Well, another Christmas season is drawing to a close so this will be the last review for Holiday-Palooza for a while. Because we only look at holiday films during the month, I wonder if I should review more “classic” Christmas movies for Holiday-Palooza. The word “classic” is in quotation marks as I’m talking about some holiday themed movies like Die Hard. I really should and maybe I will someday in the future. But, for this year, there isn’t really a need to do so as one was released just recently. And it’s going to be really hard to dispute that it’s a Christmas themed movie because it has Santa Claus in it! I’m, of course, talking about Violent Night.
As this movie was just released this year and only recently made available on streaming services, I’m going to keep this review for Violent Night SPOILER FREE. Some may have not seen this as there were bigger movies on the horizon when it was in theaters and it was released just after Christmas. So, yeah. SPOILER FREE review here.
Violent Night takes place on Christmas Eve. Santa Claus has gotten weary of his task of delivering presents to all the good little boys and girls as the list of nice children has been dwindling. He’s gotten to the point when he wonders if it’s all worth it. As he’s delivering gifts to the Lightstone residence, armed robbers invade the compound in an attempt to rob the family living there. Santa Claus initially decides to try to leave the place but, when he notices that one of the kids on the Nice list is being held hostage, he decides to stay and face off against the invading force.
If that plot summary sounds suspiciously like Die Hard, you’re not alone. It’s basically Die Hard with Santa Claus and, honestly, it’s kind of hard to believe that nobody’s thought of this before. I mean, there’s always been a lot of debate whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie or not. Well, it’s much harder to dispute that Violent Night is one because it has freaking Santa Claus! Sure, he’s doing more than leaving a lump of coal to the naughty boys and girls. But it’s still him!
I do feel a little bad saying Violent Night is just “Die Hard with Santa Claus” because there’s more to the film than that. It feels like a throwback to ’90s styled action movies with over-the-top villains and weird comedic relief. Not only that, there’s even a Home Alone sequence which shows what would really happen if someone actually implemented those “playful” traps in real life. It’s gruesomely delightful and funny.
As this is a pastiche of old ’90s action flicks, a lot of the acting can come off as a little cheesy or everyone does behave in a very stereotypical manner. This is both a good and a bad thing. It’s bad because a lot of the supporting cast can lean right into overacting. This is especially true for most of the family members being held hostage throughout the film. They all behave in a very trite and unrealistic manner, which did get on my nerves after a while. Even the little girl, who is the main reason why Santa Claus does stick around, goes a step over the line from charming naivety to sappy annoying. Which is why, strangely enough, I found myself more drawn to the main baddie’s henchmen because, while you’ve seen these kinds of villains in other movies before, at least they had funny Christmas themed codenames.
The main exceptions regarding the cheesy acting would be David Harbour as Santa Claus and John Leguizamo as the leader of the robbers, Mr. Scrooge. David Harbour has to do a good amount of emoting here as Santa Claus has to go through some tough times, both physically and emotionally, as he just feeling the spirit of the holidays anymore. John Leguizamo’s Mr. Scrooge might come off as as the fairly generic villain but you can tell he’s having a blast with the role and it shows on the screen. Both of them generally carry the film, which is apt as they are the most important people in the movie.
While the premise of Santa Claus going all John McClane on gun totting mercenaries is a brilliant concept, I do wish the overall story was a little better. They do try to add a few twists and turns to the overarching story and they even give Santa Claus a more fleshed out history why he’s such a badass here. It’s just not implemented all that well, making the overall journey from start to end feel a little flat.
However, this is basically an action movie and we all just want to see Santa kick some ass. And, thankfully, the fight scenes in Violent Night are pretty thrilling, if not a little more gory than you would expect. Santa Claus does go to town on the villains here and he beats them down with some real visceral flair. The one that really sold me on how good the action choreography here is the first big fight scene as it was mostly one long take without any cuts. The blocking and execution of it was fantastic as it was very fluid and it didn’t feel like they were stopping for each other’s cues or anything like that. The rest of the action scenes don’t do the one take technique but they’re all creative in their own ways.
Another thing I did notice were all of the neat little musical cues throughout the movie as they pay homages to, you guessed it, Die Hard and Home Alone. They’re not copies or sound-alikes exactly but they do have the same tonal flair and they’re placed just when you’d expect them to happen. I really like this little attention to detail because, well, if you’re gonna ape Die Hard and Home Alone, you might as well do the same with the musical score.
I really liked Violent Night. While the overall story does come off as somewhat disappointing, the overall execution of the action way more than makes up for this. The concept of Santa Claus bringing a season’s beatings to bad guys is an incredible idea and the gory action is just too good. David Harbour and John Leguizamo pull of some mighty fine performances here as the main protagonist and antagonist, infusing them with a certain whimsical yet dour character traits. I’m honestly thinking if I should put this in my yearly rotation of Christmas movies to watch each and every holiday season. It’s that good.
Have you seen Violent Night? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!