Violent Night movie review & film summary (2022) | Roger Ebert (2024)


Violent Night movie review & film summary (2022) | Roger Ebert (1)

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One of the funniest jokes in "Scrooged," the sometimes uneven but vastly underrated 1988 Bill Murray riff on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, came right at the beginning with an artificial promotional trailer. Titled"The Night the Reindeer Died," it was acheerfully cheesy bit of holiday carnage in which terrorists attempt to seize the North Pole until Lee Majors saves the dayby gunning down the attackers while the guy in the red suit assures him he is being a good boy this year. As a distillation of the craven lengths that network television programmers go to attract viewers during the Yuletide season—in this case, by taking a made-for-TV knockoff of the typical Chuck Norris vehicle of that time and crudely slapping a thick seasonal glaze on the tip—it was admittedly a one-joke premise. But it happened to be a pretty funny joke, and since it only lasted for about two minutes, it was over before it could begin to wear out its welcome.


Now comes "Violent Night," a film that seems to have been designed by writers Pat Casey and Josh Miller and director Tommy Wirkola to answer the question of what a full-length version of "The Night the Reindeer Died" might have been like, augmented by over-the-top carnage that would have been unthinkable on television back then. The result, perhaps unsurprisingly, is a largely tedious cinematic lump of coal that unsuccessfully tries to stretch its one-joke premise out to 101 minutes in a tonally uneven attempt to position itself as a new alternative holiday classic. Instead, "Violent Night" isabout as entertaining as listening to people argue about whether "Die Hard" is a Christmas movie or not (it isn't, FYI) while more or less wasting a genuinely committed performance from David Harbour as the Man in Red himself.

As the film opens, the supremely rich, powerful, and dysfunctional Lightstone family has gathered at the massive compound belonging to matriarch Gertrude (Beverly D'Angelo) to celebrate, to use the term promiscuously, the holidays. While her loathsome daughter Alva (Edi Patterson), her equally hateful son Bertrude (Alexander Elliot)—not a typo—and her idiot actor boyfriend (Cam Gigandet) blatantly curry her favor and her son Jason (Alex Hassell) and his estranged wife Linda (Alexis Louder) are trying to work through their problems, only Jason's adorable moppet daughter Trudy (Leah Brady) still seems willing to embrace the holiday spirit. But, before long, the familial backstabbing is replaced by gunfire when a group of violent thieves led by a guy nicknamed Scrooge (John Leguizamo) arrive to steal $300 million they believe has been nefariously acquired by Gertrude and socked away in a theoretically impenetrable safe.

While all of this is going on, Santa—depicted here as filled with equal parts booze and self-loathing and contemplating packing in his holiday duties for good after one final run—happens to be in the house and winds up getting trapped inside when his reindeer take off during the initial mayhem. Although his first instinct is to flee, he realizes that Trudy is one of the stars of his nice list. He decidesto pull himself together and rescue her, utilizing the skills for dispensing savage violence that he cultivated in his pre-Santa days, leading to several scenes in which he gruesomely dispatches the various bad guys using everything from a sledgehammer to a snow blower to a Christmas star tree topper jabbed into someone's eyeball. For her part, Trudy uses herskills of building booby traps that she developed from watching "Home Alone" to fend off the attackers in equally gruesome ways.


"Violent Night" is primarily comprised of bits and pieces borrowed from other holiday films of recent vintage. Most obviously, it intends to be some kind of hybrid of the aforementioned "Die Hard" and "Home Alone." The drunken, foul-mouthed, and cynical version of Santa depicted here, who we see projectile vomiting on a hapless victim while flying off in his sleigh during the pre-credit opening sequence, will no doubt inspire memories of Billy Bob Thornton in "Bad Santa." The dysfunctional family gathering interrupted by criminals is straight out of "The Ref." The presence of D'Angelo serves as a living reminder of "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation," though her part is a 180-degree turn from the warm and loving mother she played there. Hell, even the conceit of Santa fighting off bad guys in bloody fashion was done a couple of years ago in the weirdo project"Fatman," in which Mel Gibson's version ofSanta fights off anassassin hired by a monstrously entitled brat who objected to receiving a lump of coal.

The problem with "Violent Night" is not its unoriginal premisebut howlittle is done with it. Santa violently dispatching bad guys is a one-joke premise that could have been developed into something interesting, perhaps using gruesome physical violence as a way of commenting on the emotional brutality that holiday classics like "A Christmas Carol" and "It's a Wonderful Life" traffic in. Instead, Wirkola is content to stick with the same joke of Santa killing bad guys in grotesque ways (and this is an undeniably hard-R film) that quickly grow tiresome. Even that might have worked on some fundamental level as a gory black comedy, but then the film ineptly tries for sentiment towards the end by asking us to care about the fates of the most hateful family members. "Violent Night" also seems weirdly reticent to fully exploit the notion that it's Santa Claus doling out the violence—there's only one point where he fully utilizes his unique powers against one of the attackers and, perhaps inevitably, it's the only kill that sticks in the mind afterward.

The one saving grace of "Violent Night" is Harbour's performance. Like the rest of the film, his character is basically a joke, but one he commits to impressively throughout, whether knocking off the new additions to his naughty list or communicating with Trudy over walkie-talkies. Granted, he may not replace Edmund Gwenn as the ideal movie Santa anytime soon, but his work here is the one sweet plum in the middle of an otherwise rancid cinematic pudding.

