The Stranger Things actor, David Harbour is breaking out of Hawkins for the holidays. This time around he is playing jolly Ole Nick himself. The fantasy-action flick, Violent Night honestly intrigued us from its witty title to the sheer boldness of its premise which is why we checked it out ourselves to review the film in its entirety here at This is Hype Ph.
Violent Night Review: Synopsis
Christmas is here and Santa Claus has literally come to town. Albeit his disposition this year around isn’t as jolly as it used to be, diving deep into an alcoholic and depressed state over the fact that kids have lost interest and faith in him. While making his rounds, one of his stops is the home of Trudy Lightstone who is spending Christmas with her father and mother, Jimmy and Linda, whose marriage is in shambles as well as the former’s family. Santa’s job in the Lightstone’s mansion should have been an easy one but it all goes awry when a group of violent mercenaries invades the estate to steal the millions of cash that is safely hidden within a secret vault. Santa is therefore caught in the crossfires between the relentless group of highly trained thieves as he fights them off one by one in a gore fest of massive proportions to save the Lightstones and in order to bring back the Christmas cheer and spirit — one kill at a time.
Violent Night Review: Overview
Below are some of the film’s creators, executive producers, and notable cast members:
- Kelly McCormick
- David Leitch
- Guy Danella
- Pat Casey
- Josh Miller
- David Harbour as Santa Claus
- John Leguizamo as Jimmy “Scrooge” Martinez
- Alex Hassell as Jason Lightstone
- Alexis Louder as Linda Matthews
- Edi Patterson as Alva Steele-Lightstone
- Cam Gigandet as Morgan Steele
- Leah Brady as Trudy Lightstone
- Beverly D’Angelo as Gertrude Lightstone
Violent Night Review: Spoiler Warnings
Our review of Violent Night will for the most part be free from spoilers as we will limit our discussion to the Christmas-themed action premise, its utilization of a variety of related stories, and the acting chops of the main cast.
An Odd Premise that Somehow Works
It must be said right off the bat, the premise of Violent Night is just utterly insane and wacky. An action flick, John Wick style, with a fantasy and holiday theme is pretty much as ridiculous as it can get. That being said, it’s bold and silly enough that it somehow still manages to work. Yes, the premise and insertion of Santa as the main star of his own action movie is still ridiculous and I found myself cringing at times. There is however a slight touch of brilliance in how the story plays out. The creativity can be seen from the title alone — a play on the famous Christmas song, Silent Night. It doesn’t consistently get it right all throughout and therefore has its fair share of extreme ups and downs. Overall however the silliness of it all is pretty captivating. There is a great background story within this film that I actually would love to see expounded even more in a separate Viking-themed solo film. There are therefore moments in Violent Night that allow a showcase of creativity to present an interesting plot despite the silliness of the main premise.
In truth, the fantasy elements are quite toned down. We actually lose the magical aspect of Santa in this film as the plot dictates it and instead, the character is actually more human than I expected complete with battle scars and wounds. This film actually shows off more of the humanity of the protagonist than most action films such as Taken, Die Hard, or John Wick. This actually is just the beginning of the inconsistencies in the plot. There are admittedly some loopholes in the mix such as the questionable lack of powers which just suddenly occurs in sporadic and random moments in the movie. This power loophole is actually somewhat of a big deal breaker in my opinion as it negates the intended premise and in turn, we just get a pretty straightforward action gore fest.
There could have been a promising plot direction, to be honest, but it just lacked the clarity of the role of the main character so much so that it doesn’t really differ from just having a mall Santa take the role of this particular Santa. There are also some Christmas-themed morals and an emotional direction that Violent Night tries to accomplish but ultimately fails to be quite honest. It becomes a sappy mess that tries to inject the holiday spirit but ends up being confusing as it goes back and forth through the gore and light-spirited-natured moments. It tries to stand as a hybrid between comedy and action but the comedic scenes aren’t all that effective. It simply is a film that feels to have an identity crisis in its plot leaving a massive hole in the center and in turn affecting the overall consistency of the movie.
