New Written Review from Mike Crowley on You’ll Probably Agree: ‘Violent Night’ Is a Present Worth Sharing

The love child of Home AloneBad Santa, and Die Hard, Violent Night’s gory satire on Santa Clause is a blast. Mostly, but more on that later. David Harbour’s dejected Santa Clause straddles the line between saint and person, rendering Santa more human than he’s been in a long time. Where Santa’s typically a flawless loving individual in every other movie, this film displays a bitter Chris Kringle. Yet he’s not cruel. If Santa hurts anyone, it would be himself.

The jolly old elf has succumbed to alcoholism. Too many kids in this generation have landed on the naughty list. Social media clicks have become more important than friendship. First, Geppetto in Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, now Santa Clause in Violent Night, studios seem to have an affinity for turning childhood figures into drunks. Similar to del Toro’s Pinocchio, addiction plays as a mature albeit cheap method in centralizing a protagonist for an older audience to embrace.

Inadvertently or not, Violent Night is providing the edgy side to Disney’s streaming catalog. Tim Allen’s Santa Clause. However, there’s more personality in Allen’s first Santa Clause flick since that movie is centered around Santa. Violent Night’s story spends much of the time following the path of a wealthy family. On Christmas Eve, Morgan Lightstone (Alex Hassell) pays a visit to his incredibly wealthy mom Gertrude (Beverly D’Angelo). The source of Gertrude’s fortune is a detail intentionally left in the dark. It’s clear from the get-go that Gertrude is a tyrant.

When we first meet Gertrude, she’s screaming insults over the phone. When the conversation finishes, it’s revealed she was threatening a United States Senator. By all regards, Gertrude isn’t one to be tampered with. The casting of Beverly D’Angelo as Gertrude Lightstone is a clever wink to Nation Lampoons fans. Rather than playing the loving wife of Clark Griswold, D’Angelo is the one demanding the screen’s attention.

Morgan is emotionally more mature than his power-hungry mother. He’s hesitant bringing his daughter Trudy (Leah Brady) to see grandma for the first time since Gertrude could teach little Trudy to value materials over people. Being a wealthy family, everyone is after the Lightstone’s money. To protect their belongings, Gertrude loads her estate with high-tech security.

Despite the Lightstone’s protection, it doesn’t stop Scrooge (John Leguizamo) from cracking his way in. What was already a miserable reunion of a dysfunctional family evolves into a hostage situation. Luckily, Santa happens to be delivering presents to the right house at the right time. 

Violent Night only partially lives up to its name. Rather than concentrating on the man on the poster, much of the film centers on a nice little kid and her friendly dad. Furthermore, the movie has the structure of a Lifetime Christmas movie. Morgan was once with Linda (Alexis Louder), and Trudy wants to get the family back together. But how can Morgan win Linda’s heart again? 

In between Santa fighting off terrorists, the true meaning of Christmas brings everyone together. Despite our grievances, humans are a family. It’s the lifeblood of It’s A Wonderful Life, down to National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. The very thing that unites everyone is love. It’s providing a helping hand to a neighbor instead of demanding a Playstation 5.

Trudy isn’t selfish. She’s an angel who’s happy with what she has, earning her a spot on the good list and reigniting Santa’s faith in children. The story screenwriters Pat Casey and Josh Miller put together works. But it could have been more engaging if centered on Santa.

When Santa returns, the film picks up its speed. Violent Night wins the crowd in the end with hilarious kills and Reindeer puns. VN doesn’t have John Wick or Daredevil levels of choreography, but it contains some clever aces up its sleeve. For its short length, Violent Night’s mundane focus on the Lightsones makes the film feel longer than it is. Still, it isn’t enough of a negative to render Violent Night as another cinematic lump of coal. 

Violent Night is a fun time best shared with an audience. The premise of Santa fighting terrorists is clever enough to elicit a reaction. When Santa uses one of his various methods to take a baddie down, it’s best to share those moments with friends and family. Violent Night has enough adrenaline-pumped cheer to bring folks together for a bloody good time with jolly old Saint Nick.  

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