Violent Night sees Stranger Things star David Harbour’s Santa Claus killing villains, but the black comedy’s “satire” falls apart under scrutiny.
Note: The following article contains spoilers for Violent Night In Violent Night, David Harbour’s Santa Claus kills mercenaries because they are on the Naughty List, but this judgment doesn’t extend to a family of millionaires who made their fortune by embezzling funds from a shady oil deal in the Middle East. Violent Night stars David Harbour as a misanthropic version of Santa Claus who drinks heavily, kills with impunity, and swears up a storm. However, despite the black comedy’s attempts to subvert classic Christmas movie clichés, the plot of Violent Night doesn’t hold up to much scrutiny.The central premise of Violent Night is that Harbour’s Santa becomes stranded at the Lightstone residence, where the phenomenally wealthy and openly corrupt Lightstone family is being held hostage by a group of mercenaries looking to steal their fortune. Santa soon starts picking off the criminal gang since they are on his “Naughty List,” but Violent Night never explains why the Lightstone family isn’t on the same list for funneling oil into the Middle East and then stealing $300 million of bribes for themselves. This skewed morality ends up derailing the satirical elements of Violent Night, which fall flat when the movie’s main plot consists of Santa Claus protecting incredibly rich criminals from some less rich criminals.
Why Violent Night’s Santa Only Targets Some Villains
Violent Night never explains how the Naughty List works, meaning viewers can only assume that some crimes count more than others. While Violent Night’s Viking Santa backstory explains why Harbour’s version of the jolly Yuletide figure is so adept at hand-to-hand combat, the movie never thinks to flesh out why John Leguizamo’s villainous Mr. Scrooge is considered “Naughty” while Gertrude Lighstone avoids this label. For comparison, Mr. Scrooge became a career criminal when his family was too poor to buy Christmas presents (it is unclear why Harbour’s Santa didn’t deliver them presents for free) and his 11-year-old self accidentally contributed to an elderly man’s death by stealing presents from under the old man’s tree.In contrast, Gertrude Lighstone stole $300 million from the government via her oil company. The money was earmarked for various Middle Eastern governments during the 80s, meaning Lightstone would also be personally responsible for millions of deaths in the wars that ensued throughout the region. However, the only characters in Violent Night that Santa targets are the mercenaries attempting to rob this money, rather than the criminals who stole it in the first place. Why Santa never killed Gertrude Lightstone with a tree ornament in the 80s and distributed the money among various Middle Eastern governments (or, indeed, why he doesn’t do so in the present) is never addressed.
Why Violent Night’s “Satire” Fails
Violent Night wants to be one of the many witty satires skewering the uber-rich and their moral failings. There has been a deluge of acclaimed dark comedies that fit this description in recent years, from the horror-comedy Ready Or Not to the murder mystery Knives Out, to the Palme d’Or winner Triangle of Sadness, to the subversive horror The Menu (which also, incidentally, stars Leguizamo). However, in Violent Night, rich old money families who embezzle money get Santa’s tacit approval and his personal protection, while mercenaries who try to rob this money get murdered. It’s hardly a scathing condemnation of the uber-rich, meaning that Violent Night’s attempted satire ends up a resounding failure.Next: Every Movie Coming To Theaters In December 2022
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