VIOLENT NIGHT. Silly, funny and fresh

The film was a pleasant surprise in theaters, earning over seventy million dollars with a budget of twenty million and becoming an artistic success. 


24 December 2023

Christmas movies are usually filled with warmth and joy, and the magic of this specific season spills from the screen, engulfing everything in sweetness and kindness. However, there are quite a few titles that approach the theme in a slightly different way. Take, for example, the comedic horror “Gremlins” by Joe Dante, the first two “Die Hard” films, which are, after all, pure action films, or the boldly humorous “Bad Santa.” Recently, another film joined this group – “Violent Night,” a wild production by Tommy Wirkola, a Norwegian director who specializes in caricatural violence.

The initial idea is as intriguing as it is risky. The writers took the concept from the mentioned “Die Hard” (to the extent that one could almost call it a remake), but instead of a tired, sarcastic, and relentless cop, they turned it into an equally tired and sarcastic… Santa Claus. It sounds exceptionally silly, and it could easily have turned into indigestible gibberish. It is indeed silly, but at the same time, incredibly funny and… charming. Stereotypical, yet surprisingly fresh. Blood flows in streams, bodies pile up, and turning a jolly chubby man in a red suit with a white beard, bleeding, sipping whiskey, swearing, and ready for violence, turned out to be a bullseye. Some unconventional details about his past were also added, fitting well into the overall picture.

The choice of the actor portraying Santa Claus is excellent. David Harbour will probably be forever associated with Sheriff Hopper from Stranger Things, and here, traces of that character are visible, especially in the relationship with a certain little girl. Still, it is evident that the artist was aware of what he was participating in and had a great time on set. As befitting a Christmas film, there are sentimental elements, but they are cleverly woven into the overall narrative. Though theoretically, they should clash and not fit with the rest, they blend perfectly with the other elements. And in the context of a bloody action flick? Even better. Here, everything, from the villains’ pseudonyms to the dynamics in the dysfunctional family held hostage, should be viewed through ironic lenses. Moreover, this approach allows many ideas to pass by without a hitch. For fans of Wirkola, such an approach is not new, as evidenced by his previous film, the (very) dark comedy “Dead Snow.”

In addition to David Harbour, several other familiar faces can be noticed. John Leguizamo plays the antagonist Scrooge, who, while not entering the pantheon of the most memorable villains, proves to be a worthy opponent for Santa. A surprise is Beverly D’Angelo, returning to the Christmas atmosphere – previously seen alongside Chevy Chase in the excellent “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” The henchmen assisting Scrooge are so characteristic and malicious that it’s satisfying to watch Santa eliminate them.

The only thing to nitpick is that in the middle part, “Violent Night” momentarily loses momentum. Fortunately, it quickly regains it in an exceptionally spectacular and inventive way. Trimming about ten minutes could have benefited the overall flow, but it is not a significant flaw to disqualify Wirkola’s work, especially as it stands out with a fresh approach to well-worn themes compared to bland and formulaic Christmas titles.

The film was a pleasant surprise in theaters, earning over seventy million dollars with a budget of twenty million and becoming an artistic success. It’s not surprising that talks of a sequel quickly began. Although the work on it was interrupted by Hollywood strikes, now that they are over, one can expect Santa to soon mete out punishment to the naughty characters on his list again. And rightly so! More of such grotesque, successful parodies of worn-out motifs!



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