Santa is on the prowl in Violent Night, and he’s packing heat, tattoos, and a surprising amount of heart. David Harbour is the grizzled-up Saint Nick, and he’s just a guy, still prone to tender sympathy with young believers, as well as vomiting from his sleigh during his holiday deliveries. But when he stumbles onto a band of mercenaries so dastardly you actually sympathize wholly with the wealthy family who owns the compound they’re attacking (and headed by a scene-stealing Beverly D’Angelo), he reluctantly decides to bring the Christmas cheer . . . by any hilariously violent means necessary.
Violent Night kicks cynicism to the curb as Santa rediscovers Christmas magic between bloodbaths, bonds with the young and wide-eyed Trudy (Leah Brady, the movie’s embodiment of innocence and belief), and battles John Leguizamo in one of his most twisted roles yet—a villain so committed he dubs himself Scrooge and eventually becomes determined to end Christmas itself. Their standoff is one of the most imaginatively grisly in a movie full of satisfying ends, no small task for audiences who have long since become acclimated to niche content. And even with the usual tropes that must be indulged, the cartoonish brutality is still worthy of the multiple Home Alone callbacks.
Despite refusing to tip a few scales in the favor of those attempting to rob the rich to feed themselves, Violent Night still manages to conjure its own holiday miracle—the desire for a sequel in a market glutted with them. R, 112 min.