In Violent Night, Santa Claus checks his naughty list twice and beats bad guys to a pulp with a sledgehammer on Christmas Eve. If it weren’t for David Harbour attached to the main role, it would be easy to mistake Violent Night for a B-movie condemned to oblivion after Christmastime. Instead, director Tommy Wirkola makes the most of the budget to gift us a new Holiday classic that echoes the cheer of Christmas while not holding back any punches regarding over-the-top violence.


Violent Night doesn’t waste time making Harbour’s Santa a layered character. After more than a millennium of working to spread joy to well-behaved children, Santa got sick of seeing people become greedy and spoiled, demanding more every year and turning Christmas into a purely commercial holiday. It’s no wonder that Violent Night’s Santa is a cursing alcoholic who takes breaks from delivering presents to visit pubs. However, after being unintentionally caught in the middle of a robbery with hostages, Santa decides to use his Christmas magic to help young Trudy (Leah Brady), a genuinely good child that still believes that Christmas should be all about spreading love. And so Violent Night quickly turns into an action flick that holds its Die Hard inspiration close to the chest, with Santa hunting down the criminals one by one and getting rid of them with extreme prejudice.

Violent Night stands by its title by giving Harbour creative ways to dispose of criminals. There are dozens of deaths in the movie, many of them using Christmas-themed objects as weapons. And the result is so gruesome that anyone who watches the movie will think twice about what they use as decoration this holiday. It also helps to keep things fresh that Santa’s magic powers are put to good use, giving him the tools he needs to fight heavily armed goons.


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The cherry on top of this blood cake is that the criminals use holiday-themed codenames, with the villainous Mr. Scrooge (John Leguizamo) leading the pack. And yes, Mr. Scrooge has a backstory that makes him hate Christmas. The result is a hilarious game of cat and mouse that always ends in glorious brutality. The wackiness of the entire concept is Violent Night‘s greatest strength, and Wirkola knows how to explore the absurdity of each death. As a result, instead of cringing at the gore, the whole theater is constantly exploding in laughter.

It’s not only Die Hard that Violent Night tries to mimic, as the movie directly connects to the Home Alone franchise. Without the restraints of a family-friendly rating, Violent Night can explore the realistic (and bloody) results of booby-trapping a home against robbers. Again, all this is masterfully executed for the audience’s amusement, which results in a hilarious experience.

While Violent Night is a dark comedy at its core, it might be surprising to learn the movie also has a lot of heart. Santa gets a revamped origin story that explains how he can take down bad guys at ease, while also turning Violent Night into a sort of redemption tale. Then, there’s the bond forged between Santa and Trudy, who helps the old man rediscover what Christmas is all about. Drawing from classics such as The Grinch and Miracle at the 34th Street, Violent Night does have something to say about the spirit of Christmas in the middle of all the bloodshed. And while this approach might work overall, it can also drag the movie’s rhythm down while sounding shallow sometimes.

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Image via Universal Pictures


As Violent Night plainly states, Christmas values are endangered because commercial endeavors engulfed the holiday. However, Santa begins to fight criminals after a millionaire family becomes hostages in a robbery. And while the movie never refrains to paint rich people as self-absorbed pricks, at the end of the night, they are still victims who did nothing to change their ways and haven’t learned anything about Christmas values. Although Mr. Scrooge has to fall down due to his greed and violence, half the hostages Santa saves deserve to be on his naughty list.

Besides that, it can sound cynical to place a sappy message about Christmas values in a movie that isn’t aimed at children. In fact, given the vicious nature of Violent Night, this is not a movie to be enjoyed with the whole family. So, especially in the third act, we just want Santa to go back to fighting goons instead of hearing another time how Christmas is about love instead of gifts. But then again, what better time than Christmas to be cheesy?

Despite an uneven rhythm caused by its mix of ultraviolence and sentimental Christmas messages, Violent Night is still a solid holiday flick with the potential to spawn a new franchise. It’s easy to see Violent Night becoming part of our regular Christmas watch list as one last movie to watch after the children are put to bed to wait for Santa. That’s because the movie delves deep into Christmas mythology, and the holiday theme never feels out of place. At the same time, Violent Night delivers exceptional adult entertainment with one of the best Bad Santas created by Hollywood. While being far from perfect, Violent Night is just too fun not to revisit, which means it can become a new holiday classic in the years to come.

Rating: B+

Violent Night comes to theaters on December 2.

Where to Watch Violent Night — Showtimes

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