The concept for “Violent Night” was sound, but the movie detracted from it.
With a plot lifted from “Die Hard” (1988), the concept was to make Santa Claus the lead in an action comedy. On Christmas Eve, as he is putting presents under a tree, Santa Claus discovers a hostage situation. He then embarks on his mission to defeat the villains and release the hostages.
Anyone with the intelligence to come up with such an idea ought to have the intelligence to make the most of it. But instead of highlighting the originality of the comedy notion by, you know, actually being funny, the film becomes mired in cliched action, concentrating on drawn-out battles and violent sequences. The key distinction between this and any otherOne of the guys battling in the other action film is wearing a red suit and has a beard.
The issue in the film is built up in the early moments. In a pub, Santa Claus (David Harbour) is getting wasted. He is tired of his job and the egotistical, grevious children. He climbs back into his sleigh and throws up over the side as the reindeer take off. He resembles Liam Neeson in the start of about six movies in that he is underappreciated and disillusioned, and he needs to be redeemed through violence.
Making Santa Clause into an unhappy cynic is a decent concept for some quick chuckles, but it steers “Violent Night” in the wrong direction. At one point, he urinates over the side of his sleigh. It provides aconventional action film that doesn’t have much holiday cheer.
Imagine, though, if “Violent Night” took a different turn. Consider what Santa might be like if he were as good and moral as Will Ferrell in “Elf.” Imagine a Santa Claus of such calibre taking on ruthless criminals. A fresh approach to the plot would have been needed in order to accommodate such a setting. The screenwriters would have had to come up with various tactics for Santa Claus to use in battle. These approaches could have been humorous or even holiday-themed.
In its place, there are countless numbers of dead bodies. There are at least a dozen more corpses after the 21 that I stopped counting.
The majority of “Violent Night” takes place at a wealthy, powerful woman’s (Beverly D’Angelo) mansion where her adoring family has gathered on Christmas Eve. a group ofA group of criminals demanding $300 million that is allegedly concealed on the property shoot their way onto the estate, commanded by a man going by the name of Scrooge (John Leguizamo).
“Violent Night” contains several good qualities despite the lengthy and uninteresting hand-to-hand fight between Santa and a number of henchmen. They portray Santa Claus as a regular person, albeit one who benefits from Christmas magic he can’t completely control, rather than making him supernatural and thus just another superhero.
Other positives include Leah Brady, who is adorable as the young child who Santa befriends, and Beverly D’Angelo, who plays a shrewd businesswoman. Additionally, it’s strange that by the end of the film, despite all the blood, gore, and dead bodies, it does manage to approximate a Christmas mood.
It’s difficult to tell whether this holiday spirit is caused by anything the film accomplishes or if it just happens in spite of the bloodshed, bitterness, and ugliness. In any event, “Violent Night” isn’t bad, but it’s caught in the middle of trying to suit the genre it parodies while also parodying something else. Furthermore, it ought to have been funnier.
“Violent Night”: Drama. Starring David Harbour, Beverly D’Angelo and John Leguizamo. Directed by Tommy Wirkola. (R. 101 minutes.) In theaters starting Friday, Dec. 2.