For many years now, audiences have been furiously debating over whether or not director John McTiernan’s masterful 1988 action movie classic DIE HARD should be considered a Christmas movie just because it happens to be set on the night of Christmas Eve. Well, what if – instead of Bruce Willis’ hard-nosed New York City cop, John McClane, being in the wrong place at the wrong time – the hero of the story was David Harbour as Santa Claus and, to be perfectly clear, we mean the REAL Santa Claus? Would that make the cut?
Such is, indeed, the plot of director Tommy Wirkola’s VIOLENT NIGHT – a funny new thriller coming to AMC Theatres on Friday, December 2nd, that has all the relentlessly brutal action and heartwarming holiday spirit that a moviegoer in love with either theme could ever ask for. The most essential key to this unusual combination’s success lies in the “Stranger Things” star’s performance as an Old Saint Nick who is not only refreshingly unique, but could go down in history as one of the all-time best cinematic portrayals of the legendary figure. The following is a SPOILER FREE breakdown of what makes Harbour’s gritty Santa in the R-rated VIOLENT NIGHT such a wondrous gift to behold.
Children’s Happiness Is His Top Priority
When we are first introduced to David Harbour’s take on Santa Claus at the beginning of VIOLENT NIGHT, he is not quite the jolly, old harbinger of joy that the world knows him as. Feeling deeply undervalued and believing that any genuine enthusiasm for the holiday has been replaced with greed and driven mostly by soulless commercialism these days, he is left feeling jaded about his job and uncertain about its future. However, that does not stop him from carrying on with the night’s annual delivery of gifts to the children on his Nice List all around the world.
In fact, it is Santa’s undying appreciation of children and dedication to bringing them cheer on Christmas that motivates him to be a hero for young Trudy Lightstone (Leah Brady) when he happens to make a stop at a mansion owned by her wealthy grandmother (Beverly D’Angelo). She and her family are spending Christmas Eve at the lavish estate when it is invaded by armed mercenaries led by John Leguizamo as a ruthless thief who aptly refers to himself as “Mr. Scrooge.” Because Trudy has been extra good all year, Santa intends to give her the ultimate gift this Christmas: taking out her family’s attackers one-by-one.
He Nails Santa’s Iconic Laugh
Anyone can put on a red stocking cap with a matching suit, don a long white beard and call themselves “Santa Claus.” However, if there is one requirement that truly earns an actor – or shopping mall employee – the honor of embodying the role, it has to be the laugh, which turns out to be one of the most definitive and impressive aspects of David Harbour’s performance in VIOLENT NIGHT.
Actually, one could easily make the argument that Harbour’s laugh tops that of any other actor to ever play the role just in how naturally he delivers the signature “Ho ho ho” with nearly unparalleled authenticity. Plus, in some memorable moments throughout the film, he offers a cheeky variation on the laugh that is perfectly in line with the film’s morbidly humorous tone.
He Kicks Butt
David Harbour’s Santa has the perfect laugh and a devotion to making children’s wishes come true that cannot be beat. However, what really makes his iteration stand out among the rest of his cinematic compatriots is the way he holds his own against the ruthless, bloodthirsty ransomers taking the Lightstone Family hostage.
Considering that VIOLENT NIGHT is produced in part by David Leitch – a former stunt coordinator known these days for directing and producing recent action favorites like ATOMIC BLONDE or the JOHN WICK franchise – it should come as no surprise that the fighting in this movie is almost non-stop, painstakingly choreographed and as unapologetically and viscerally graphic as one could imagine. Without giving too much away, the film even offers a pretty intriguing explanation for why Santa just happens to be very good at giving Naughty-listers a far worse punishment than a lump of coal. To watch him utilize these skills before our eyes is nothing short of a Christmas miracle.
Finally, audiences have an action movie that they can all agree, without a shadow of a doubt, easily qualifies as a Christmas movie, too. On top of that, we have a Santa Claus worth giving a hearty “Ho ho ho” about in the talented David Harbour. See for yourself if you think VIOLENT NIGHT is destined to become an annual holiday tradition in your home by checking it out at an AMC Theatres location near you!