Violent Night

Directed by: Tommy Wirkola
Distributed by: Universal Pictures

Written by Alexander Reams


The recent trend of turning childhood idols like Winnie the Pooh and The Banana Splits into adult fare has been an intriguing twist on our heroes from our youth, but its also a trope that can tank a movie, take Tommy Wirkola’s “Violent Night,” a film that features hostages, some bad guys, and a guy covered in red who takes out the bad guys one by one. Sounds familiar? Well, the similarities don’t stop there, Wirkola is aping “Die Hard” as hard as one can, and his style of gratuitous violence and shock-for-shock imagery does mix with David Harbour’s skills as an actor, bringing the gruffness of Hopp and attitude of Hellboy to Santa Clause are reminiscent of Billy Bob Thornton in “Bad Santa” but it doesn’t take away from the overall enjoyment of this crazed ensemble. 

Joining Harbour and Wirkola is John Leguizamo as Mr. Scrooge, a generic 90s action movie villain that Leguizamo clearly has a ball with playing up his vanity and insecurity. Alex Hassell as Jason Lightstone, a member of the family we are supposed to hate because “they’re rich,” Alexis Louder as Linda Matthews, Jason’s wife, and Leah Brady as Trudy Lightstone, their daughter. The family dynamics of Jason, Linda, and Trudy are the closest “Violent Night” comes to emotional arcs, and only because the film makes clear it knows what it is from the opening scene in a bar that culminates in Harbour’s Santa vomiting from his sleigh onto the bartender as he leaves. The rest of the Lightstone family are just there, take them out of the film; the only change is we don’t hear their terrible dialogue for a few minutes.

Wirkola’s strength is action setpieces and he shows it, from the first fight in a pool room to the final chase on snowmobiles, to the exciting use of sharpened candy canes, the kills and thrills are why you show up, and Wirkola, Harbour, and co. do not disappoint in those areas. The script and characterization leave much to be desired, and the runtime is much longer than it should be, no character is strong enough to carry the relatively short 112-minute runtime, which leads to everyone playing hot potato with carrying the movie until the action begins, and the boredom ends.

“Violent Night” Trailer

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

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