Violent Night (2022) Ensures A Merry Christmas to All Who Watch
Title: Violent Night
First Non-Festival Release: November 30, 2022 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Writer: Pat Casey, Josh Miller
Runtime: 112 Minutes
Starring: David Harbour, John Leguizamo, Alex Hassell, Leah Brady
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Santa Claus (David Harbour) is on his annual mission to deliver presents to all good children around the world, even though he is losing faith in kids these days. Meanwhile, a group of mercenaries descend on a secluded mansion to extort money from an extremely wealthy family. At the center of this is Trudy (Leah Brady), a bright and exceptionally good little girl whose parents Jason (Alex Hassell) and Linda (Alexis Louder) are on the brink of divorce. Thanks to the magic of a walkie talkie, Trudy communicates with Santa right when he enters their home with a plea to save her family and save Christmas. Despite his pessimism, Old Saint Nick is up for the challenge of punishing all the naughty people trying to ruin the holiday.
Action horror comedy at its finest, Violent Night brings seasonal cheer and revenge to this brutal iteration of Santa Claus lore.
Every year audiences are greeted with a variety of takes on Yuletide holiday lore, Violent Night being an extension of such a treasured tradition. Leaning into its goofiness, Violent Night succeeds due to the simplicity of its story and the dynamism of its genre mashup. Centering its action and comedy first, with horror a distant but ever-present third influence, this genre hybrid scores easy points by its commitment to its wacky premise while staying true to Christmas films before it. There are plenty of references strewn in but more importantly there is a decidedly reverent love for the holiday injected into the DNA of the film. Between the lore, comedy, and action, it is evident that the true meaning of Christmas is underneath the bloodshot for audience members to enjoy.
There is an incredible intentionality behind the comedy that ensures the film never veers too off course. Jokes made at the expense of the wealthy and the greedy continually hit in the best ways. Violent Night also employs a fantastic range of comedy so it never gets stale throughout its nearly two-hour long runtime. Well-executed chase scenes and creative approaches to Christmas kills help the film maintain a steady pace and good humor. In fact, the constant commitment to movement keeps the viewers on their toes and surprise with the direction of the story.
Its stellar script and fantastic approach to comedy would be nothing without its phenomenal ensemble cast. Everyone is on their A game in Violent Night from leading players to supporting staff. The initial introductions to the family are as wacky as one expects. Sycophantic Alva (Edi Patterson) and her washed up Z list actor husband Morgan Steel (Cam Gigandet) as well as their irritating social media obsessed son Bert (Alexander Elliot) take the place of early nuisances while Gertrude (Beverly D’Angelo) reigns down on her children and their families with an iron fist. Once the action starts up, bumbling henchmen Candy Cane (Mitra Suri) and Gingerbread (André Eriksen) take that honor away from them. Their idiocy makes for an exceptionally fun ode to Home Alone when they confront Trudy in the attic. John Leguizamo’s approach to Scrooge, however, elevates the film further with a fantastic antagonist that rivals Santa’s cynicism.
Of course, David Harbour anchors the film with his caring approach to old Saint Nick. In what could have otherwise been a one-note performance, Harbour gives it his all tackling the compassion, rage, and fury of the Man behind Christmas. Initially, the humor behind a drunk and angry Santa Claus begrudgingly going about his duties sets the scene well enough but it isn’t until he makes it to the mansion that his faith is tested. Harbour understands that there is more to Santa than the possibility for endless jokes about his weight and profession. His warrior spirit and desire to right wrongs make him a more compelling character than greeting cards could ever spin. In the end, his performance nails the comedy, of course, but also the ferocity and, at times, sex appeal of the holiday giant.
Violent Night sets out to be an enjoyable holiday genre bender and succeeds. Thanks to its standout ensemble cast and strong script, this holiday treat solidifies itself as an enjoyable and accessible film for adult cinemagoers seeking more exciting Christmas fare in December. It won’t set the world on fire, but it has plenty of action, comedy, and exciting kills to engage and entertain. What will hopefully be a classic Christmas staple in the future, Violent Night is the perfect present to give to any jaded movie buff that just wants something fun for the holidays.
Overall Score? 8/10