Friday Film Review | "Violent Night" and "Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special"
This week’s Friday Film Review delivers a holiday double feature. “Violent Night” is naughty and “The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special” is nice.
“Violent Night” stars David Harbour as a Santa Claus who turns violent protector of a family taken hostage during a home invasion. Harbour is best known as Sheriff Hopper in Netflix’s outstanding series “Stranger Things,” and is perfectly cast for what easily could have been a hilarious, campy take on a “you better watch out” theme. If only.
The film opens with Santa in an existential crisis, lamenting the greed that has taken over the world. Drunk and staggering from one roof to the next, Santa winds up in an exclusive estate when a team of mercenaries attempt to rob the family vault. Led by the always fantastic John Leguizamo, whose character is of course called “the Scrooge,” the heavily- armed band of murderers storm the estate just after our drunk Santa comes down their chimney. Drunk Santa wants no part of any “Die Hard” hero role and tries to flee, but the grandchild of the estate’s matriarch calls out to Santa for help. Unable to resist the child’s plea, Santa starts to violently take down the home invaders one by one.
This should all be laugh-out-loud hilarious. Unfortunately, other actors have speaking roles, and the writing and direction are worse than the mediocre pandemic streaming productions we were forced to endure last year. I like an irreverent, violent, campy film as much as anyone, but this film is just stupid. Turns out this Santa hails from Viking stock with a penchant for wielding a Thor-like hammer. Unfortunately, director Tommy Wirkola just lines up Santa’s victims like dummy avatars in a video game without any choreography or entertainment value. This boring game of Santa-whack-a-mole produces little humor or suspenseful action. A brief attempt at a “Home Alone” booby-trap sequence also falls flat.
So, on my Black Diamond ski trail rating system, “Violent Night” lands on the naughty list and earns my lowest beginner green ski trail rating. Brief flashes of onscreen magic from the two outstanding lead actors and newcomer Leah Brady as the granddaughter can’t save this mindless romp, only to be enjoyed by those eager to pay Hollywood for the lame opportunity to see a not-so-Saint Nick literally bash the brains out of some terribly bad actors.
Over on the nice list, Disney provides a solid alternative and rips a “Black Diamond” holiday short with clever dialogue, fun riffs on holiday music, and the dry humor fans expect from the irreverent band of misfits in the Marvel Universe. Drax and Mantis look to get their leader Peter Quill the perfect Christmas present and recall his first film reference to an amazing leader from Earth who freed a whole town by teaching them all to dance. This leader is the “Footloose” actor Kevin Bacon, and they decide to give the real Kevin Bacon to Quill as a present. Silliness abounds but the sincerity of the episode’s message rings true. Also, the standout feature of the short is the music which ranges from clever incorporation of the Pogues, The Smashing Pumpkins, Fountains of Wayne, The Wombats, and The Old 97’s featuring of course, more Kevin Bacon.
“Violent Night” is playing in theaters and rated R for naughty language, super naughty violence, and weaponizing Christmas magic. “The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special” is rated nearly all age-appropriate TV-14 and is streaming on Disney+, with the soundtrack available on Spotify.