Violent Night Review - A Bloody Good Christmas Film

I had no idea that there was a film coming out that starred David Harbour as Santa Claus, and even better it is a rated R action comedy film. Violent Night has been favorably compared to Die Hard, it also has elements that make it a deeper film on some levels. I will avoid spoilers but the general synopsis of the film is it stars Santa Claus being trapped in a mansion with a group of thieves that have taken a rich family prisoner looking for money hidden in the house. It is very similar to Die Hard, but Violent Night was more of a comedy with action than an action comedy. Violent Night takes pleasure in being gross, vulgar, violent and gruesome. The Krampus movie did not work for me as I felt myself struggling to enjoy it, but I will give it a third chance at some point. Violent Night works from beginning to end as it is a simple story that has a strong emotional core at the centre. In Violent Night, Santa is disillusioned with the world and throughout the film he starts to regain some of his sense of purpose. Harbour is great at playing a grumpy guy, but he is really good at playing at grump who has a big heart. Harbour rose to prominence because of playing Jim Hopper on Stranger Things, but I remember him as being an interesting character actor from movies like Quantum of Solace, End of Watch, The Equalizer and A Walk Among the Tombstones. Casting Harbour for the role feels as close to perfect casting as possible.

Violent Night follows Santa as he attempts to help a little girl and her family from a group of thieves attempting to steal a lot of money from the family. The thieves are well armed, trained and led by John Leguizamo (who also hates Christmas), but the family being held at gunpoint is hardly likeable. The family is led by a fierce and foulmouthed matriarch played by Beverly D'Angelo and her rotten children. The family has gathered at the family compound on Christmas Eve, but the catering staff brought in are part of the crew robbing them. Santa arrives at the house to drop presents off, but he hears gunshots And Santa starts to take out the crew one by one. The film is very simple, and it is very similar to Die Hard, but it is just different enough to be very entertaining. The trailer for the movie was good because it did a good job of letting the viewer know exactly what type of movie Violent Night will be. Some trailers can be fantastic, but misleading in previewing the tone and type of film, but the Violent Night trailer was right on cue with the type of movie you will be getting. It helped for me that I saw it a few weeks after it had been released so that I had reviews to make me feel comfortable. I liked the trailer, but I was worried it was misleading so when I saw reviews of the film it made me more confident that the trailer was not misleading viewers. The trailer highlighted the humor and action while also showing the bond that Santa develops with a little girl who needs his help.

With the exception of a little girl and her mother all of the characters in the film are kind of unlikeable (including Santa and his reindeer). While I did not think John Leguizamo was nowhere near as good as Alan Rickman was in Die Hard (and everything else he did), he was serviceable which was all he needed to be. The Lightstone family are the ones who need rescuing, but they also represent everything that is wrong in the world. The various members of the bad guys were quirky, and in some ways they were more likeable than the Lightstones. The little girl and her mother were the only two decent humans in the entire film, every other character had proven to be unworthy. Santa is at his low point in his term as Santa, and this little girl reignites his belief in what he is doing. The film balance the light and dark tones well, and as a result the film is very entertaining. The movie would work if Santa was not there, but having Santa be the one rescuing the family made the movie less generic. Having Santa involved added another layer, and I wonder if this is something that could produce a sequel at some point. I would not mind seeing David Harbour put on the Santa suit one more time to take down some goons on the naughty list. 

Violent Night is going to get a 7/10 for me; I know that might seem low but I wanted to grade everything equally so for me a movie like this is a seven out of ten. I think the film could have been an 8/10, but there were moments where the story dragged a bit for my taste. The opening moments of the film teased a Santa that was more of a drunk than a hero, but with his faith restored by the end he will likely be less miserable. The action in the film is very good, and I appreciated that it did not hold back at all on anything. I don't mind when things are edited or altered to fit a rating that would allow for me people to see it, but it is always nice when a film does not care about achieving a lower rating and they go for the hard R. David Harbour is fantastic as a not so Jolly Old Saint Nick, and John Leguizamo is very good as the villain. There is a good chance that if they had cast another actor in the role of Santa then this film might not work as well as it does. Harbour has mastered the art of being a gruff character who is that way because he is sad, and that makes Santa work so well. I think Leguizamo was good, but I think his performance could have been duplicated by another actor. Violent Nights is a fun and entertaining Christmas film designed as a Die Hard film with Santa. I will be watching this film every Christmas now as it deserves to be in the rotation of films to watch during Christmas (joining Elf, Christmas Vacation, The Night Before, Home Alone, Die Hard, Lethal Weapon and Die Hard 2). So next Christmas make sure to give Violent Night a watch and decide for yourself if it deserves to be in the rotation.

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