Santa Claus (David Harbour) has been on the job for over 1000 years and the grind is getting to him. Sure he’s still making the rounds dropping off toys each year, but the naughty list (computer tracked now, natch) grows ever longer, belief is down dramatically, and social media has taken its toll. He’s drinking along the way, grabbing the good stuff when he can get it, and wrangling his surly reindeer. When fate intervenes and drops him in the the mansion Jason (Alex Hassell) grew up in and which he has brought his estranged wife Linda (Alexis Louder) and daughter Trudy (Leah Brady) to, that will all change. The mansion is set up for a Christmas party but matriarch Gertrude (Beverly D’Angelo) is about to get robbed by the staff and this is no Christmas Vacation.
Scrooge (John Leguizamo) has a beef with Christmas and he’s bound and determined to take it out on Gertrude’s family, killing off her staff and holding them hostage until he can break into her vault. While the family hopes that a hostage rescue team will come to get them out, Trudy talks with Santa over a walkie talkie about her Christmas wish for a family reconciliation, While santa can’t promise her that mom and dad will get back together, he assures her that he will do his best to save them. Santa calls on his ancient warrior’s training to take on Scrooge’s gang and to deal with even more thugs as they show up.
Turns out that sometimes all you need to have yourself a merry little Christmas is a war hammer, some whiskey and a penchant for violence.
The Production: 3/5
Violent Night is a ridiculous concept that is executed OK. “What if Santa Claus was really John McClane or John Wick?” Meh.
I’m sure it will go on to be one of the most celebrated Christmas movies of all time, unseating Die Hard. Poop jokes, class warfare, a battle hammer and ancient warrior tattoos, this movie has it all.
In its favor, yes stuff does blow up good, the violence IS funny, and the sound is engaging.
On the down side the body count needed to get the Christmas spirit back and flowing is off the charts. Plus the contrived story about whom is stealing from whom lands super flat. I don’t care about Jason, I don’t care about Linda, and we’re supposed to actively root against Gertrude. Good thing the chemistry between Santa and Trudy seems genuine cause that’s the only thread holding this whole thing together. Even Leguizamo is stifled with a contrived vendetta against Christmas that doesn’t even hold up to the one in Gremlins.
Please don’t tell me there will be a sequel.
3D Rating: NA
Violent Night was captured digitally on an Arri Alexa Mini LF with Panavision T-Series Lenses in ARRIRAW(4.5K). It looks great as any 2023 release should. It looks natural with tons of sparkling Christmas details sprinkled throughout, and has a decent HDR pass. Night scenes are stable with no errant noise.
As noted, stuff blows up good and that goes for the Atmos track too. Gunfire and snowmobiles criss cross the room, and at least one icicle stabbing hits with a satisfying glooop. Hammer blows are funny and solid thuds. A variety of Christmas music holds together an otherwise modern take on cheerful holiday soundtrack.
Special Features: 3/5
Deleted and Extended Scenes
Santa’s Helpers: The Making of Violent Night
Deck the Halls with Brawls
Feature Commentary with Director Tommy Wirkola, Producer Guy Danella, Writer Pat Casey and Writer Josh Miller
Still working through these myself, but since I wasn’t that big a fan of the film we will see how far I get into them. For those that did enjoy it there is a lot to be had!
I so wanted to enjoy this film but was stopped cold 15 minutes in knowing “Oh yeah, they are going there, this is supposed to be the real Santa not just a guy who is either just dressed the part or who THINKS he is Santa”. Either one of those options would have made for a much more fun movie IMO. Who wants Santa to be killing guys while an innocent girl who still believes has her life at stake? And if that IS the route you choose to go, why make the villains such buffoons.
Violent Night doesn’t work for me on multiple levels. BUT. Is it entertaining? Yes. Is that enough? Not for me but you may disagree. Maybe let’s say it like this: Violent Night is a fun but ultimately lacking movie.
Sam is both a moderator and reviewer at Home Theater Forum and is the voice behind Home Theater United, the Home Theater Forum Podcast which he started with cofounder Brian Dobbs. Sam has long advocated modest, best “bang for the buck” theater components and is loving every minute of this golden age of home audio-visual magic. Sam is a software engineer, a former volunteer firefighter, a current planning commissioner, leader of a large board gaming group and the personal servant of two tuxedo cats.
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