Violent Night is certainly going to please action fans wanting a drizzling of blood on their Christmas pudding this season.
WRITTEN BY JACK RANSOM / DECEMBER 5, 2022
Dashing through the snow, covered in bad guy blood. Violent Night sees a team of elite mercenaries break into a wealthy family compound on Christmas Eve, taking everyone inside hostage. But the team isn't prepared for a surprise combatant: Santa Claus (David Harbour).
Despite how fun the trailer for this looked, I did feel a lingering sense of skepticism due to the runtime (considering the central gimmick of the flick) and the potential to simply fall into the John Wick rip-off’ pile. My worries were quickly squelched from the opening sequence as a drunk Santa sits at a bar in Bristol descending into a Joker-esque societal rant, before exiting on his sleigh…and vomiting on the bartender.
This sets the tone for Violent Night effectively. It is a surprisingly mean spirited and home invasion outing at points. Yet, it undeniably has a beating heart at the centre and boasts a positive message to always keep the Christmas spirit alive. The 112 minute runtime isn’t a hindrance as I feared it might be: with an unexpected (and welcome) peak into the lore and backstory of St. Nick and time spent with the gleefully back-stabby and money hungry Lightstone family bolstering the premise. Admittedly, both the home invasion angle and the ulterior motivations and reveals aren’t anything you haven’t seen before, but they work for film.
Seasonal beatings are delivered in gloriously brutal fashion here. Extended long take brawls, improvisational weapons and “Santa magic” combine to craft many a grin inducing moment. However, it is the absolutely visceral shed sequence that goes down as one of the best action set pieces of the year and the all to familiar Home Alone inspired gory trap set-up is a blast. There is some noticeable CGI blood, but honestly it really doesn’t take away from the savagery and schlock factor.
David Harbour is clearly having a great time here. His physicality, demeanour and line delivery are spot on. His rants about the kids’ present requests, Amazon deliveries and his tough love with the reindeer’s are all chuckle worthy. John Leguizamo might be the highlight as “Mr. Scrooge”. A truly nasty piece of work, with his utter disdain for Chrimbo and greed driven violence elevating a typical villain archetype. Leah Brady brings her child perspective on Christmas to add the emotional beats to the film and (some of) the Lightstone adults are all gleefully scummy and hammy in their performances.
Violent Night is certainly going to please action fans wanting a drizzling of blood on their Christmas pudding this season. Harbour and Leguizamo crush it, *that* shed set piece is a triumph and the implementation of Santa mythology is fun. It does tick off nearly every single trait within this genre niche, the character archetypes are familiar and not every gag always lands. However this is an absolute riot for the most part.