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Violent Night

  • Film
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
Violent Night
Photograph: Universal Pictures

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

David Harbour’s Santa Claus is less ‘ho-ho-ho’, more ‘ho-ho-holy shit’ in this gory actioner

There’s a fine tradition of Christmas-set action movies, thanks mainly to the entire career of Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Last Action Hero: all Christmas movies) and, of course, Die Hard. But Santa himself rarely gets in on the action. Until now, at least. In this fun action-thriller, David Harbour’s Santa is less Saint Nick and more John Wick.

The Lightstone family, including dad (Alex Hassell), his estranged wife (Alexis Louder) and their adorable daughter (Leah Bradley), arrive home to his family estate for Christmas. His outrageously rich and powerful mother Gertrude (Beverly d’Angelo, in a witty nod to Christmas Vacation) rules the family with an iron wallet, but she’s targeted by a thief calling himself ‘Scrooge’ (John Leguizamo) and his goons. Luckily for the Lightstones, midway through delivering their presents, Santa (Harbour) has collapsed in a disillusioned, drunken stupor upstairs. Moved by the youngest Lightstone’s plight, he tools up to take on the thieves.

There are over-familiar touches of Bad Santa, and it’s yet another Christmas story about the problems of a super-rich kid, which is perhaps not the most relatable option these days. But Dead Snow director Tommy Wirkola keeps it all moving briskly, and there are some hilariously inventive deaths involving beloved Christmas paraphernalia.  

You’ll never look at nutcrackers the same way again

But Harbour is enormous fun as Santa, equally at home with scurrying away in panic, drunkenly reeling about or unleashing a long-buried Viking avenger on everyone on his naughty list. Amid the outrageous gore, Violent Night even manages to say the right things about the Christmas values of kindness, solidarity and looking out for your family. Just be prepared never to look at those nutcrackers the same way again.  

In cinemas worldwide Dec 2.

Helen O’Hara
Written by
Helen O’Hara

Cast and crew

  • Director:Tommy Wirkola
  • Screenwriter:Josh Miller, Pat Casey
  • Cast:
    • David Harbour
    • John Leguizamo
    • Beverly D'Angelo
    • Cam Gigandet
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