2.5 out of 5 stars
For those of us who grew up on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Coming to Town, it is hard to think that there are any new stories to be told about the big man. Some could argue that The Santa Clause and Elf provided something new to Chris Cringle’s narrative, but these both merely modernise the familiar elements of his life. Then something happened recently, the trailer came out for Fatman and everything you thought you knew about Santa blew up the chimney. Especially when audiences see Mel Gibson (Braveheart) in the jolly giver of gifts jacket, there is an understanding that this film may be sprinkled with bullets and surprises.
Here is how the story goes, Chris and Ruth (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) Cringle have fallen on hard times. Difficulties that have come about with the world's waning Christmas spirit and the US government cutting the organisation's annual subsidy. Their production facility in Alaska has been falling into disrepair and Chris has begun to lose all faith in mankind. Even though the Cringles had resisted the offer in the past, they decide that they will do a small side job for the military. Instead of toys, Santa’s helpers become short-term government workers who assemble navigation systems for the Air Force. Work that provides the normally festive workplace with the needed funds and an extra level of military security. That’s right, elves making fighter jet parts.
Meanwhile, children around the world are looking forward to their Christmas gifts from jolly Old Saint Nick. Billy Wenan (Chance Hurstfield) is one of those kids who thinks he has done all he can to get the gift he desires. Even though he mistreats his family’s hired help, cheats to receive school science awards and steals from his grandmother, he still hopes to get his due from Santa. When the 12-year-old does receive the very thing he deserves, a lump of coal, the boy does not think to change his ways. Instead, this young ego-maniac decides to put a hit out on Father Christmas. Billy hires Skinny Man (Walton Goggins) to get the job done, because he knows the hitman has a vendetta against Chris and everything he represents.
If you take a moment to consider this premise, it does not take too long to comprehend that this is not a typical holiday film filled with Christmas cheer. Beginning with the man in the red jacket, Mel Gibson fully embodies the cynical curmudgeon that he is meant to represent. Instead of the happy and industrious Christmas tycoon, his character is more of a blue-collar, lower-class factory manager. One who must do the annual gift run on Christmas night like a disgruntled postal worker. A darker turn for this mythical figure, but a fresh spin that brings this man closer to the realities of this modern world. Hard-hitting, gruff, quietly caring, fully-aware of the world and able to handle a weapon, he proves to be a tough and appealing version of Santa. He is complemented by a wonderful performance from Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Ms Cringle, the real backbone of the whole toy-making operation.
Before completely settling in on these accolades, it might be worth remembering that this film is based on a child who wants to kill Chris Cringle. By combining the vicious ways of the spoilt Billy Wenan and the masochistic methods of the Skinny Man, Fatman quickly turns into a Christmas special only Quentin Tarantino could make. Goggins is perfectly cast as the soulless hitman and provides some of the funniest moments in the film. Despite these comical twists on the traditional holiday legend, Billy and the gunman manage to bring enough bloodshed to rival the majority of Gibson’s previous films. For those who can remember Lethal Weapon, Mel’s classic will seem tame in comparison to this bloody holiday romp. Key plot details that move this film’s target audience from families to those who are hoping for violent video games in their stockings this year.
During this holiday season, if you are looking for a unique twist on Santa Claus’ tale, this might be the movie to choose. Just be forewarned that his red jacket is not the only thing that is red in the sleigh. Especially since people like to use him and reindeer in replacement for skeet shooting. Also, this film not only re-imagines the story of the legendary man of Christmas, but does prove to children that the Boogeyman exists and he is watching. You will never look at Christmas the same again, we are coming for you Fatman!
Reel Dialogue: What is Christmas really about?
Do people still believe in Santa Claus? His legend continues to come around every year. Yet, the true focus of this holiday is not on a man in a red suit, but on a child. One who came to offer the greatest gift of all to the world, himself. This story may sound strange, but please read on.
The whole concept of Christmas could only come from the mind of God. A story that was brought to real-life by a supernatural being offering the people of this world a glorious gift. The first Christmas present was the birth of God's Son, an offer of unconditional love and salvation. A one-time event that was unlike any other in history.
It does sound like a fairy tale, but this is an actual event in history. Every detail, every bit of drama and even the supernatural aspects that make such a beloved special event. Take some time this year to check and learn more about the real meaning of Christmas.