Here comes Santa Claus. He’s got a sleigh full of presents, a big red coat, and a war hammer covered in the blood of his victims. Ho ho ho! A combination of candy-cane sweet festivities and lashings of fatalities, Violent Night follows in the tracks of Bullet Train, as the latest stunt-spectacular from David Leitch’s 87North Productions, with Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters) guiding the sleigh this time.
Stepping into the boots and beard, as a Nordic warrior turned immortal gift giver, is a charmingly grizzly David Harbour. His Claus has beer on his breath, vomit in his bristles and a hatred for cash presents, Amazon deliveries and apostatising children. This Santa is cynical, but when one of his drop-offs lands him in the middle of a home invasion at a wealthy matriarch’s estate, it might just bring him back to his jolly old self.
There’s a thrill in watching Harbour’s Santa tear through the invaders.
Held hostage, the volatile Lightstone family are sitting on a vault full of cash: cash that a scenery-chewing, indigestibly-trite John Leguizamo villain wants to get his hands on. When granddaughter Trudy (a charming Leah Brady) escapes their clutches, she partners with Santa to stop the baddies and perhaps spark some Christmas joy that could unite her family.
There’s a thrill in watching Harbour’s Santa tear through the invaders, utilising pool balls, darts and a star ornament to illuminatingly gruesome effect, so it’s frustrating when the story pivots to the Hallmark family reunion, which unnecessarily bulks things out. Harbour is excellent, authentically wheezing around like a man who’s had centuries of global celebration on his shoulders. He’s a gift compared to the villains: an annoying, quippy bunch who desperately want to be Hans Gruber, and think escalating edgy expletives will make up for their coal-lump charisma. It’s a pleasure to see them despatched, but for every abominable use of an ice skate blade, there’s some dull family drama to sludge through and the joyfully macabre fun melts away into unfortunate mundanity.