When I saw the trailer for Violent Night, a movie about a bad-ass Santa violently murdering bad guys on Christmas eve, every box in my B-movie brain was checked. Ridiculous premise? Check. Mindless but artistic violence? Check. David Harbour as Santa? Check. From the producers of Nobody, which was a fucking masterpiece? Mega-check.
But the actual execution? Wellllll… *half-heartedly checks the box*…
First of all, a bit of fact-finding. When they said ‘from producers of Nobody’, notice that they carefully said ‘producers’ and not ‘the producers’. As in, some people from Nobody worked on this movie. The production designer (Roger Fires) worked on both films, as did a whopping three out of eleven producers from Nobody. Along with five producers who worked on Violent Night and had nothing to do with Nobody.
In other words, most of the producers for Nobody didn’t work on Violent Night, and vice versa. And neither did most of the key people from Nobody: the writer, director, fight coordinator, cinematographer, and editors had nothing to do with Violent Night. So… While it’s TECHNICALLY not false advertising… It’s misleading as fuck…
Speaking of false advertising… The trailer basically depicts David Harbour’s Santa as a drunk war-god hell-bent on brutal, blood-thirsty, tongue-in-cheek Yuletide justice. This is what we call selective editing, because in the actual film, he spends a lot of time moping in between the fights. And he’s not always competent during the fights either.
Other letdowns include, but are not limited to:
- There are so many fucking songs and melodramatic background music for every god-damn scene. Jesus Christ it’s relentless.
- Pretty much every character besides David Harbour sucks. They’re not believable, well-written, or like-able in any sense. I suppose the little girl is the main one we’re meant to root for, and I can overlook her over-eager line-reading because she’s like ten, but nobody else earned my sympathy or a place in my memory.
- Even my boi John Leguizamo can’t salvage his cringe lines – he tries, god bless him, but you can only do so much with shit dialogue.
- Santa’s abilities/powers/limitations are wildly unclear, as is his ridiculous backstory. Which all essentially gets written off with a hand-wave and David Harbour being like, ‘I don’t understand Christmas magic’. It generally plays off Santa stereotypes, but establishing rules of engagement would have been nice.
- I hate when movies reference other movies, and then try to emulate them badly. This one does it explicitly with Home Alone and implicitly with Die Hard. For the love of god just make your own original fucking movie.
- One of the plot twists is utterly preposterous (it’s about the money in the vault, and it’s stupid as fuck). And mind you, this is in a movie about a murderous Santa, which is already riddled with plot holes and implausible fight scenes. I gave it more free passes than I could count, but even I have my limits.
- The writing flips back and forth between fist-pumping satirical violence and eye-rolling Hallmark schlubbery. Which is not an effective combination at all.
Here’s my biggest problem: it had so much potential. The premise is gold, and honestly some of the fight scenes are amazing. They’re actually on the level of Nobody in terms of gleeful, giddy, ironic bloodshed. Or the scenes with David Harbour as an anti-Santa. That shit works.
But everything in between sucks. And of course, audiences will remember the five or six best scenes, and this’ll be a go-to Christmas favorite in ten, twenty years. Mark my words. It’s already the talk of the season – my co-workers wouldn’t shut up about it, and I’m sure it’ll crush the box office because of the deceptive marketing and just-good-enough critic’s reviews. But it could’ve been so much better… What a wasted opportunity to be the next great anti-establishment Christmas movie.
Rating: 5.2 / 10
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