For someone who walks up to the theater window on the spur of the moment to watch a new Christmas movie, please know that the film Violent Night is NOT a family-friendly film. The title says it all. This is a dark comedy at Christmas time with plenty of action and violence. Santa doesn’t seek the violence but learns something is wrong in the mansion with yummy Christmas cookies he is about to enjoy. All appears to be glistening in the Lightstone mansion that screams of wealth and affluence, but this yuletide party is about to glisten in bright red if he doesn’t step in.
The Norwegian writer/director Tommy Wirkola takes the lead on directing what screenwriters Pat Casey and Josh Miller have created for this story filled with graphic violence, from gunshots, explosions, to more “old school” items from the shed/workshop. The Lightstone family matriarch, Gertrude (National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’s Beverly D’Angelo), if first seen as a foul -mouthed, domineering mother and not holding back on what she tells anyone. (She is truly good delivering these lines.) I wouldn’t dream of spoiling the punchlines or her words in this review. As bad as this may sound to some readers, I must admit there are some real humorous zingers that make the audience either laugh out loud or make some type of expressive sound when Santa takes charge in the dysfunctional house.
The Lightstone family includes daughter Alva (Edi Patterson, Knives Out), her aspiring movie star boyfriend Morgan Steel (Cam Gigandet, 9 Bullets, Twilight), Bert (Alexander Elliot), a teen influencer, and Jason (Alex Hassell, The Boys), as well as his estranged wife Linda (Alexis Louder) and their child, Trudy (Leah Brady). She is named Gertrude, after her grandmother, but she is not at all like her! There is an excess of everything else but kindness or love, except for what Jason is attempting to do with Linda and Trudy at the time. The first three actors listed turn on the greed and ugliest personalities just enough to cause viewers not have any compassion for them. Jason wants to change, and it seems he may not have time left to do so. Trudy believes in Santa and the sweet moments here are due to her.
When the caterers at the Lightstone family’s annual Christmas party turn on them, their leader Scrooge (John Leguizamo, an excellent bad guy) shows up to turn up the heat and steal the millions in the vault. Santa Claus (Stranger Things’ David Harbour) is out making his deliveries and is taking a break with a pint (or 2-3) when the movie starts. He is not as the merriest point in his life. When he is back on his route, he finds out a family is in a dire situation. Trudy finds a way to contact him – like Christmas magic. What many don’t know is that this Santa Claus has lived a very long life, is very good with a hammer, is resourceful and his magic dust helps him to pull off some needed action. While Santa gets busy, Trudy decides to act from cues learned while movie viewing. There is one Home Alone-inspired sequence when she is fending off the bad guys. It is one of my favorite scenes.
This R-rated movie is firmly one I cannot recommend for general audiences with children. For friends and movie fans of some twisted humor during the holiday season, this is one to consider this month.
Source: Universal Pictures