Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Clause. His gift for 2022 is a successful mixture of heartwarming Christmas spirit and blood-soaked action that pays homage to the original “Die Hard” and “Home Alone” films. The proof is in the figgy pudding, as Tommy Wirkola’s “Violent Night” blasts across the screen as the most pleasant surprise of this holiday season.
Starring as Santa himself, David Harbour is a delight, using his skills to to craft an endearing character while having a badass and bloody good time.
After an opening sequence that sets the tone for Harbour’s take on Kris Kringle, the scene ends with a very funny gross out gag that lets the audience know what they are in for.
Young Trudy Lightstone (Leah Brady, in a sweet performance) wants her parents Jason and Linda (Alex Hassell and Alexis Louder) to fix their marriage and get back together on Christmas Eve.
The family goes to the ridiculously well-guarded estate of Trudy’s grandmother Gertrude (Beverly D’Angelo), the matriarch of the Lightstone family.
Included in the holiday (not so) celebration is Gertrude’s detestable daughter Alva (Edi Patterson) and her annoying Tik Tok obsessed son Bertrude (Alexander Elliott) and her dumb-as-a-bag-of-hammers actor boyfriend (Cam Gigandet).
The family infighting barely gets a chance to cause wider riffs when a band of armed invaders led by a man known only as Scrooge (John Leguiamo, having loads of fun) arrives looking to procure $300 million believed to be locked away in Gertrude’s supposedly impenetrable safe.
If Leguizamo is this film’s “Hans Gruber”, David Harbour’s Santa is the Yuletide “John McClane”.
St. Nick is far from jolly and completely fed up with the greedy kids of today who have lost the true spirit of the Christmas season.
Definitely a man in the wrong place at the wrong time, Harbour plays Clause as a wounded hero who is forced to off the baddies one by one.
Harbour goes for broke, mixing the pessimism of his “Sheriff Hopper” from “Stranger Things” with the comical brutality of his undervalued turn as “Hellboy”.
This Santa Clause is a vulgar, hard drinking, hero who gets bruised and bloody as he disposes of villains. While communicating with Trudy over walkie-talkies, he is reminded of the innocence in children and regains his hope for Christmas.
Director Tommy Wirkola and screenwriters Pat Casey and Josh Miller give every scene (even the moments of brutality) an infectious comic punch that will have audiences laughing and cheering in equal measure.
While crafting their movie according to the “Die Hard” (and “Die Hard 2”) outline, the filmmakers creatively insert a blood-splattered homage to the “Home Alone” boobytraps, poke fun at schmaltzy holiday films, and even throw in a quick jab at the most annoying line from 2021’s “Halloween Kills”.
This movie should not work. Here is a major December release full of vulgarity, explosions, bludgeoning, gunfire, beheadings, throat slashing, and more, that successfully inserts sweet relationships and a heartfelt message about the true meaning of Christmas.
Through committed filmmaking, a good script, and an all-in performance from David Harbour, “Violent Night” does the impossible.
Written by Pat Casey & Josh Miller
Directed by Tommy Wirkola
Starring David Harbour, John Leguizamo, Leah Brady, Alex Hassell, Alexis Louder, Beverly D’Angelo
R, 112 Minutes, Universal Pictures/87 North