Have you been naughty this Christmas? Better watch out, because Santa’s coming for you! In all seriousness, despite what some may say, action films can also be Christmas films, for example Die Hard and Batman Returns. And what is a better way to celebrate Christmas other than watching a gory action film starring Chief Hopper from Stranger Things? Violent Night is just that and surprisingly so much more!
Santa Claus (played by David Harbour) is busy drinking his life away on Christmas Eve wondering why he started being the jolly Saint Nick to begin with. After heavy drinking and delivering presents, he stumbles upon a rich and dysfunctional family being held hostage by armed robbers, led by Mr. Scrooge (played by John Leguizamo). Santa accidentally kills one of the robbers and unexpectedly talks to Trudy (played by Leah Brady), a child being held captive. Santa promises her that he will save her and proceeds to rid the mansion of the robbers one by one in a bloody fashion.
When I stepped into the theater to see the film, I didn’t expect much other than an action-packed Christmas film with Santa killing a bunch of bad guys. However, being produced by David Leitch, who also directed Bullet Train, Hobbs and Shaw, and Atomic Blonde in addition to producing the John Wick films, Violent Night is anything but your typical action movie. Filled with realistic, yet stylistic fight choreography and an insane amount of gore (even for a David Leitch production), Violent Night truly lives up to its title. But what made it all the more entertaining is the re-imagining of Santa Claus. His re-imagined origin story reminds me more of the Santa from Rise of the Guardians more than anything else. Despite Santa’s intimidating nature and violent past, he still has heart, especially for kids on his nice list.
Speaking of which, this film has so much more heart than I would’ve expected, embracing its Christmas spirit with the intense amounts of bloody violence. Having Trudy’s and Santa’s friendship at the core of the story and Trudy being Saint Nick’s shining reminder of the good in the world. Showing how strong and needed the power of belief is, especially at the holidays. It’s not even the belief of a higher power or Santa Claus (because Santa is real), but belief in other people and ourselves. It is a strong message anyone can relate to and a message everyone needs in times of struggle or self-destruction.
With a strong message and gratuitous violence these are also some rather strong performances as well. David Harbour is fantastic casting as Santa Claus, bringing a lot of similar characteristics of Chief Hopper over to Violent Night. Portraying a haunting past he’d rather forget and seems to be trying to make it up by being Santa, but uses his naughty skillset to protect one of the nicest children in movies. Speaking of that child, Leah Brady as Trudy is wonderful and quite a menace too. She’s basically Gen Z’s Kevin McCallister, especially with her very own Home Alone sequence. John Leguizamo is also a great antagonist, being a more cartoonish version of Hans Gruber. Leguizamo doesn’t try to be Gruber in any way shape or form, but rather lets his charisma take charge while having fun in the role.
Violent Night will not be everyone’s cup of tea, due to either the violent portrayal of Santa Claus or the violence itself. But it would be extremely shortsighted to not even watching this film because of that, as it has enough holiday cheer to stand with the best holiday classics. The action itself is fantastic, with much appreciation to the amount of gore used. Additionally, the performances are great and help sell the themes of the story. No matter which way you put it, Violent Night will be a future holiday classic for years to come!
Co-Written By: Noah Kloss