking of audiences, the one I watched this with were eating up every single second of this.
Now that being said the screenplay does have its weak points. It sets up some really interesting potential story paths to go down on or story beats that tease some potentially interesting twists, but somehow the movie about the John Wick/Rambo Santa seems to play it safe with its script too many times than one might like - particularly with a finale that I felt was kind of tonally off. Also for all the good writing and fun performances from our protagonist and main antagonist, some members of the family Claus is saving, and basically every minion of Leguizamo’s character, is kind of just there for either the body counts or the laughs and nothing more.
But I think we have a real modern day Christmas cult classic on our hands with this one, and if my audience was anything to go by I think general audiences are going to eat this up. This may in time become a personal Christmas favorite of mine, and even with its flaws I just had too much fun with this to call it anything less than a great time at the movies for anyone looking for a Christmas movie that is less “Hallmarky”.