MOVIE REVIEW – It’s Christmas, and a more jaded than jolly Santa Claus (David Harbour) is forced to save a family as an action hero – as violently as possible. Our burnt-out but also genuine Santa has a lot to tick off his list as a matte alcoholic, “good-working man” gift-giver, a mercenary gang, and a family out of the Christmas spirit.
This Santa Claus is, of course, not your vanilla Santa Claus – even though he is the real Santa Claus. He’s got a sleigh full of presents, an oversized red coat, and a battle hammer covered in the blood of his victims, and occasionally, he’ll shout “Ho ho ho ho!”.
However, this film is more a combination of a Christmas holiday full of candy, cookies, and deadly victims, reminiscent of films like Give Me Your Life Dearly or Murder Flight, full of bloody action, led by the 87North Productions stunt guard directed by David Leitch, with Tommy Wirkola (Deadpool, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters) leading the sled (he’s the director).
In the role of the boots-and-bearded, immortal gift-giving, the death-dealing Nordic warrior is Stranger Things’ hilariously grim David Harbour. His Santa Claus is a burnt-out dude with cheap beer on his breath, traces of vomit in his bristles, and hatred of cash gifts, Amazon deliveries, and abandoned children. This Santa Claus is cynical beyond measure, but when he ends up in the middle of a break-in at a wealthy businesswoman’s matriarchal estate during one of his deliveries, he might regain his old jolly self.
The Lightstone family, held hostage and constantly bickering with each other, are sitting on a vault full of cash, which the terribly stereotypical villain played by John Leguizamo is out to get his hands on. When granddaughter Trudy (the charming Leah Brady) escapes their clutches, she teams up with Santa to stop the bad guys and perhaps spark a little Christmas cheer that might unite the family.
Even though this “action” Santa Claus may sound unique at first glance, I was very much haunted by the “we’ve seen this before” feeling throughout the press screening. The action is bloody and relatively spectacular but not very imaginative – we’ve seen much better in John Wick episodes or Atomic Rock. In addition, the message of the film’s ‘family reunion’ story (with the obligatory toddler line) is highly tedious and terribly dull. Although Harbour is excellent in the role, he is also a bit boring in the writing area – he pretty much brings the macho, funny Bruce Willis style from the “Give me your life” series, only this time as Santa Claus. But I could also bring up Arnold Swarzenegger’s action comedies and his “Austrian Oak” performances.
Harbour’s Santa Claus is still a “gift” compared to the rest of the film
Of course, Harbour’s Santa Claus is still a natural “gift” compared to the villains: an annoying, snarling bunch of people desperate to ape Hans Gruber’s style from the aforementioned Die Hard films and thinking that their crude swearing, intended to be funny, will make up for their walnut charisma. Sure, it’s fun to see Santa Claus take them out, but for every relatively punchy action sequence, there’s a dull family drama to chew over, and then the hilariously creepy fun descends into clichéd ordinariness.
The Bloody Horse is fun in places but remains unimaginative even though the basic concept is funny. I’m not sure it was a good idea to so forcibly combine the style of a John Wick-style rape movie and a real “Christmas movie” (with ironic clichés) in a single film. Shame…