"Violent Night" Review: It's Like "Die Hard" Meets "Miracle On 34th Street" And It's Basically An Instant Classic

Just in case you haven't heard of it yet — and believe me, you definitely will — Violent Night is a new film starring David Harbour as an ass-kicking Santa Claus in this new holiday action-comedy, and, yes, you read that all correctly.

A closeup of a bloodied Santa holding a long hammer

The film is directed by Norwegian filmmaker Tommy Wirkola — best known for the horror comedy Dead Snow and the action-fueled Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters — and written by Pat Casey and Josh Miller, who penned Sonic the Hedgehog. So, ya know, action, horror, and comedy are kinda in everyone's wheelhouse here.

Tommy Wirkola working with David Harbour

Director Tommy Wirkola and David Harbour on the set of Violent Night.

Allen Fraser / Universal / Getty

BTW, before we get going here, if you want to know absolutely nothing about the film going into it, be sure to bookmark this for later. I won't reveal any major spoilers, but obviously, I gotta talk about the film somehow!

Self-described by the writers as "Die Hard meets Miracle on 34th Street," Violent Night is a hilariously entertaining ride that hits all the right action, comedy, and feel-good notes. And I guarantee you'll be shouting, "OMG!!!" several times throughout the film.

David Harbour as Santa being violent

Here's the setup...

It's Christmas Eve, and Santa drowns his sorrows at a random pub in England and bemoans how most kids today are low-key awful and only want video games for Christmas. It's clear Santa is down in the dumps (sad), but alas, he has no choice but to keep going...Christmas must go on!

Santa having a beer

Meanwhile, a young family set out on Christmas Eve to visit their SUPER rich and powerful grandma, Gertrude Lightstone — played by the iconic Beverly D'Angelo, who many of you will know best as Ellen Griswold from the Vacation films.

family driving; Beverly D'Angelo as the grandma

Now, as cute as this sounds, things are actually not so sweet for the Lightstone family. Jason and Linda are estranged, although they play nice for the sake of their daughter, Trudy.

Trudy playing and sitting in bed

And, well, the rest of Jason's family kinda sucks.

people sitting on a couch

Jason's sister Alva, who's super spoiled, would do just about anything to get her hands on her mother's fortune. And her cheesy actor boyfriend and social media–obsessed son Bert don't make things any better.

Jessica with her boyfriend and son
Allen Fraser / Universal / Getty

(Bert's name, BTW, is short for "Bertrude" — a name Alva literally made up to try to "name him" after grandma Gertrude — and I'm never not going to laugh about that.)

Now, although Gertrude loves her family, her vibes give off less "matriarch" and more "mob boss." Oh, and she also has the mouth of a sailor, which TBH, is kinda hilarious.

Gertrude looking up and sitting on a couch

So, ya see, getting together with the family for the holidays isn't exactly Jason, Linda, or Trudy's favorite thing to do. BUT they do it anyway because...FAMILY!

Jason and Linda sitting next to each other

However, the awkward holiday festivities are disrupted when a team of mercenaries breaks into the compound and takes the Lightstone family hostage.

team of mercenaries
Allen Fraser / Universal / Getty

Led by a man using the code name Scrooge (the fabulous John Leguizamo), the mercenaries are here for just one thing — money! (What else, right?)

John Leguizamo as a mercenary firing a machine gun

But, lucky for the Lightstones, Santa also happens to be visiting their home at just the same time.

Santa in the Lightstone home

And what unfolds is exactly what you signed up for: 112 minutes of Santa violently kicking bad guys' asses.


Now, IMHO, the action in Violent Night isn't QUITE to the level of the John Wick films (which I was expecting). There are scenes where the camerawork and lighting just don't keep up with the action, and it leaves you wishing you could see more/better...

dark lighting on Santa

...but, having said that, I was pleasantly surprised by how many clever and unexpected kills there are involving Christmas lights, candy canes, and all kinds of ~festive~ decor. Truly iconic.

Arrows pointing to Christmas decor

And while you may be asking yourself, "OK, but how is Santa, like, an action hero?" Without spoiling anything, I will say that there is a backstory (albeit brief), and the explanation makes sense.

Santa's sleigh with an arrow pointing to it and the words "Here's a hint"
Allen Fraser / Universal / Getty

Adding to the fun are a bunch of references to other iconic holiday films like Home Alone, Christmas Vacation, and more. In fact, there's one sequence inspired by Home Alone that is so wild it will have you flinching in secondhand pain.

Trudy smiling
Allen Fraser / Universal / Getty

Like many other holiday films, Violent Night actually has some wholesome and sweet moments too. But — fair warning, parents — it's still Rated R because of, well, violence, language, and ~adult references~.

Santa fighting someone outside with fire burning around them

Overall, Violent Night serves up a pretty simple and earnest story, but it's the action and absurdity that'll keep you entertained throughout the ride. In fact, the film is so unique and fun that I predict it'll become an annual Holiday rewatch for many people for years to come. 9/10 would recommend!

Santa tied up with Christmas lights by a mercenary
Allen Fraser / Universal / Getty

Violent Night lands in theaters everywhere Dec. 2, and you can watch the official trailer for it here:

Looking for more recommendations? Check out some of my other reviews from this year:

She Said

The Menu

The Fabelmans

Terrifier 2


The Banshees of Inisherin

Decision to Leave

Halloween Ends

Don't Worry Darling



Bodies Bodies Bodies


The Black Phone




Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

The Northman

Everything Everywhere All at Once