Violent Night Reviews Are In, See What Critics Are Saying About David Harbour’s Christmas Dark Comedy

Film News

For some people, when the holiday season hits, they turn to the sappy sweet Hallmark movies, where everything is almost too perfect, Santa Claus is real and everybody sings Christmas carols and drinks hot cocoa. On the other end of the spectrum, though, are the darker holiday offerings, where Santa can still be real, but only if he’s got a naughty streak and has been hitting the nog a little too hard. Stranger Things’ David Harbour is taking on the role of unconventional Santa this season with the upcoming dark comedy Violent Night. The reviews are in, so let’s find out some more about what to expect from Violent Night when it hits theaters December 2.

The trailer promises “season’s beatings” for a group of mercenaries who raid the home of a wealthy family on Christmas Eve in search of a $300 million payday, and David Harbour’s Santa is just the person to deliver those beatings. The preview also appears to have left some fans thirsty for more than eggnog, but that’s neither here nor there. Let’s just get to the critics already, starting with CinemaBlend’s review of Violent Night. Our own Mike Reyes rates the Christmas action flick 4 stars out of 5, saying writers Pat Casey and Josh Miller were able to package together a dark comedy that also works in R-rated action brutality and heartwarming Christmas magic. He also said: 

Violent Night is a holiday action sugar rush that never forgets to be brutal, funny and heartwarming, whatever the occasion calls for. The nice will be vindicated and the naughty will tremble in fear, as David Harbour’s is coming to town with his own brand of justice and a taste for only the finest Christmas cookies.

Chris Tilly of Dexerto also gives the movie 4 out of 5 stars, saying the action is fast and fierce, and the kills are brutal and creative. Basically, this critic says, it’s Bad Santa meets Die Hard

The action is nasty for a Christmas movie, while the family stuff is sentimental for an action movie, but [director Tommy Wirkola] ensures that everyone and everything is pulling in the same direction, so the film’s sudden tonal shifts are a strength rather than a weakness. While David Harbour is one of the great movie Santas, his Claus an irresistible mixture of humbug and cheer, who ensures that Violent Night is a true Christmas cracker.

That critic wasn’t the only one feeling the Die Hard vibes. Kristy Puchko of Mashable says Violent Night is what you’d get if John McClane were Santa Claus. She added that the movie does have a heart of gold, but leave the kids home if you’re catching this on the big screen: 

In the end, Violent Night is a mixed bag. It lives up to the gore and seasonal slaughter demanded of the Santa Slasher genre and boasts a higher production value that makes some moments — like Santa dashing up a chimney — sing. It’s R-rated for being rude, crude, gruesome, and graphic, which might satisfy your hunger for something savage to counterbalance the sugary sweetness of an onslaught of earnest yuletide rom-coms. But for a Wirkola work, it might be best considered an entry point. You must be this wild to continue on this ride.

Kate Erbland of IndieWire grades the movie a C+, calling Violent Night hyper-violent, occasionally funny and often oddly charming, as David Harbour seems to be having a blast, the critic says. However, too much backstory ends up getting in the way of all of the fun. Here’s more from this review: 

For a film that finds its deepest joys in something as slam-dunk as an angry Santa Claus garroting a bad guy with a string of Christmas lights, Violent Night often muddles its best ideas with one heck of a convoluted plot. It’s not just that Harbour’s Santa Claus is mad or dissatisfied or a bit too hung up on his past as a Viking warrior (yes, Pat Casey and Josh Miller’s screenplay dives deep into his origins; no, the Viking story is not entirely their own fiction), it’s that this first big-screen venture for this particular Santa is too often hammered not by baddies but by backstory.

Matt Donato of IGN rates the film a “Good” 7 out of 10, agreeing the lead actor is loving every minute of this role. Violent Night brings the Christmas spirit to a gore-first action flick that delivers what’s advertised thanks to a top-form David Harbour, according to the critic. 

In Violent Night, nothing is calm and fiery explosions are bright. Director Tommy Wirkola protects sentimental holiday cheer within a David Harbour showcase that gets nuttier than peanut brittle. Wirkola doesn’t hold back as Home Alone becomes a graphic traps-that-kill homage or Santa pulverizes bone under heavy steel, embracing the B-Movie extremes that more than earn its hard ‘R’ rating. Violent Night might take a hot minute to find its footing and keeps plucking low-hanging wordplay sugar plums, but at full strength, nobody’s stopping Santa from making this year the reddest Christmas imaginable.

If this is one bad Santa you’ve got to experience on the big screen, you can catch Violent Night in theaters starting on Friday, December 2. Also be sure to check out CinemaBlend’s interviews with Violent Night director Tommy Wirkola and stars David Harbour and John Leguizamo. This year is coming to an end, but there are still plenty of movies hitting theaters in December. Be sure to take a look at what’s coming up with our 2023 movie release schedule

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