Every year around the holidays a debate ignites as to whether Die Hard falls into the canon of Christmas movies. While there are those who feel that the iconic action film does not have the traits to qualify along side Home Alone and It’s a Wonderful Life, the rest of us know better. There is more than enough space on the fireplace mantle for action films to hang their holiday stockings along side the likes of traditional family films and the never-ending Hallmark Christmas romances.

A recent example of this is Tommy Wirkola’s Violent Night, a gleefully bloody action comedy that takes decking in the halls to a whole new level. Produced by the same team behind John Wick and Nobody, Wirkola’s latest work blends the premise and violence of Bruce Willis’ blockbuster hit with the slapstick humour of John Hughes’ holiday classic. Openly referencing both films, Violent Night finds Santa Claus (David Harbour) at a crossroads in his life. Having lost the meaning of Christmas, a disgruntle Santa spends his time getting drunk in bars in between delivering gifts on Christmas Eve.

Stopping off at the lavish mansion of wealthy matriarch Gertrude (Beverly D’Angelo), as she hosts the annual gathering for her children, Alva (Edi Patterson) and Jason (Alex Hassell), and their families, Santa soon finds himself stranded when a group of mercenaries disrupt the festivities. Led by Scrooge (John Leguizamo), the team has orchestrated an elaborate plan to steal $300 million hidden away in Gertrude’s safe. Initially thinking about his own safety, Santa reluctantly springs into action to help young Trudy (Leah Brady), Jason’s daughter, a true believer in him who wants nothing more for Christmas than to have her estranged parents reconcile.

Violent Night

While Trudy’s aspirations for her parents provides the film with the right amount of childhood innocence, Violent Night has little concern with constructing a resonating plot. The film loosely touches on how Gertrude’s wealth came between Jason and his wife Linda (Alexis Louder), social media obsessed teens, and how Alva and her actor boyfriend Morgan Steel (Cam Giganded) are scheming to take control of the estate. However, the film is far more focused on the numerous bloody ways that Santa can dispose of his enemies.

By giving Santa a backstory that is far from jolly, Wirkola is able to justify his hero’s rekindled thirst for violence. As a result, the film is most entertaining when finding ways to incorporate things normally associated with Christmas into the various fight sequences. Whether it is Santa searching for a weapon in his magical sack or a villain using lights strung around the tree to strangle someone, each action set piece is filled with an element of dark holiday humour.

An enjoyable action flick that never takes itself too seriously, one’s mileage with the film will vary depending on how much violence and absurd humour one can tolerate. The nods to other holiday films, while amusing, unintentionally highlight the lack of originality there is in the overall premise and plot. Fortunately, the film does just enough to entertain without overstaying its welcome.

The Blu-ray comes with only small handful of bonus features, including a bunch of deleted and extended scenes, for fans of the film to explore. The most interesting of which are “Quarrelin’ Kringle,“ which shed light on why Harbour was the perfect choice to play Santa, and “Deck the Halls with Brawls,” a look at the various ways Christmas staples were infused into the fight choreography.

Violent Night may not be on par with the Die Hard film it takes inspiration from, but it is worth an addition to one’s holiday viewing rotation.

Bonus Features: Deleted and Extended Scenes, Quarrelin’ Kringle, Santa’s Helpers: The Making of Violent Night, Deck the Halls with Brawls, Feature Commentary with Director Tommy Wirkola