Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans



 Directed by Tommy Wirkola.
Starring David Harbour, John Leguizamo, Alex Hassell.
Action comedy, US, 112 minutes, certificate 15.

Released in in the UK in cinemas December 2nd by Universal


Violent Night begins with Santa Claus sipping a pint in a pub in Bristol, lamenting the fact that the true meaning of Christmas has been forgotten by everyone. All everyone wants is the latest video game or hot new toy; a situation that has driven the seemingly mythical figure to drink and contemplate hanging up his sack and hat for good. However, whilst nibbling appreciatively on some home-made cookies and a pint of brandy in the mansion of the millionaire Lightstone family, Santa finds himself fighting not just for the spirit of Christmas but his life and those of the Lightstone’s as they are held hostage by a ruthless band of mercenaries led by the appropriately codenamed Scrooge.


Throughout the late nineteen eighties and the nineties there was a trend for action movies to be sold to audiences as Die Hard on a bus (SPEED), a boat (UNDER SIEGE and/or SPEED 2) or a hockey rink (SUDDEN DEATH). No doubt the pitch for VIOLENT NIGHT went something like “Die Hard, but with Santa.” It’s a thin premise that seems suited only for the likes of comedy sketches, I THINK YOU SHOULD LEAVE’S Detective Crashmore skit being the absolute pinnacle of homicidal Santa’s, but Tommy Wirkola’s slick direction of Pat Casey and Josh Miller’s knowing script makes for a film that more than lives up to its title and ensures a fun night out at the cinema over the festive season.


Turning Santa Claus into an action hero seems like a challenge but David Harbour manages it with a fully realised character who goes through the classic action movie tropes of an embittered figure in the wrong place at the wrong time using a surprising set of skills to save the day. Those skills involve a surprising back story that play into the myth of the seasonal figure and lets Wirkola unleash a rip-roaring amount of bone crunching, stabby violence that gets bloodier as the film goes on, including a HOME ALONE inspired riff on how violent and painful that films escapades are.


The usual Christmas movie cliches are present also; estranged family coming back together, and a sickly-sweet child embodying everything pure of the season being the two biggest examples on display here. Such sentimental staples however are nicely skewered by the violent proceedings overseen by John Leguizamo’s Scrooge, another surprisingly well sketched out character whose robbing and raiding plans more than recall those of Hans Gruber’s.


This Christmas has proved to be a vintage year for alternative horror themed festive flicks. Whilst never reaching the depraved heights of THE LEECH or the grungy slasher stylings of CHRISTMAS BLOODY CHRISTMAS, both released in the same week as this, VIOLENT NIGHT is a more than worthwhile addition to the Christmas gone wrong genre. For a big budget studio release the violence on display is surprisingly no holds barred but its true spirit of Christmas storyline will no doubt ensure an audience looking for something with a little more bite, and bone snapping, than can be found on the Hallmark and Christmas movie channels.


Iain MacLeod.


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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans