It's like The Ref meets Mel Gibson's Fat Man, with a side of John Wick.

Santa Claus (David Harbour) steps in to save a family from invading mercenaries in Violent Night.

I’m a sucker for what might be termed “anti-holiday” films, whether it’s action classics like Die Hard and Lethal Weapon or foreign fare like Dial Code: Santa Claus, Elves, and Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. We’re getting a new entry in this growing niche genre: Violent Night, in which David Harbour’s Santa Claus must save a young girl and her wealthy family from a band of invading mercenaries. Judging by the trailer, it’s like The Ref meets Mel Gibson’s Fat Man, with a side of John Wick for good measure.

There’s not yet much public information about the film. Universal acquired the screenplay in March 2020, and Tommy Wirkola signed on to direct. The Norwegian-born Wirkola is best known for 2013’s English language film Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, but he’s also behind the 2009 Norwegian horror comedy Dead Snow (and its 2014 sequel) about students battling zombie Nazis during Easter vacation in the mountains. So he’s well-versed in comic-horror-infused mythology.

Santa Claus (David Harbour) samples a Christmas cookie during his holiday rounds. YouTube/Universal Pictures

Say hello to his little friend: John Leguizamo plays a mercenary named Ben. YouTube/Universal Pictures

Ben is after the Lightstone family fortune hidden in the family vault. YouTube/Universal Pictures

Trudy makes use of her Christmas gift to ask Santa for help. YouTube/Universal Pictures

Fortunately, Trudy is on Santa’s “nice” list. YouTube/Universal Pictures

It’s Santa versus a band of armed mercenaries. Our money’s on Santa. YouTube/Universal Pictures

Those Christmas lights won’t hold Santa for long. Universal Pictures

Bloodied but unbowed—and with a really cool ride. Universal Pictures

Per the official description:

[Violent Night is] a coal-dark holiday action-comedy that says you should always bet on red. When a team of mercenaries breaks into a wealthy family compound on Christmas Eve, taking everyone inside hostage, the team isn’t prepared for a surprise combatant: Santa Claus (David Harbour) is on the grounds, and he’s about to show why this Nick is no saint.

Harbour is a terrific choice to play Santa as a reluctant action hero, bringing a similar gruff sensibility masking a heart of gold that characterized Hopper in Stranger Things. Santa’s primary antagonist is a mercenary leader named Ben (John Leguizamo), who’s after the $300 million locked away in the Lightstone family vault. Beverly D’Angelo plays family matriarch Gertrude Lightstone; Alex Hassell (Vicious in Cowboy Bebop) plays her son, Skyler; and Alexis Louder plays Skyler’s estranged wife, Margie Matthews.

The trailer opens with Santa downing some beer in a dive bar, slamming down his glass with a satisfied belch. When the bartender cautions him about driving under the influence, he replies, “I steer a little, but the reindeer do most of the work.” Then it’s off to make his Christmas Eve rounds on his flying sleigh. Ho, ho, ho! Cut to the Lightstone family’s Christmas gathering, where Skyler and Margie allow their daughter Trudy to open one of her gifts early: “a direct hotline to Santa himself.” Cue Ben and his band of armed mercenaries approaching the house, ready to make this the Lightstone family’s worst Christmas ever.

Santa magically teleports down the chimney right in the middle of the hostage-taking. He’s not looking for trouble. He’s happy just to “schooch up that chimney” and be on his way. But a gun butt to the side of the head changes his tune. Another mercenary tries to stab him, but the knife comes out with a small wrapped present attached. Santa’s not above resorting to pool balls in a sock as a makeshift weapon, either. When Trudy asks for his help, he says yes: “You’re on my nice list.” Ben and his cohorts, by contrast, all made the naughty list, and they’re in for some “season’s beatings”—not to mention Santa’s unique twist on a lump of coal (a grenade).

Violent Night will make its world premiere at New York City Comic Con this Friday and will hit theaters on December 2, 2022. The trick to making a film like this work is to lean hard into the goofiness and enjoy the ride, and Harbour and his castmates seem to be having a blast. That makes me hopeful this could be a fun addition to the anti-Christmas watch list.

you better watch out for david harbour’s badass santa in violent night trailer

Universal Pictures

Listing image by YouTube/Universal Pictures

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