The Christmas themed Violent Night has a clever and funny premise: The real Santa Claus must save a house full of hostages from mercenaries. I can even hear the pitch meeting: "It's like Die Hard meets The Santa Clause with a smidgen of Home Alone thrown in for good measure." And that is essentially what it is.
I had a major concern, however, because the film is directed by Tommy Wirkola, whose previous films I truly despise. He's responsible for the ugly yet boring Nazi zombie movie Dead Snow and it's equally craptastic sequel Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead. He also did the criminally terrible Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. Now, Wirkola had a hand in writing the aforementioned movies, so the glimmer of hope for Violent Night is that he didn't write it. It's written by Pat Casey and Josh Miller, who are the writing team responsible for the Sonic the Hedgehog movies. I haven't seen the second one yet, but I did find the first one surprisingly enjoyable. And I am happy to report that I did enjoy Violent Night.
So, Santa Claus (a perfectly cast David Harbour of Stranger Things) is down and out - and very drunk - on Christmas Eve because people, especially children, don't believe in the true spirit of Christmas anymore. While going through the motions of delivering presents, Santa latest stop is at the compound of a very rich family. Suddenly, a heavily armed group of mercenaries, led by the code named Mr. Scooge (John Leguizamo), take the family hostage and demand that their vault full of money be opened. The downtrodden St. Nick wants nothing to do with this dangerous situation, but his sleigh pulling reindeer are scared off by gunfire, but more importantly, he hears the Christmas wish of one of the hostages, a little girl named Trudy (Leah Brady), who wants nothing more than for her estranged parents (Alex Hassell and Alexis Louder) to get back together again. Santa then decides to battle the greedy mercenaries to the death by using a sledgehammer and various Christmas themed objects, like a candy cane.
Violent Night is often funny, usually because of something someone says, but it takes its premise fairly seriously. Santa has a few magical powers, but not so many that it makes him invincible and able to easily defeat the villains. That's a wise choice, because it keeps the tension of the situation afloat.
I wasn't crazy about some of the gory fight scenes going on for so long. You can see Santa smash the skulls of henchmen only so many times before it gets redundant. A little tightening of the fight scenes would have helped.
Still, this is an entertaining film, and will probably become a Christmas movie classic even though it is seriously deranged. Violent Night is now playing exclusively in theaters.