Violent Night review: David Harbor in a gory action Christmas comedy

The now age-old joke about the kind of pitches film executives respond to (“It’s ‘Avengers 2’…meets ‘Glass Onion’!”) is really about what audiences are responding to. was those who like our special sauce tacos stuffed in a bacon burger topped with a pizza bun. And Violent Night is a film that takes viewers’ oversized appetites seriously. The title might have you expecting a holiday horror movie starring Santa as a wacky slasher — but you know, we’ve been there and eaten that. In Violent Night, David Harbour, that jovially quirky actor from Stranger Things and the 2019 reboot of Hellboy, actually plays a dissolute Santa who cruises through Christmas on a pile of Christmas cookies and random alcohol, pees and throws up from the side of his sleigh – but we’ve also tasted this fast-food combo in movies like Bad Santa.

To whet the weary taste buds of today’s vacation movie audience, you need a piece of entertainment that packs a punch combine flavors. So consider this: a comedy about a filthy rich family whose members can’t stand each other but nevertheless gather on Christmas Eve in Greenwich, Connecticut, the mansion of their misanthropic matriarch Gertrude Lightstone (Beverly D’Angelo). for a little forced holiday cheer. Before the celebrations have even started, they are attacked by a ruthless team of intruders led by a psycho calling himself Scrooge (John Leguizamo). He sets the tone with a hearty “Bah humbug, motherfucker!” and the foul Christmas spirit escalates from there.

Scrooge, who’s been dressing up the place for months, knows there’s $300 million hidden in the vault underneath, and he’s arranged for everyone – catering staff, security guards – to work for him in secret. What he didn’t expect is Santa Claus making his annual Christmas pit stop. Santa Claus is a bit of a Scrooge himself: a drunk and a curmudgeon who can’t get over the consumer-oriented zombies that today’s children have become. But he also has special powers. Do I mean his ability to glide up and down chimneys with a twinkling twitch of his nose? Or the golden digital scrolls he unfolds with a list of what each child has done naughty or nice? Certainly all of that.

More often than not, however, this Santa is a badass gun welder. He’s many centuries old and, in classic Kris Kringle fashion, started out as a sort of down-to-earth Scandinavian Viking warrior. Now he’s like a member of the Expendables, taking down enemies with old-fashioned brutality. When he grabs a giant metal hammer, he becomes a death wish version of Thor. But since Violent Night is a Christmas movie, it’s all fun! Especially when Trudy (Leah Brady), the tween daughter of Jason (Alex Hassell), the only honorable member of the Lightstone clan, “Home Alone” goes medieval on the asses of the home invaders. Ladders are booby-trapped so throats are pierced with nails; heads are scalped; the pain is brought. As someone might put it in a movie like this: I’m talking about that. Or maybe I should just say have a bloody little gonzo action Christmas.

For the past week, everyone in the entertainment media, including myself, has been writing hand-wringing articles about how the acclaimed awards films are all fizzled out at the box office. One after the other, “Tár”, “The Banshees of Inisherin”, “She Said”, “Triangle of Sadness” and “Till” crawl to a gross profit of maybe $10 million. (“The Fabelmans,” with a higher-profile pedigree, will likely sneak up to $20 million.) We know this is the age of Marvel, so Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is the triumphant counterexample. But even in 2022, people are not doing that only Go to Marvel Movies. One of the things that has defeated adult moviegoing is an insatiable hunger for outrageous junk food like “Violent Night.” The film has no comic hook; It’s a trash compactor genre buffet that smashes together a dozen things you’ve seen before. but This is the hook. “Violent Night” is amusing at some points, tiring at more than a few others, but to complain about it the way I do would come across as morose. It’s a film that feeds the beast.

David Harbor exudes an air of sympathy, and that makes him the right actor to play a down-at-heel Santa Claus out for revenge, who beneath his blood-flecked gray locks is really the Christmas man we wish he was. John Leguizamo, as always, refuses to call anything; As a sociopath Scrooge who hates Christmas, he breaks any obscenity. Beverly D’Angelo, Edi Patterson and Cam Gigandet play the rest of the Lightstone clan as the walking terrors of high camp, and Alexis Louder as Jason’s estranged wife brings a lonely note of stubborn sanity to the action. With an action-thriller soundtrack set around themes of classic Christmas carols, Violent Night is a thought-provoking film: what’s next, Massacre on 34th St.? Christmas movies, like all Hollywood pulp, build on each other, and maybe this is just another Age of Nothing holiday mishmash, but depending on how it performs, “Violent Night” could open the door to a new kind of seedy Christmas/ Action hybrid. Imagine hearing lines like “Bless us all, motherfuckers!” The possibilities are endless. Violent Night review: David Harbor in a gory action Christmas comedy

Charles Jones

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