Violent Night. Quick Review.

David Harbor gets another attempt at branching his potential Hollywood career out beyond Jim Hopper in this fun but flawed alternative Christmas offering. He plays an alcoholic but for all intents and purposes real in the mythological sense on screen Santa. The man in the red suit has to unleash his best visceral action hero routine when a present delivery coincides with an attempt to secure a large family fortune led by a scenery-chewing John Leguizamo and his band of thugs with Christmas-related code names. This is another attempt from John Wick adjacent production company 57 Degrees North at bringing that style Of simple but crunchy and effectively stylized nuts and bolts US action movie back into the mainstream. Thankfully this is more Nobody than Bullet Train. Thankfully violent night doesn’t have the equivalent of the frankly atrocious scenes between Aaron Taylor Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry discussing Thomas the Tank Engine. What it does have is David Harbour in a Santa suit dispatching bad guys in the sort of craft and set piece focus that appears to be the production company’s bread and butter from their first three solo offerings. Harbor is effectively doing the same cantankerous R-rated performance as the disastrous 2019 Hellboy reboot. Thankfully he is shepherded by a creative team who mostly knows what they’re doing this time. The script is nothing more than a somewhat threadbare mashing together of Die Hard and R-rated Home Alone rifts but the narrative is self-aware about this fact without necessarily crossing over into smarmy territory The action set pieces are nicely effective and efficient beyond the inherently I’m one-joke premise. The film gets more mileage out of that central conceit than the initial opening involving drunk Santa vomiting on an unsuspecting bystander from on high might suggest. It’s nothing exceptional but everyone here plays proceedings with just the right level of camp to keep things broadly engaging. There are other pleasantly morbid amusing details. Like the fact that a certain artist very infamous in certain circles for suing the online equivalent of a musical dictionary for his inclusion now has a needle drop in soundtracks and action scenes of the David Harbour killer Santa movie. That would have been an interesting creative/ label/representative meeting.
At 113 minutes the film is decidedly a little too long. The pacing slows down enough in the second act to be noticeable when in reality pieces like this or probably best served not going above a tight 90 minutes. Cut the final 113-minute edit down to the former runtime and you could have something genuinely great here. Given that Violent Night is likely to develop a strong cult following regardless the creative team will not mind if this proceeds to be the case. It’s hard not to think that with a tighter edit pass on several different levels, this thing could have graduated beyond amusingly effective novelty.
Violent Night is a fun addition to the alternative Christmas canon. It’s pretty much exactly what it looks to be on the surface but it’s effective enough at delivering on the premise that the target audience for a film like this won’t necessarily mind. Effective action beats are nicely integrated with the novelty factor. All delivered with performances that vier just on the entertaining side of camp. Feeling a little bit bloated at 113 minutes with a tighter edit Violent Night would have had strong potential to Worm its way into alternative Christmas classic status. Given that the final cut is likely to develop a strong following as a curio in Christmases to come regardless the creative team will not mind. Violent Night is not a lot more than exactly what the premise suggests but it’s pretty effective at delivering exactly that.
7/10.

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