A Barrage of Christmas Films and References
Violent Night as mentioned lacks a solidified identity. This much is clear. It at times felt promising as a current or modern version of Die Hard complete with the kidnapping/ransom premise. The Lightstone family however takes the seriousness of it all away as the mix of trying-hard comics make it almost feel like a parody gone wrong. The action scenes however really do make up for it. It has that Die Hard on steroids vibe to it in terms of the action and frankly, the comedy elements could have been left out and would have been a lot better. The action and gore are actually worth the price of admission for Violent Night. The choreography of the sequences is just fantastic to witness as it keeps everything very engaging and different with every scene. There’s variety in the movements and even in the choices of weapons and kills. It’s a full in-your-face blast of pure testosterone when these moments arrive and are enough to keep the film going. It’s also a great sight to see David Harbour wield the sledgehammer which is just a great weapon of choice for the character as it brings out the brute strength and the bigger movements look really phenomenal and almost artistic.
As mentioned the film tries to accomplish a variety of Christmas-themed references from Die Hard to Santa Claus (obviously) and even Home Alone. This however was hands-down one of my favorite moments in the movie. I sat in the cinema imagining the possibility of a studio creating a true-to-life gore-induced version of Home Alone and Violent Night admittedly comes close to starting this possible film. If you grew up watching Home Alone and thinking to yourself while the antagonists come out of each of the traps without bloodshed then Violent Night is the alternative that we all need. The film doesn’t just reference Home Alone it actually uses traps for certain mercenaries and they don’t skimp out on the blood and gore. It’s just so fun and almost nostalgic to see a version of Kevin’s traps that isn’t toned down in terms of its effects. We can finally see blood dripping down as a character steps or slips on a piece of nail. It’s just a very satisfying scene that serves as a modern and unfiltered version of a Christmas classic.
The film, therefore, continues its confusing nature. On one hand, it tries to achieve so much and brings down a variety of references and parody-like moments. Amidst it all, however, Violent Night has some redeeming moments. It simply however lacks consistency
The Ups and Downs of Acting
Speaking of consistency there are some ups and downs in terms of the acting prowess of the cast as well. Let’s talk about the clear highlight — David Harbour. As mentioned, the actor is able to really bring his a-game in terms of the action sequences which are just on-point and well choreographed. He also exhibits a pretty great grasp of the characterization of this version of Santa with enough subtlety to pull off the emotional scenes that require a deep connection to the character’s past. As mentioned, there are moments that push the holiday spirit down our throats but Harbour at times carries it to the best of his ability even having a great connection and chemistry with the child actor, Leah Brady who plays Trudy Lightstone.
Now onto the bad news. There are some performances that are just confusing as well and over the top. There are two that I want to truly focus on which is the father of Trudy played by Alex Hassell and the main protagonist of the film, Jimmy Scrooge Martinez played by John Leguizamo. Hassell has his moments of overacting that at first seemed hilarious but would, later on, turn into something quite annoying and forced as the movie moves along. Leguizamo on the other hand is a very confusing villain that you really can’t take seriously. Even when he explains why he hates Christmas which plays strongly to his name, Scrooge, the character and acting from Leguizamo is ultimately just a confusing mess. He shifts back and forth from a cartoonish character to a serious villain which I couldn’t at all take seriously. His henchmen gave off a more compelling villainous role than he did and therefore his stint as the big boss man was far from believable.
Violent Night Review: Final Verdict
- Fight sequences, gore, and action scenes
- Standout performance: David Harbour
- Confusing and overcrowded plot direction
- Some of the acting choices didn’t make sense
- Contains a couple of plot holes and gaps in the story
Hype Meter: 6/10
I had my fair share of dread and concerns prior to watching Violent Night but after a while, it manages to slightly exceed my low expectations. The premise felt a tad bit on the ridiculous side but it was so in a way that It sort of worked to its advantage. If I were to sum up my review of Violent Night into one word it would be: extremes. The film has its fair share of ups and down so much so that aspects and elements land on two very different sides of the spectrum. The action scenes are just amazing to witness but the story as a whole left more to be desired. There were also great acting performances such as that of Harbour while others fell through the cracks. Violent Night however is still a pretty decent watch but it’s just not a blow-your-mind spectacle that would grant it to be seen again and again. If you’re looking to be entertained then watching the film will be enough to get the job done.
You can still catch Violent Night in select cinemas.