It’s Christmas Eve, and Santa (David Harbour) is in town, ready to deliver another round of presents to all the lovely children. However, Santa’s mood is at an all-time low. Santa isn’t feeling his jolly self, leading him to get drunk at a local bar and express his frustration and disappointment to one and all. Nevertheless, he has a job to do and flies into the night sky in an attempt to bring joy and be merry once again.
At the same time, the Lightstone family are coming together for Christmas. The Lightstones are wealthy and live in their home, located within a secure compound. There are several conflicts and unsettled feelings within the family, and siblings are bickering and arguing over matters such as money and future inheritances. Soon, a group of skilled mercenaries led by Scrooge (John Leguizamo) break into the compound and hold the family hostage for a large fortune. At the same time, Santa happens to be delivering presents. Aware of the intrusion, Santa will now do everything he can to protect those who are good and take on those who are truly bad.
Violent Night is a comedic film with intense moments of gritty action and shocking violence. David Harbour is excellent as Santa Claus and delivers beautiful moments of witty comedy, heartfelt dialogue and action sequences that are so wild it’s impossible not to laugh out loud. No death is predictable and is always done in a manner designed to shock and surprise. John Leguizamo is outstanding as the main villain and easily carries some of the best lines of dialogue throughout the feature. Actress Leah Brady is also a major highlight.
The film makes various nods and references to many other popular Christmas movies, including Die Hard and, let’s not forget, the most excellent Christmas film that ever existed- Home Alone. The musical score is touching and wonderful and, again, feels familiar. Despite this familiarity, the film acknowledges and embraces this aspect which I appreciated. The visuals are great, and I found the moments of violence, effects and costumes to be ‘jolly’.
While there is so much fun to be had, there are a few problems. The plot takes some time to get underway. Most side characters are insanely childish and unlikeable, including one grown adult who only recently discovered that Santa isn’t real. On top of that, the editing and cuts leave some gaps in the storyline. I found myself distracted trying to understand how certain moments occurred and wondered if I had missed something. While moments of action are impressive and pleasing, I did spot the use of a stunt double in critical moments, which, again, takes away any joy and inserts a moment of disappointment.
Overall, embracing films like Die Hard and Home Alone leads to Violent Night having multiple jolly moments, leaving audiences laughing out loud. David Harbour is excellent as Santa, and his comedic timing, heartfelt moments and action are all on point. John Leguizamo is fantastic as the villain and delivers many excellent lines of dialogue with perfect comedic timing. Violence, gore, and many horrific deaths were pleasing. However, I can’t deny the biggest let down were the weak side characters and continuity errors that became distracting. But it’s the season to forgive, and this film is still rewarding, just like a freshly baked batch of cookies with a glass of milk (non-skim, full cream).