“Violent Night” – Stupid is as stupid does (or Hopper gets a hammer).
All the information you need to decide if Violent Night is worth your money is right there in the movie poster. It’s like Sharknado. Your initial reaction is either “hell no – that sounds stupid” or “hell yeah – that sounds STOO-pid!” Violent Night is all kinds of stupid.
(SPOILERS – Admit it. You’re curious about what I have to say about an obviously ridiculous movie.)
Before you call me an idiot and remind me that Violent Night isn’t meant to win Oscars, I promise you…I saw the movie poster also. I expected nothing more than Santa covered in the blood of his enemies and the film delivers on that front and then some. But, I also expect movies to at least give the bare minimum of effort on basic filmmaking aspects. Things like casting people who might actually win auditions for a middle school play. Or writing a story using complete sentences. Or not outright stealing parts of other movies and bragging about it in the movie. In other words, at least a shred of competence would have been nice.
David Harbour plays Jim Hopper playing Santa. The real Santa. Reindeer, sleigh, Christmas magic…Santa. This Santa is not the holly, jolly Santa of yore, but a cynical, fed-up, drunk Santa begrudgingly stuffing video games and cash into the stockings of the few children who still believe Santa is real. Eventually, this leads him to the Lightstone family compound to leave a present for young Trudy Lightstone (Leah Brady). Upon arriving, Santa helps himself to some very good scotch and a ride in a massage chair, forgetting about the horrid human race for a moment.
Meanwhile, a group of mercenaries posing as caterers kill the security and household staff guarding the compound, take the Lightstones hostage, all in service of breaking into the super-secure vault in the basement and stealing the $300 million in cash stored there the day before. Sound familiar? Don’t worry. Santa will literally name the movie for you during an upcoming fight scene.
The Lightstones consist of matriarch Gertrude (Beverly D’Angelo), her son Jason (Alex Hassell), Jason’s ex-wife Linda (Alexis Louder) and daughter Trudy, Gertrude’s daughter Alva (Edi Patterson), Alva’s husband Morgan (Cam Gigandet), and their son Bertrude (Alexander Elliot). With the exception of Trudy, the rest of the Lightstones do not matter to the plot at all. Just as one example of the family’s pointlessness in the film, the mercenaries cut all of the communications lines to the compound (so no law enforcement will show up), have a computer nerd/safecracker as part of their team, and they’ve bribed Gertrude’s emergency response team, who also happen to have the key to the vault (needed after they crack the combo). So, why don’t the mercenaries just immediately kill the Lightstones? Because John Leguizamo needs to chew up scenery.
Leguizamo plays Scrooge, the leader of the thieves. When I say he is chewing up his scenes, I mean gnashing through them like a toddler with a cake. Every word out of his mouth is either snarled or spit out. Maybe he did it to distract from the fact that every other actor not named Harbour delivered performances that ranged from forgetting how to act (D’Angelo) to never having learned in the first place (everyone else). Maybe he did it because director Tommy Wirkola refused to cast him as Santa. Or maybe he did it because he also saw the movie poster and truly understood the kind of movie this is.
Unfortunately, the writers (Pat Casey and Josh Miller) didn’t get the memo. When they weren’t blatantly plagiarizing Die Hard 2 and Home Alone, they felt the need to blurt out half-baked and no-baked explanations for several things in the film.
Why would we believe Santa can fight trained mercenaries? He’s a thousand-year-old Viking warrior who swings a sledge hammer really good.
How did he become Santa then? Hey, look over there!
Are those same mercenaries really going to fall for Home Alone-style booby traps? How could they not.
Did the mercenaries forget how guns work? Well, we forgot to have them put different colored tape on the magazines, so…
How does Jason move the money from the vault in a single night with nobody noticing and who helped him? Yes.
If Santa can get hurt and dies, does the person who killed him become Santa? Whoa, heavy.
I’d be lying if I said the movie wasn’t decently entertaining from a brainless standpoint. It’s the kind of movie that is only interested in one thing – racking up a kill count for Santa. Nothing else in the film has to be coherent – and most of it isn’t – it just has to satisfy the audience’s blood lust with lots of death and some unique ways of killing people. I’ll give credit where credit is due. It was silly fun watching Hopper-Santa sledgehammer his way through a dozen inept mercs or shove a Christmas tree star through an eyeball and plug it in or shove a grenade down a guy’s pants, walk away, then matter-of-factly state he has to watch and turn around to watch the guy explode. Did I say silly? That word is stupid. Stupid fun.
Rating: Don’t ask for any money back because you saw the poster too.