‘Violent Night’ Review: A Bad Santa in an OK Movie

Season’s beatings, everyone!

“Violent Night” stars David Harbour as Santa Claus, who must come to the rescue of a family being held hostage by a group of mercenaries (led by John Leguizamo). Cam Gigandet, Alex Hassell, Alexis Louder, Leah Brady, Edi Patterson, and Beverly D’Angelo also star, while Tommy Wirkola directs.

The “violent Christmas film” is not anything new. From “Die Hard” to “Home Alone,” it’s a fun sub-genre (I also really enjoyed the under-seen “Fatman” a few years ago). “Violent Night” does what it says on the box, that being having Santa swear and kill bad guys, and there is some fun to be had despite it never fully living up to its potential.

David Harbour is a bit of a fan-favorite thanks to “Stranger Things” and his role in “Black Widow,” and he’s a solid Saint Nick here. Operating off the classic “I forgot why I even started this job in the first place” story beat, he has some moments of warmth with Leah Brady’s young Trudy and holds his own in the action scenes.

The action is overall pretty fun, with a few creative kills and gleeful amount of blood. Some of the scenes are lit a bit too dimly, and one sequence set to an upbeat Christmas song is edited a bit oddly, but overall this was advertised as an R-rated holiday action flick and it is just that.

The film’s biggest issue, as many films like this, is the script. Some scenes add nothing to the narrative and there is a 15-minute segment that where the film comes to a halt and is just Santa and Trudy having a therapy session over walkie-talkies. But not only that, this film commits my personal cardinal sin and swears for the sake of swearing. I have nothing against cuss words, I say em myself and films like “The Wolf of Wall Street” use them in an overabundance. However this film has characters drop f-bombs in the most casual of conversations and as an adjective in every other sentence. The screenwriters confuse “vulgar” with “edgy” and it just takes you out of the scene and comes off as a mix of desperate and unrealistic.

“Violent Night” is fun in bursts and if you are a turn-your-brain-off moviegoer then I’m sure you’ll get your jollies. I can see myself revisiting this after getting a few drinks flowing with friends in a year or two, but walking out of the theater this just felt… lacking. Not quite coal, not quite a new 4K TV… this film is like getting a nice new shirt under the tree: effective if not slightly underwhelming.

Critics Rating: 5/10

Universal Pictures

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