Charles Merriitt reviews a film that does what it says in the title

Violent Night

Rating: 15

Running time: 1hr 52mins

Genre Christmas Action Thriller

Overview: A depressed Santa Claus finds himself having to save a girl and her family from armed thieves on the night of Christmas Eve.

What you liked: David Harbour as Santa Claus beating up bad guys. That’s how you sell a movie. And, for the most part, Harbour delivers. His scenes are the highlights of the film – especially the ones in which he talks with the little girl he’s trying to save, Trudi. From the very opening scene it’s clear that this version of Santa Claus is not the jolly old fellow that we’ve seen so often portrayed in Christmas films. He’s tired of how spoilt children are these days – consumed by the consumer culture - the joy of giving presents has faded away and he’s ready to call it quits.

This is where the film is at its best. There’s a fun montage in which he is delivering presents (getting drunker with every visit), only to find that the children nowadays just want cash or have ordered everything on Amazon Prime anyway.

There’s clearly an interesting backstory to this version of Santa – there are flashbacks to him being a Viking raider wielding a sledgehammer (just go with it…) and I’m secretly hopeful that they’ll be a sequel in which we discover what made him change from thief to present giver.

What you didn’t like: Besides Santa, Trudi and her parents, the rest of the cast are pretty two dimensional and the dialogue is your typical trying-to-be-edgy, sweary American comedy. I would have liked to have seen some real character arcs from the rest of the family but I don’t think that was on the priority list for the filmmakers…

I’m quite squeamish and there were a few moments where I had to look away from the screen but there weren’t as many as I was expecting.

Although there are some brilliantly inventive fight sequences, there are a couple which seem lazy and violent for the sake of being violent, which is a shame as the others were so good.

Thoughts for parents: Look. If the title and the age rating don’t give it away, this film is very violent. It’s the selling point of the movie. However, it does shine a light on what Home Alone would be like if it were to happen in real life and it isn’t pretty…

Beneath the violence, there are interesting themes that would be worth exploring with your teenagers.

  • What is the point of giving physical presents nowadays when things are, for many, so easily accessible or digital?
  • If you kill Santa Claus, does that really destroy Christmas?
  • What’s the line between self-defence and straight-up torturous murder?

It’s not a deep thinker – don’t think it was ever sold as such – but some of the dialogue does lend itself to be explored on a deeper level than the film ever got to.

3 stars