For me, the trailer for Violent Night has got to be one of the best of the year. Presenting us with a Die Hard style story, featuring David Harbour as Santa Claus having to take out a bunch of bad guys in gloriously violent fashion on Christmas night, it just had me jumping for joy. Definitely my kind of Christmas movie. I did have a small concern that all the best bits had been shown in the trailer, as is usually the case these days, and that there was likely to be a load of naff filler in between. But, while that certainly did prove to be a little true, Violent Night still manages to be one hell of an enjoyable ride, and one that’s best enjoyed on the big screen during the festive period.
We first meet Santa (Harbour) as he’s drowning his sorrows in a bar, feeling grumpy and disillusioned with Christmas. To the barmaid, and the store Santa sitting alongside him, this is just another average guy in a Santa costume, complaining about how greedy kids have become and contemplating this being his last Christmas. But a few parting gifts that he leaves for the barmaid (one nice, one definitely not so nice) tell us that this guy is definitely the real deal.
When we join Santa again he’s in the middle of a delivery to the lavish home of the Lightstone family, where he is enjoying some tasty homemade cookies that were left for him, along with some expensive alcohol that was not. We’ve already been introduced to the Lightstone clan, most of whom are pretty unpleasant people and are all gathered together for Christmas. The family matriarch is Gertrude (Beverly D’Angelo), with grown-up children Alva (Edi Patterson) and Jason (Alex Hassell). Joining Alva are her movie star boyfriend Morgan (Cam Gigandet) and social media influencer son Bert (Alexander Elliot). Far less obnoxious are Jason’s estranged wife Linda (Alexis Louder) and their young daughter Trudy (Leah Brady). Alva and Morgan appear to be visiting Gertrude to see how much of her vast wealth they can acquire, while Jason has other plans that are revealed as the movie progresses.
As well as the extended Lightstone family, there are also some uninvited guests that are paying Gertrude a visit, guests who have their sights set on the huge Lightstone fortune which is stashed away in a state-of-the-art vault. Led by self-proclaimed Mr Scrooge (John Leguizamo), the team of thieves hold the family hostage in the living room while they attempt to gain access to the vault. However, during the initial chaos, the sound of gunfire scares away Santa’s reindeer, who were up on the roof, leaving Santa stranded. And when Trudy manages to make contact with Santa using a walkie-talkie that her dad had told her was a direct line to Santa, he reluctantly decides to stick around and help. Turns out that Trudy is on his nice list, while Scrooge and co. are all on the other list.
If you got Die Hard vibes from the trailer, then you’re going to get a whole lot more from seeing this movie, there’s even a brief mention of that classic at one point while Santa is merrily dishing out some seasons beatings. He moves through the rooms and grounds of the house, battling the henchmen with some unexpected and ingenious weaponry and well-choreographed combat, often accompanied by a nice Christmas tune, which is a nice touch. Not only are there serious Die Hard feels in Violent Night, but there’s also a good dose of John Wick and, best of all, Home Alone. Having seen Home Alone the night before, Trudy decides to help out Santa by recreating some of the booby traps that Kevin McAllister is famous for. Only in this movie, the traps are a lot more dangerous, a lot bloodier, and very entertaining to watch.
David Harbour makes for a great Santa. We’re already accustomed to his action-centric roles in movies such as Black Widow and Extraction, not to mention his humour, and it’s great to see him giving us a fresh new take on the legend of Santa. There’s a flashback glimpse at the Viking warrior he was before becoming Santa, along with talk of a Mrs Claus, and while there was already more than enough going on in this movie, it would have been nice to explore the backstory of this particular Santa a little more. Hopefully, we’ll get some more of that in a sequel. What we do learn from his past is that before becoming Santa, he was particularly handy with a rather large hammer nicknamed “Skullcrusher”, and when he does get his hands on a hammer in a Lightstone outbuilding… well, that’s when Santa Claus goes to town!
The only thing that does let Violent Night down is that naff filler that I mentioned earlier. There’s nothing particularly special about the story and it’s really all about the Santa violence, which it delivers by the sackful. Unfortunately though, we do spend too much time with the Lightstone family, none of which are particularly interesting, and this results in a huge loss in momentum on more than one occasion. Despite that, I had an absolute blast watching Violent Night, and will definitely be adding it to my watchlist of alternative Christmas movies.
Web developer by day, with a movie and TV watchlist that continues to grow as much as my spare time reduces! My favourite movie is Inception and, despite what everyone says, I do not have a man-crush on Tom Cruise.