Ending the debate on whether “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie is “Violent Night,” a film that takes the “Die Hard” story and makes it Christmas-themed with Santa saving hostages from a band of gun-toting goons. The result? A ho-ho-hum two hours filled with blood-soaked cartoon violence.
The film opens with a world-weary Santa Claus (David Harbour) getting his belly full of beer at a nearly-empty bar in AnyCity, U.S.A.. Santa’s disgusted with the want and greed of people and hands the bartender a package from his bag before stumbling into a rooftop-access stairwell. The bartender, thinking the drunken Santa will take a dive from the rooftop, follows to find it’s indeed the real Kris Kringle when she watches his reindeer-led sleigh fly away.
Santa eventually flies over to the Lightstone estate where matriarch Gertrude (Beverly D’Angelo) is hosting a small catered Christmas party for her son and daughter, their spouses and two grandchildren. Turns out Gertrude’s got $300 million in a vault inside the house and the caterers are really crooks out for the loot. Once the caterers replace serving the family drinks to standing over them with semi-automatic weapons, Santa enters the lower level of the home unaware.
Because it’s Christmas, the crew gives each other themed names. Headed by Scrooge (John Leguizamo), he has his goons begin to case the joint for other family while setting up a laptop to electronically open the vault. One of the lone goons finds Santa downstairs but doesn’t have time to tell the others as Santa quickly dispatches him with a star ornament to the eye. Walkie-talkies put Santa in touch with Scrooge as well as Lightstone granddaughter Trudy (Leah Brady), who decides to help Santa with “Home Alone” style booby traps (drill bits in ‘Welcome’ mats, nails in stairs, etc.).
“Violent Night” knows that you know- the characters in the film reference both the “Die Hard” and “Home Alone” films. As the script was written by “Sonic the Hedgehog” screenwriters Pat Casey and Josh Miller and its director Tommy Wirkola made the 2009 horror-comedy “Dead Snow,” “Violent Night” doesn’t surprise with cartoon violence- it’s the film’s métier. However, after watching people get impaled and bludgeoned with every Christmas/Winter-related object under the sun, you become as coldly numb as if you were standing in the blood-soaked snow outside the estate.
Granted, if you loved every time Bugs Bunny put a shotgun to Daffy Duck’s head and pulled the trigger to shift Daffy’s beak to the other side of his face, you’ll probably really enjoy “Violent Night.” In fact, I admired “Violent Night” including a back story of Santa once being a Viking to explain his sadism. However, paper-thin only goes so far until it tears, and with a cartoon crew of codenamed-crooks reminiscent of the ‘60’s “Batman” TV show and a family of hostages functioning only to separate the baddies while Santa can pick them apart in playful ways, “Violent Night” gets tedious. If only they suffocated someone with a stocking…