David Harbour, and John Leguizamo Face off in Die Hard-Meets-Home Alone Action Comedy
DIRECTOR: TOMMY WIRKOLA/2022
What if Santa Claus delivered gifts during a home invasion? He and the Lightstone family are about to find out.
Not that Santa (David Harbour) needs any more challenges this holiday season. Kids are greedier than ever—do they still deserve gifts? He’s thinking this may be his last year of deliveries, and the spoiled Lightstones won’t be the ones to change his mind. On Christmas Eve, they gather to stay in the good graces of matriarch Gertrude (Beverly D’Angelo), who controls the family’s billions and has no pretenses for sitting atop Santa’s Naughty List. Her son Jason (Alex Hassell) and his estranged wife Linda (Alexis Louder) are forcing happy faces for the sake of their young daughter Trudy (Leah Brady), whose only Christmas wish is for her parents to reconcile. But that becomes a secondary concern when elite criminals break in to steal $300 million from the mansion’s vault. Trudy’s only hope to see her gifts under the tree on Christmas morning? Santa Claus himself, who arrives just as master thief Mr. Scrooge (John Leguizamo) and his cronies break out the machine guns.
It’s very violent, very crass, and…actually pretty fun?
If any of that plot sounds familiar, that’s intentional. Violent Night name-drops Die Hard and Home Alone, and you’ll also think of past holiday hits like Bad Santa and The Santa Clause. What you don’t expect to be reminded of in a Christmas film: the filmography of Quentin Tarantino. Trudy’s booby traps feel just as inspired by Home Alone as Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio taking down the Manson Family the finale of Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. You can argue Violent Night is derivative in its plot, but you can’t deny its creativity in how its Christmas setting inspires the action. This movie does for holiday decor what Hollywood did for dog food cans—you’ll never look at tinsel, stringed lights, icicles, tree toppers, candy canes, Nativity sets, or chimneys as anything less than mortal weapons again. The audience around me was the loudest I’ve heard in 2022, laughing and squealing when pain comes for the villains, sometimes in delayed reaction to the shock of their unusual deaths.
So yes, Violent Night more than lives up to its title—in fact, it may be underselling itself. It’s very violent, very crass, and…actually pretty fun? The moral part of me questions praising a movie so gruesome for the sake of laughs, and the sensible part of me can’t ignore a script filled more corny, f-bomb-laden dialogue than character development. (Leguizamo makes the most of it, though he gets the thankless task of attempting a new version of a “Yippee Ki Yay” quip every 10 minutes.) Still, there’s another part of me—Freud might call it the Id—that thinks Violent Night may become an annual addition to my Christmas Nice List. Even if I had to cover my eyes in a few scenes, I’ve got a weak spot for movies inspired by ‘80s classics (casting Christmas Vacation star D’Angelo is no accident), action romps that embrace their own silliness, and Harbour’s combo of dry humor and everyman action hero chops. He’s more or less reprising his Stranger Things role, which is pitch perfect for a jaded Santa. And like the Grinch, his cynicism is no match for the spirit of Christmas. Though your heart may not grow three sizes thanks to Violent Night, you’ll likely leave more joyful than when you started.