Violent Night Review - IGN

Violent Night Review – IGN

Violent Night hits theaters on December 2, 2022.

It’s the month before Christmas, which brings Violent Night, a rowdy skull-crusher who puts on wild action. Director Tommy Wirkola honors Die Hard and Home Alone with care, with the hope that a barbaric Santa would — just kidding, the rhymes end here. There’s no reason to distract from my excitement for breaking Hallmark holiday traditions and gory fight sequences from the filmmaker behind Dead Snows and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. Violent Night sells its gingerbread-scented hostage scenario with the sass of winter wonderland innocence, then old Saint Nick goes crazy with a sledgehammer warrior.

David Harbor seemingly has fun as Santa Claus, who is currently suffering a crisis of faith due to civilization’s ever-naughty customs. Another year of flying around the world, gifting bratty children’s electronics that will be obsolete in a few weeks – Santa’s Christmas cheer is fading. His next stop? The Lightstone apartment complex, where matriarch Gertrude (Beverly D’Angelo) once again hosts her son Jason (Alex Hassell), daughter Alva (Edi Patterson), accompanying family and all the hired catering help. Santa pops into homemade cookies and vibrates in a fancy massage chair and lives the good life until he hears gunshots. Enter John Leguizam as a criminal who hates Christmas (“Mr. Scrooge,” he tells himself) and is after Gertrude’s vaulted millions, blasting his gun and even threatening Jason’s young daughter Trudy (Leah Brady) – something Santa doesn’t approve of.

Violent Night blackens your average syndicated Christmas drama with the scraps of coal by introducing the Lightstones as dysfunctional elites who have lost their joy with their holly. Alva is a feline alcoholic, her husband Morgan (Cam Gigandet) is a would-be D-list action star looking for producers, and Gertrude’s introduction involves metaphorically roasting senatorial chestnuts without remorse. Violent Night takes Michael Dougherty’s Krampus approach of teaching wholesome holiday lessons with heavy doses of danger, except Violent Night trades the terrifying creatures for crippled henchmen standing within reach of Santa. No monsters, just snarling snow plow blades, icicle points and sharpened skates as Santa’s makeshift arsenal.

Harbour’s transformation into a grizzled, tattooed Santa shows an actor loving every second on screen.

Pat Casey and Josh Miller’s script is aggressively on the nose, evoking influences and narrative beats like Rudolph pointing to his flashing red steak. The scenes don’t just brazenly create Home Alone — the characters say out loud how much the sequence resembles Home Alone. Violent Night lives for the fun of turning famous Christmas carol lines into cringeworthy Santa catchphrases during battle or bastardizing Trudy’s Christmas innocence. The script can read as corny at first, as the momentum takes a few punches to snowball, but then the decapitations begin and Wirkol’s brutal sensibility foreshadows the main seasons’ beatings.

Harbour’s transformation into a grizzled, tattooed Santa shows an actor loving every second on screen. Santa isn’t invincible, nor do they beat the choreographed fight sequences fantastically. Harbor stands as Redwood in his red leather outfit, using everything from electrified star toppers to glitter garlands to get the upper hand against Scrooge’s hired psychopaths (each with cute seasonal code names like Frosty and Jingle). It’s those John McClaneisms like lying calmly exhausted next to dead bodies or the hearty laugh when the soldiers explode after a grenade is stuffed in their “stocking”. Beverly D’Angelo, Cam Gigandet et al play cemented stereotypes, while Harbor reinvents Santa Claus as a muscle-bound action hero with nothing but a twinkling nose magic, an endless bag of toys, and a legible scroll of “naughty” enemy names. Reset is everything Harbor turns rare holiday snaps into harsh mercenary punishment.

With a zip closure, Violent Night would go up a notch. There’s nothing to get excited about when Harbor is off camera. Leguizamo easily copes with the bah-humbug bulletstorm character, but not all of his supporting baddies have the same presence. Harbor is Violent Night’s not-so-secret weapon, which is evident when Wirkola stages a game-changing fight sequence with another Christmas radio hit that ramps up the intensity and sets a new standard moving forward. That’s when Violent Night kicks into high gear, with gory news breaking out and no mercy shown to the nastiest, just as 1989’s Deadly Games transforms from a “playful” Christmas thriller into a suspenseful December war.

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