Review: Violent Night - Is this Home Alone / Die Hard mashup a new Christmas classic?

Santa comes to town in this Christmas themed action/comedy starring stranger thing's David Harbour

George Lowes
12th December 2022
Image Credit: Pixabay
When a team of mercenaries, led by John Leguizamo (Moulin Rouge!), takes the Lightstones, a wealthy family, hostage in their home, Santa, played by David Harbour (Stranger Things), must come to the rescue and deliver some “season’s beatings”, to quote the film’s trailer.

When I first saw Violent Night advertised, I feared it would be little more than a puerile, edgy movie about a badass Santa – a trope that’s been done to death. Thankfully though, the film proved me wrong. Despite insane levels of violence and gore, it contains a surprising amount of heart, managing to capture the Christmas vibe nicely. The seasonal warmth comes mainly through the relationship between Santa and a young girl, Trudy, one of the hostages. She receives a walkie-talkie as an early Christmas present, which allows her to communicate with Santa, becoming the Al to his John McClane, in a way.

In fact, Violent Night very much has the feel of a hybrid of Die Hard (1988) and another Christmas classic: Home Alone (1990). The mercenaries, each of whom has a Christmas-themed codename, clearly take inspiration from Die Hard’s terrorists, with Scrooge (Leguizamo’s character) in the role of Hans Gruber. And the large family house is a definite homage to Home Alone, with Trudy making several direct references to the film, setting traps and re-enacting Kevin’s iconic scream.

The Lightstone family matriarch is Gertrude, clearly an uber-wealthy tycoon, although we never discover the nature of her business. Others taken hostage are her children and their partners, Jason, Linda, Alva, and Morgan, and Gertrude’s grandchildren, Trudy and Bert. The characters of Trudy and her parents, Jason and Linda, develop nicely throughout the film, while Alva, Morgan, and Bert remain one-dimensional caricatures. In truth, they annoyed the hell out of me! I understand that’s partially intentional, but it doesn’t make them any less grating to watch.

But that’s enough about the characters. Where Violent Night really shines is the action sequences which are as brutal as they are entertaining. It’s no surprise that David Leitch served as a producer on the film, having also worked on the John Wick franchise (2014-), Nobody (2021) and Bullet Train (2022), all of which have similarly brilliant action scenes.

A particular set piece in a barn was a joy to behold. Seizing hold of a huge hammer, Santa sets to work, obliterating the army of mercenaries coming for him. The only time the action failed to please was towards the end when Santa chases the bad guys fleeing on snowmobiles. However, perhaps I’m being somewhat harsh as, overall, it’s not a massive deal, and I greatly enjoyed the final confrontation between Santa and Scrooge immediately after.

With its beautifully crafted action set pieces, surprisingly solid emotional core, and strong lead performance from David Harbour, Violent Night has all the makings of a new Christmas classic. While the humour didn’t always land, and some of the characters left a little to be desired, it certainly wasn’t enough to hinder my enjoyment. 4/5

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