You better watch out.
Violent Night is a 2022 Christmas fantasy action comedy film directed by Tommy Wirloka, written by Pat Casey and Josh Miller, produced by 87North Productions and Perfect World Pictures, and distributed by Universal Pictures. It stars David Harbour and John Leguizamo.
"Santa's comin' to town." - Santa Claus
While delivering presents on Christmas Eve, Santa Claus finds himself in a house that's under attack. A group of mercenaries take an incredibly wealthy family hostage, and it's up to Santa to save the family...by whatever means necessary.
I saw the trailer for Violent Night and immediately thought to myself "Oh boy. This is gonna be amazing."
And I was correct.
This film is all kinds of great. It starts at the concept. There have been hundreds and hundreds of Die Hard rip-offs. Air Force One is Die Hard on a plane with the president. Speed is Die Hard on a bus. The Rock is Die Hard in Alcatraz. Violent Night is Die Hard with Santa Claus. And that's awesome. I don't know how it's taken so long for someone to think of this concept, but we finally have it, and I absolutely love it.
This movie is just fun. Everything about it is made in the most entertaining way possible. The action is fantastic. I never thought I'd see St. Nick take on a bunch of mercenaries and kill them in extremely bloody manners, but now that we have it, and I love it. It works well as an action movie, because the action is fun and exciting and brutal.
It also works as a comedy. This film is absolutely hilarious. Obviously the concept of Santa Claus becoming an action hero is incredibly silly, and the movie knows that, so they use it to their advantage. I don't think I've laughed in a theater this much since...I don't even know. This movie made me laugh out loud more times than I could count. And that's impressive, because I have a pretty high bar when it comes to comedy.
The film also uses the Christmas setting really well. They have some incredibly funny moments with Santa using his Christmas magic to fight the mercenaries. There are also a lot of kills with Christmas objects, whether it's candy canes or ornaments, and that was a ton of fun to see. And the best scene in the movie is Christmas-centric. I don't want to spoil that scene, but all you need to know is this: Home Alone. You'll understand when you see it.
David Harbour is the Santa I never knew I needed. He's fantastic. He's really good at everything the movie needs: he can be the intimidating action hero. He can be incredibly funny. And he can also be heartfelt when he needs to be. Sure, it's a little weird to cast a 47-year-old as Santa Claus, but it works in context of Violent Night. I can see this becoming another one of his iconic roles alongside Jim Hopper and Red Guardian. He's fantastic.
This film also has a fair amount of heart to it that I was not expecting. Christmas movies tend to be heartfelt, because they're usually about joy and family, but that's not what Violent Night is. This is an extremely gory action-comedy, but it still has the heart that a lot of Christmas movies have. There's a cute relationship between this little girl that's one of the hostages in the house and Santa that I adore. It gives room for Santa to actually have a little bit of a character arc, which surprised me. I expected a dumb fun action comedy when I walked into Violent Night, and I actually got more story and characters than I expected.
There are a few problems here, but nothing that major.
First off, Violent Night sometimes tries too hard to have a story. They give Santa Claus a tiny bit of a backstory, and I don't think it works at all. It feels weird to give Santa a backstory because he's Santa, and we're also watching a movie where the backstory doesn't fit in. It only serves to set up a little plot point that runs throughout the film, but I don't think it was necessary and I don't think it worked.
The side characters here also aren't great. One of the things that makes Die Hard better than all of its rip-offs is the fantastic side characters. Violent Night doesn't have strong side characters. The family that's being held hostage is insufferable. It's a running joke through the movie that they're just awful, but it makes it hard for you to care about them because of how terrible they are. It feels like they're going to have a big moment that will redeem them in the end, but they don't really. And that felt strange.
The film also drags on a little bit too long. As you get to the end, you start to feel the fatigue of the concept. The film is obviously an incredibly simple story that doesn't merit a very long runtime, and, as you reach the final five or ten minutes of the film, you feel the magic of the movie start to run out. Now, it ends before the film stops being entertaining. It's fun all the way through. But it did get a little bit old and repetitive near the end.
Finally, I'm going to criticize every Die Hard rip-off for this, but Violent Night is a Die Hard rip-off. It's a really good Die Hard rip-off. It's a really creative Die Hard rip-off. But it's still taking a story that was done perfectly in 1988 and putting a slightly new spin on it. That always subtracts from a movie. It makes me slightly frustrated that movies still constantly rip Die Hard off. Find something new to do, guys. C'mon.
Final Thoughts and Score
Violent Night is one of the most entertaining movies this year. If you like hard-R action films or really funny action films, you will have an absolute blast.
I will go Savory here. Age range is 13+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good) Sour (Bad)
Fun Factor: 10/10
Directed by Tommy Wirkola
Released on December 2, 2022
Rated R for strong bloody violence, language, disturbing themes and images, sexual references, thematic elements
1 hour and 52 minutes
David Harbour as Santa Claus
John Leguizamo as Jimmy Martinez / Mr. Scrooge
Leah Brady as Trudy Lightstone
Alex Hassell as Jason Lightstone
Alexis Louder as Linda Matthews
Beverly D'Angelo as Gertrude Lightstone
Edi Patterson as Alva Lightstone
Cam Gigandet as Morgan Lightstone
Mike Dopud as Commander Thorp
Alexander Elliot as Bert Lightstone
Mitra Suri as Kat
André Eriksen as Gingerbread