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Film Credits

Violent Night movie review & film summary (2022) | Roger Ebert (9)

Violent Night (2022)

Rated Rfor strong bloody violence, language throughout and some sexual references.

112 minutes


David Harbouras Santa Claus

Beverly D'Angeloas Gertrude Lightstone

John Leguizamoas Scrooge

Cam Gigandetas Morgan Lightstone

Edi Pattersonas Alva Lightstone

Brendan Fletcheras Krampus

Alex Hassellas Jason Lightstone

Mike Dopudas Commander Thorp

Alexis Louderas Linda


  • Tommy Wirkola


  • Josh Miller
  • Patrick Casey


  • Matthew Weston


  • Jim Page


  • Dominic Lewis

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Violent Night movie review & film summary (2022) | Roger Ebert (2024)


Violent Night movie review & film summary (2022) | Roger Ebert? ›

The one saving grace of "Violent Night

Violent Night
Violent Night is a 2022 American Christmas action comedy film directed by Tommy Wirkola and written by Pat Casey and Josh Miller. It follows Santa Claus (portrayed by David Harbour) as he fights mercenaries who have taken a wealthy family hostage in their home. › wiki › Violent_Night
" is Harbour's performance. Like the rest of the film, his character is basically a joke, but one he commits to impressively throughout, whether knocking off the new additions to his naughty list or communicating with Trudy over walkie-talkies.

What is the plot of the movie Violent Night? ›

Are there any inappropriate scenes in Violent Night? ›

Kissing. Strong sex-related dialogue. Santa drinks and appears extremely drunk in a bar. Parents need to know that Violent Night is an over-the-top Christmas-themed action comedy about Santa Claus (David Harbour) trying to help a family being held hostage.

What is the summary of a movie review? ›

A movie review is an article that is published in a newspaper, magazine, or scholarly work that describes and evaluates a movie. Reviews are typically written by journalists giving their opinion of the movie. Some reviews include score (4 out of 5 stars) or recommendations (thumbs up).

Is Violent Night worth it? ›

A mean-spirited film with nothing to redeem. Fresh score. It's brimming with both warmth and cynicism, cementing a Santa perfectly attuned to the times and emblematic of the joy and anguish that pervades this time of year... a new Christmas classic.

Who is the bad guy in the Violent Night? ›

Scrooge telling Santa Claus about his childhood during Christmas time - his most famous quote. So you see, Christmas ruined my life! James “Jimmy” Martinez, also known by his codename Mr. Scrooge, is the main antagonist of the 2022 Christmas action comedy film Violent Night.

Is there a secret ending in Violent Night? ›

Ahead of the bloody action comedy's physical release Collider is thrilled to exclusively reveal a new alternate ending scene.

How many F words are in Violent Night? ›

We hear about 50 f-words and more than 25 s-words, along with multiple uses of the words “d–n,” “a–,” “h—” and “b–ch.” There are also a half-dozen or so crude references made to male and female genitals.

How bad is the language in Violent Night? ›

The MPAA rating has been assigned for “strong bloody violence, language throughout and some sexual references.” The evaluation includes a couple of kissing scenes, a robbery with many gunmen killing other armed people and threatening others with a lot of blood, many people fighting with a variety of ...

What is summary and review? ›

A summary is a brief and concise overview of the main points, findings, and implications of a review. A review is a critical evaluation of a topic, issue, or literature based on evidence, analysis, and synthesis.

What is conclusion in movie review? ›

5) Conclusion/Evaluation

- The closing of your film review should remind the reader of your general thoughts and impressions of the film. You may also implicitly or explicitly state whether or not you recommend the film. Make sure to remind the reader of why the film is or is not worth seeing.

What is a movie explanation summary? ›

A synopsis, while more detailed than a logline, is still concise, summarizing the entire arc of your story, including its emotional journey and key plot points. A synopsis example might detail the protagonist's challenge, their pivotal decisions, and the climax, all while keeping the reader intrigued and wanting more.

Is Violent Night too gory? ›

People are killed with a sledgehammer. These kills are often gory. The deaths in this film are brutal. Near the third act the film all of a sudden gets really brutal and gory.

What does Jason's note say in Violent Night? ›

This forces Jason to stand up and admit that he stole the money in an attempt to make off with Linda and Trudy for a better life and to distance himself from the rest of his family. That's what he wrote on the note to Gertrude, hoping she would see it the next morning before realizing what he did.

Is Violent Night like bullet train? ›

As far as the action goes, Violent Night is closer to the tight thrills of Nobody than the elevated spectacle of Bullet Train.

What is Violent Night a parody of? ›

We made several Die Hard parodies." The writer describes their early version of Violent Night as "just the idea of Santa stumbling across some criminals. That version of Santa was way more of a comedic idiot."

Was Violent Night a flop? ›

Universal Pictures released the film in theaters in the United States on December 2, 2022. The film received generally positive reviews from critics and grossed $76.6 million worldwide.

How did Santa become Santa in Violent Night? ›

During his viking days, Santa was a cruel, greedy, bloodthirsty tyrant who killed people with his hammer Skullcrusher. Once he realized the error of his ways, he sought to atone for his crimes by becoming Santa Claus and delivering presents to children on Christmas.

What did the note from Jason say in Violent Night? ›

This forces Jason to stand up and admit that he stole the money in an attempt to make off with Linda and Trudy for a better life and to distance himself from the rest of his family. That's what he wrote on the note to Gertrude, hoping she would see it the next morning before realizing what he did.

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