Violent Night is 'the illegitimate love child of Bad Santa and Die Hard'

David Harbour as Santa and John Leguizamo as Mr Scrooge
David Harbour as Santa and John Leguizamo as Mr Scrooge David Harbour as Santa and John Leguizamo as Mr Scrooge

VIOLENT NIGHT (15, 112 mins) Comedy/Action/Thriller/Romance. David Harbour, John Leguizamo, Beverly D'Angelo, Alex Hassell, Alexis Louder, Leah Brady, Edi Patterson, Cam Gigandet, Alexander Elliot, Andre Eriksen. Director: Tommy Wirkola.

Released: December 2

ACCORDING to the lyrics of Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town, "He knows if you've been bad or good/So be good for goodness sake".

That plea certainly doesn't apply to the figurehead of Christmas in director Tommy Wirkola's giddily irreverent home invasion thriller.

The ample-bellied man in the red suit is drunk and disorderly in charge of reindeer, unapologetically profane and deeply disrespectful of homeowners and their property (especially liquor cabinets).

He is also the hammer-wielding hero of Violent Night, the illegitimate love child of Bad Santa and Die Hard, which compels a hungover and disillusioned Saint Nick to dole out season's beatings when he should be delivering presents to sweetly slumbering children.

The naughty list is extensive in Wirkola's gratuitously gory picture, which boasts John Wick director David Leitch as a producer.

His influence is pronounced in two, stunt-heavy fight sequences: a young girl replicating Home Alone-style booby traps to fend off thugs and a showdown between Santa and gun-toting assailants, which choreographs jaw-dropping carnage while Bryan Adams croons "Christmas Time".

Screenwriters Pat Casey and Josh Miller, who turbo-charged the recent Sonic The Hedgehog films, pay tongue-in-cheek homage to seasonal favourites including Miracle On 34th Street for a subversive Christmas caper that salves a deeply sadistic streak (a wooden nutcracker is abused as an instrument of torture) with heart-warming sentimentality.

It's a potent and heady brew like homemade egg nog with overly generous sloshes of bourbon, rum and brandy.

Santa Claus (David Harbour) enjoys a couple of beers at a pub in Bristol on Christmas Eve before he takes flight in his reindeer-pulled sleigh.

He materialises down the chimney of greedy matriarch Gertrude Lightstone (Beverly D'Angelo) just as criminal mastermind Mr Scrooge (John Leguizamo) storms the mansion with an army of goons led by right-hand man Gingerbread (Andre Eriksen).

The intruders are targeting 300 million US dollars in the Lightstone family vault.

They take hostages including Gertrude's son Jason (Alex Hassell), his wife Linda (Alexis Louder) and their young daughter Trudy (Leah Brady).

Gertrude's money-grabbing daughter Alva (Edi Patterson) is also collateral with her buffoonish action movie star husband Morgan (Cam Gigandet) and their bratty, social-media obsessed son Bert (Alexander Elliot).

"When he was small, I begged you to beat him," despairs grandmother Gertrude.

Santa discovers innocent believer Trudy is in peril and he reluctantly takes matters into his white-gloved hands.

Violent Night gleefully desecrates Yuletide iconography, spraying bodily fluids in all directions for groans and ghoulish giggles.

Harbour embraces his character's Viking past to perform physically demanding brawls without losing sight of the touching emotional connection to Brady's moppet.

On-screen bloodletting is copious including a close encounter with a wood chipper but the tone is stylised and predominantly comical.

Santa sleighs and slays again.

Rating: 4/5