This movie had no right to be as good as it was.
Violent Night was falling into that category of films that take one of the beloved characters and make them a vicious killer. We had one with Winnie the Pooh this year and there is a Grinch one coming up. Neither look to be much more than what you expect. Violent Night, however, takes the premise and expands upon it with a lot of heart and more character depth than I ever thought there would be.
Santa Claus (David Harbour) is dejected and depressed, taking a break from Christmas Eve at a local bar, knocking back some beers. He had become disgruntled with the world and the attitudes of the children at Christmas time. He is seriously considering hanging up the sleigh bells.
Meanwhile, the wealthy and rotten family of the Lightstone clan were meeting for their annual Christmas Eve get together. Young Trudy (Leah Brady) is the light of the group and just wished that her father Jason (Alex Hassell) and mother Linda (Alexis Louder) would just be back together. Meanwhile Jason’s sister (Edi Patterson) was hoping to suck up to their mother and head of the Lightstone family business Gertrude (Beverly D’Angelo).
Unfortunately for the Lightstone family, a crew of thieves, led by Mr. Scrooge (John Leguizamo), arrive at the Lightstone mansion ready to steal a load of money in the safe inside the house. The take the Lightstones hostage and Santa, who happened to be at the house at the same time, gets caught in the crossfire.
David Harbour is perfectly cast as the downtrodden St. Nick. He delivered the requisite puns with a serious tone, making them all the more outlandish. Harbour and Leah Brady, who is fantastic as Trudy, have an easy connection that is as believable as anything in this over-the-top movie. That connection between Santa and the child is at the heart of the film.
Speaking of heart, Violent Night had way more heart than I ever expected it to have. Is there violence? Absolutely. A ton of it. And really creative and awesome fights, but what made this movie more than just another action movie was the Christmas magic that the film rightly used. The script was really smart and I believed everything that these characters were going through. These characters made sense and their motives were clear and easy to follow.
I have to say that I even fought off a few tears in the third act. I sat in the theater telling myself that I was not going to cry in Violent Night.
This film is a combination of Die Hard with Bad Santa. What if John McClane was a Santa Claus instead of a cop?
No spoilers, but… Skullcrusher… yeah, baby!
Violent Night had all the best parts of a revenge thriller and a family Christmas redemption tale. Ho ho ho.