Violent Night (now streaming on Amazon Prime Video) casts Stranger Things star David Harbour as a badass Santa who can handle his booze and his warhammer better than he handles his reindeer. This gleefully, gloriously dumb, unapologetically brutal thing is about one hammer-smashed face away from putting the X-rating in Xmas. As they say, your mileage may vary for this sort of tongue-in-cheek fodder – so let’s see if it’s in poor taste or if it’ll have us laughing all the way.
VIOLENT NIGHT: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: BELLCHH. It’s Christmas Eve, and Santa’s (Harbour) crocked. He laments how kids just want money and video games anymore. He’s been doing this too long. His heart’s not in it. Is he a Salvation Army corner Santa or a mall Santa or a hired-for-parties Santa? Hmm. The bartender follows his drunk ass up to the roof and is shocked to see him on the sleigh with the reindeer and all that, and she looks up just in time for him to thunder-chunder his guts out all over her. He flies all over the world, eating cookies, stealing liquor, pulling gifts from his magic sack, shotgunning beers, side-of-his-nosing up chimneys with a stardust twinkle, pissing off the side of the sleigh. He’s the real deal. He’s magic. But he’s also human.
Meanwhile, in Greenwich, Connecticut, Jason (Alex Hassell) and Linda (Alexis Louder) are gutting out the holiday for their dear, sweet, perfect, adorable, innocent, beloved daughter Trudy (Leah Brady). They’re splitsville, but Trudy wanted Mom and Dad to be together for Christmas at Grandma’s. It’s a lot to ask, more so for Linda, because Jason’s family has billions in the bank, and his mother Gertrude (Beverly “Ellen Griswold” D’Angelo!) is a Piece of Work. Jason’s sister Alva (Edi Patterson) is also a Piece of Work who’s raising a Piece of Work influencer teen boy Bert (Alexander Elliot) and dating a Piece of Work actor (Cam Gigandet). Joy to the world for all the selfish entitled a-holes.
The house is so big, Santa can bump down the chimney, swig some 90-year-old brandy and futz around without anybody hearing him. It’s also so big, there’s a vault in the basement containing 300 mil in cash. And so a man who identifies himself only as Scrooge (John Leguizamo) crashes the party with a crew of heavily armed rapscallions to take everyone hostage and steal the dough. Santa catches wind of the shenanigans and before you know it, he’s kinda John McClaneing through the mansion while Scrooge Hans Grubers his way to the vault. Thing is, John McClane never whaled on the bad guys with a stocking full of pool balls or creamed thugs with a sledgehammer to the tune of ironic Christmas carols.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Violent Night is Die Hard meets Bad Santa meets Fatman with a couple elements of The Northman (yes, The Northman) and an extended homage to Home Alone.
Performance Worth Watching: Harbour works hard to sell the grizzled-Santa bit, striking the perfect comic tone to deliver lines like SANTA’S GONNA EAT THROUGH THESE GUYS LIKE A PLATE OF COOKIES.
Memorable Dialogue: Santa promises dear little Trudy he’ll rescue her from the creeps:
Santa: I’m gonna take a lump of coal and shove it straight up-
Trudy: Their ass?
Santa: Come on, sweetie, we wanna keep you on the nice list, you know.
Trudy: Sorry, can I say “butthole” then?
Santa: That’s borderline.
Sex and Skin: None, perhaps disappointingly.
Our Take: Violent Night is just horrible, moronic garbage – albeit horrible, moronic garbage I can get behind. The not-so-jolly old elf is smack in Harbour’s wheelhouse, and he and Leguizamo deliver spoofy hard-boiled action-movie one-liners with juicy aplomb. This Santa could really use a fresh jolt of Christmas spirit, and he finds it in two things: a little girl’s innocence, and the sweet, sweet release of gratuitous violence. I laughed my ass off. In spite of myself.
By no objective means is this a “good movie.” It aims low and bullseyes an easy target: happy-happy-joy-joy Christmas feelings. Granted, it indulges a couple of those feelings so it doesn’t fall into and get stuck in the depravity pit, but for the most part, it rebels against the feelgood slop of most holiday fodder. It’s not the first movie to flip the table on sentimental Christmas cheer, and follows its own formula of subversion – hey, lookit Santa, he’s barfing and bashing in skulls. Frankly, it doesn’t go any deeper than that, it’s a touch too long at 112 minutes and the Home Alone shit feels overly indulgent. But Violent Night hits the perfect tone for Christmas blasphemy, the movie equivalent of stepping out of the family party for a minute to sneak a shot of whiskey.
Our Call: STREAM IT. No sane person will consider Violent Night a perennial classic, but Harbour inspires enough ho-ho-hos and cheeky holiday mayhem to warrant a watch.
John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com.
The post Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Violent Night’ on Streaming, Starring David Harbour as a Santa Who Can Unleash Hell When He Has To appeared first on Decider.