VIOLENT NIGHT a Bloody Fun Xmas Gift

The cultural banter over whether Die Hard can be considered a Christmas movie has become more curdled than overnight eggnog. For the record, the 1988 John McTiernan classic isn’t one. Die Hard is an action movie that just happens to take place during the holiday season. You could have set it during a July heat wave and almost nothing besides some quips and the end credits song would’ve changed. 

That being said, what if there was a Die Hard scenario that was so inextricably tied to Christmas in terms of both plot and character that it couldn’t occur otherwise? Enter Tommy Wirkola’s Violent Night.

It’s Xmas #1100 or something for St. Nick (David Harbour) who isn’t feeling so jolly this yuletide as the spirit of Christmas has slowly been replaced by greedy ankle-biters who just want the latest shiny toy, usually a video game. Fed up and liquored up, Santa begrudgingly continues his usual routine while seriously considering making it his last. It may end sooner than he thinks as he finds himself smack in the middle of a home invasion deep in rural Connecticut.

You see, a criminal code-named Scrooge (John Leguizamo) has thrown water on a holiday gathering hosted by wealthy Lightstone family matriarch Gertrude (Beverly D’Angelo) in order to steal $300 million dollars of illicitly-gained cash residing in the family vault. All he lacks is the combination and will torture (usually via nutcracker) whichever family member it takes to extract the information.

While Santa’s first instinct is to fly the coop, his reindeer beat him to the punch after being spooked by gunfire, and after realizing that one of the highest-ranking children on his nice list, Trudy (Leah Brady), is among the captives, the jolly old elf proceeds to unleash an R-rated sack of whoopass on any henchmen who get in his merry way. The naughty list is about to grow longer.

If my enthusiasm for this concept wasn’t already apparent, Violent Night is the finest piece of Yuletide entertainment to come along in some time. The trailer got me excited for a film in a way I hadn’t been in ages, if only because it made the filmmaker of me cry out “I wish I’d thought of that”.

David Harbour strikes the perfect note as a fed-up Santa who has long grown tired of his yearly routine and longs for the simpler days before he took up the mantle, bringing the gritty tenderness of Sheriff Hopper with a dash of Hellboy’s brutality. Leguizimo chews just enough of the scenery without devouring it as the misanthropic gang leader while a devilishly ice-cold D’Angelo banishes any remaining memory Ellen Griswald. I wouldn’t be surprised to find Chevy Chase buried in her backyard.

While the film mimics Santa’s belly by sagging a tad in the middle, it kicks into a delightfully savage final act where the villains get offed in ways that would make both John McClane and Kevin McCallister wince (Trudy gets to join in the fun at one point with some Home Alone-style traps with less cartoony consequences). Yet even with all the blood-stained mayhem (don’t eat red snow), the film still manages to stick the landing with a heart-warming ending worthy of whatever classic is currently playing on the CBC.

The Winnipeg-shot Violent Night combines the best elements of Die Hard, Home Alone, and perhaps even Silent Night Deadly Night into a delicious yuletide treat for those more partial to spice than sugar. It may not become a family holiday classic to watch by the fireside, but will make for a nice chaser after the children are nestled snug in their beds. Then again, it may serve as an unforgettable lesson for them in the necessity of staying off Santa’s naughty list…




Violent Night is currently playing in theatres across the country

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