By: Amanda Guarragi
The only Christmas movies that have made any chatter have been from Netflix for a while now. The last one that was produced and released in theatres was Last Christmas and The Night Before; no studio has taken a gamble with a holiday film. Streaming services have had a good time producing these films; many like to cozy up with a cheesy Christmas film on a cold winter’s night. So, major studios haven’t been looking to produce a Christmas project because these films haven’t been doing well in theatres until now. Universal presents Violent Night with David Harbour as Santa Claus, as he tries to protect a young girl on his nice list from thieves who want to take money from her wealthy family. It’s a wild Christmas Eve at the Lightstone house, and only one person can save them through the magic of Christmas. Some mercenaries hold the family hostage, and the hopefulness of the Holiday season feels lost. This film makes you feel like a kid again with the power of believing in Santa. A wave of nostalgia is seen through the eyes of young Trudy (Leah Brady) as the story switches focus to what matters.
When a wealthy, dysfunctional family comes together on Christmas Eve, there are bound to be some personalities to play with. Co-writers Pat Casey and Josh Miller took the best aspects of Home Alone, Die Hard, and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation to make a fun original story that will become an instant Holiday classic. Director Tommy Wikola did not hold back during the action sequences because it works with Santa’s abilities. Those fight scenes had inventive choreography that used any Holiday decoration they could find. On top of that, the jokes all landed, and every member of this cast delivered the lines effortlessly. Not only was this wickedly funny, but it was entertaining the whole way through. It was fun to see Beverly D’Angelo back on screen doing what she does best and answering everyone with a snarky remark. The one standout, apart from Harbour, was John Leguizamo as Scrooge. He came in guns blazing and delivered his lines so harshly that it was impossible not to laugh at the one-liners Casey and Miller came up with.
Habour gives us one of the best versions of Santa Claus because he’s the most grounded and realistic. They decided to give him a backstory to explain his fighting reflexes, which worked to show that everyone has some good in them. The reason why Harbour worked so well is because of the history he already has with audiences. Being the father figure in Stranger Things has already given audiences that comfort in seeing him, which translates to him being a believable Santa. Harbour embodied jolly old Saint Nick in two ways; the grumpy man tired of delivering presents to ungrateful children and the cheery, hopeful Santa who uses his Christmas magic for some good. To mirror Santa, young Trudy pulls a page out of Kevin McAllister’s handbook and has some fun. Of course, those scenes are a bit more graphic in this film, but the anticipation of the boobytraps working made it one of the best sequences. The tag team of a young girl believing in Santa is what he needed to restore his faith in the holiday.
Violent Night is one of the best films of the year. It is an incredibly entertaining Christmas film that will become a classic. Harbour and Leguizamo are incredible in this and have a playful banter when they encounter each other. Some cheesy lines are said by Santa and Scrooge, which adds to the wackiness. The script may seem a bit predictable, but the humour makes this so refreshing. It’s also heartfelt when the Lightstone family finally understands that money isn’t everything and that remaining hopeful for the people you love is more than enough to keep anyone going. The action scenes are the most impressive because of the objects used. It’s almost shocking to see such a lighthearted Christmas film so graphic and bloody. Every time it gets too sentimental, there’s a brutal action scene to remind audiences that it’s a fast-paced action movie. Even though it references other Holiday films, it still does something special with Santa Claus, and that’s because Harbour makes him so likeable.