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‘Violent Night’ review

If you threw ‘Die Hard’ into a blender with ‘Santa Claus: The Movie’ and ‘Home Alone’, you’d get ‘Violent Night’ – a ludicrously entertaining yuletide actioner that succeeds on all fronts. In a time when Christmas movies are a dime a dozen, ‘Violent Night’ manages to deliver seasonal cheer aplenty, along with a joyfully-festive big screen theatrical experience – something that we’ve come to miss in recent years. Managing to balance comedy and carnage in equal measure, ‘Violent Night’ is a blockbuster you’ll not want to miss.

Leading the line is ‘Stranger Things’ superstar David Harbour – perfectly cast I might add – as Santa Claus, who is having a crisis of faith as another Christmas Eve beckons. With kids seemingly missing the whole point of Christmas and not believing in the magic anymore, Santa feels like it might be the right time to hang up his boots and retire for good. That is until a twist of fate places him inside a huge mansion delivering gifts just as terrorists take over the house. Led by Mr. Scrooge (John Leguizamo), these criminals are after a huge stash of cash held in the vault of its owner, billionaire businesswoman Gertrude Lightstone (Beverly D’Angelo). With her dysfunctional family over for the holidays, the criminals hold them all hostage. That is, until Santa intervenes to try and save the day.

The premise for ‘Violent Night’ is so simple but it’s so effectively done that you’ll have a blast throughout the trim 1hr 41min runtime. Lean and to-the-point, without wasting a frame, ‘Violent Night’ entertains throughout thanks largely to David Harbour’s excellent portrayal of Santa Claus. This is violent in the best possible ‘Tom & Jerry’ way, but Harbour never loses that sweet Santa personae even when he’s beating people up with a bag of snooker balls, shoving tree-top stars into eyes or blowing up gunman with grenades. It’s actually quite a hard thing to pull off! Perhaps it’s the power of the suit, but Harbour is one of the most beloved versions of old St. Nick that we’ve ever had onscreen.

His chemistry with Leah Brady as Trudy Lightstone is also a big reason why the film succeeds as a proper Christmas movie too. Brady is a delight as the young granddaughter of Gertrude. She still believes in the magic of Christmas and Santa Claus, and becomes his partner in crime as he clears the mansion of bad guys. They are a great double act who spend most of the film communicating via walkie-talkies (just like in ‘Die Hard’), and there’s a genuine sweetness between Harbour and Brady’s performances that gets the audience fully invested into the plot.

The ensemble round this off brilliantly, with each of the characters having some truly hilarious moments and some killer one-liners (as all good action movies should). John Leguizamo elevates everything he’s in and makes for an excellent bad guy. Comedy legend Beverly D’Angelo, (who is already a Christmas tradition in her own right after starring in the timeless classic ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’) steals her scenes as Gertrude Lightstone. Her absolute distain for her family is wonderful to see. Edi Patterson and Alex Hassell shine as bickering siblings Alva and Jason Lightstone, and Cam Gigandet sends himself up hilariously as vain B-list action star Morgan who has married into the family.

There’s also strong support from Alexis Louder as Trudy’s mom Linda, who is estranged from Jason. Alexander Elliot plays Alva’s brattish teen-influencer son Bertrude and is very funny in the role. Most of the terrorists also have their moment to shine, with Brendan Fletcher a joy as the wickedly deranged elf Krampus. Mitra Suri and André Eriksen share, perhaps, the best scene of the film which features Trudy going full Macaulay Culkin on their arses in a brilliant homage to Home Alone. There are bowling balls, rusty nails and plenty of pratfalls to keep the audience entertained.

‘Violent Night’ is full of festive fun and carnage, and a true seasonal delight. It takes the best from a lot of classic Christmas films and adds a dash of comedy to make it all work really effectively. And the best thing is that this concept could easily run for more movies. Place David Harbour’s Santa in more wacky and crazy adventures across numerous Christmas Eve scenarios and I think you have a recipe for some box office gold. ‘Violent Night’ is a perfect piece of escapist fun this holiday season and will guarantee you a very jolly Christmas.  

Cast: David Harbour, John Leguizamo, Leah Brady, Beverly D’Angelo, Alex Hassell, Edi Patterson, Cam Gigandet, Alexis Louder, Alexander Elliot, Brendan Fletcher, Mitra Suri, André Eriksen Director: Tommy Wirkola Writer: Pat Casey, Josh Miller Certificate: 15 Duration: 101 mins Released by: Universal Release date: 2nd December 2022

Jason Palmer
Jason Palmer
Jason is a film contributor for Entertainment Focus (EF) bringing you the latest news and reviews from the movie world.

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If you threw ‘Die Hard’ into a blender with ‘Santa Claus: The Movie’ and ‘Home Alone’, you’d get ‘Violent Night’ – a ludicrously entertaining yuletide actioner that succeeds on all fronts. In a time when Christmas movies are a dime a dozen, ‘Violent Night’...‘Violent Night’ review