November 6, 2023

VIOLENT NIGHT (4K): A Potential Holiday Classic

2022 / 112 min
Review by Tiger the Terrible😺

I don’t know about you, but I think the whole “Die Hard is a Christmas movie” debate is a tired old joke. Yet every year, people still slap that crap on social media as if they're the first to do so. Besides, Die Hard is simply a classic action film that happens to take place on Christmas.

On the other hand, Violent Night is definitely a Christmas movie (and a Die Hard movie), one that not-only features holly-jolly Saint Nick (David Harbour) as its ass-kicking hero, seasonal themes and traditions are prominent throughout the entire narrative. So conversely, this is a Christmas movie that happens to have a ton of action (and definitely earns its title). 

Violent Night is also a comedy, of course. With its concept, how could it not be? But unlike other so-called “subversive” Christmas comedies built on a heavy-handed one-joke premise, this isn’t a spoof or parody. Santa Claus going full-McClane on a team of mercenaries isn’t inherently funny. Instead, director Tommy Wirkola and writers Pat Casey & Josh Miller give us a Santa who’s cynical, fallible and has something of a dark past. I also like the notion that Santa himself doesn’t really know how his Christmas magic works…just that it does.

Apparently, Santa misunderstood when someone said they wanted to get hammered during the holidays.
Nor is Violent Night a non-stop parade of gags. The film is, by turns, humorous, suspenseful, brutal, whimsical and even occasionally heart-warming (with some scenes that wouldn't be out of place in a Hallmark film). It’s those surprising tonal shifts that render the comedic elements more effective than simply hitting the viewer with one “clever” joke after another. Admittedly, however, a fair amount of humor stems from how goddamn gory the whole thing is.

But as clever as the direction and writing are, it’s ultimately Harbour’s performance that carries the film. Not only is Santa a role he was born to play, Harbour instills the character with enough gruff charm and vulnerability to make him an endearing protagonist, even when impaling bad guys on Christmas decorations. The other performances are effective as well, particularly John Leguizamo as mercenary leader Scrooge, who has the good sense to more-or-less play the character straight.

As an action movie, Violent Night doesn't achieve the greatness of Die Hard. But as a Christmas movie, it delivers plenty of giggly, gory holiday cheer without ever descending into campy parody, making it a potential holiday classic (or at least a cult classic). Now available in 4K, it sports impressive picture and sound quality, though the overall improvement over the previously released Blu-ray edition is fairly minor. And with no new bonus features, only discernible eyes and ears will probably feel the need to upgrade.


FEATURETTES - Santa’s Helpers: The Making of Violent Night (interviews with various cast & crew); Deck the Hall with Brawls (mostly focuses on the fight scenes); Quarrelin’ Kringle (casting David Harbour in the starring role).

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By director Tommy Wirkola, producer Guy Danella and writers Pat Casey & Josh Miller.



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