David Harbour and John Leguizamo on the set of ‘Violent Night.’ Photograph: © 2022 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Violent Night is a real Christmas treat in all the “wrong” ways.

This one is as violent as it can get. It’s hammer-in-your-face funny, but it also emotionally connects the viewer to the story.

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That, folks, is no simple task. Too many have tried only to fail miserably.

The magic behind Violent Night’s greatness is Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola’s awareness of what’s been done before and what could be done even better.

Here’s what Wirkola does better than most in this American production.

He hired David Harbour (Black Widow (2021), Suicide Squad (2016)) as Santa Claus. Harbour is an actor who loves to explore the characters he plays as deeply as possible. “I generally get excited about things that confuse me,” he said in an interview. In this particular case, he was aware of the different versions of Santa and the mythology that goes way back. “We wanted to explore that,” he said.

The action sequences were created by a stunt team known for raising hell in films like John Wick (2014). “I trained for months with them doing jujitsu and Greco-Roman wrestling, trying to keep up the best I could,” Harbour said. “But it was hard, and I was beat every day. Sometimes I was so sore and tired when I got home that I would just pass out fifteen minutes later.”

John Leguizamo plays the leading bad guy, Scrooge, who hates Christmas. Leguizamo is a renowned comedian and actor who while playing Benny Blanco — a hothead drug dealer from the Bronx in Brian De Palma’s Carlito’s Way (1993) — “found himself” as an explosive actor and improviser, as he told in an interview.  He has since then explored different characters from dark to funny in about 160 productions from films to Broadway and TV shows, and back again.

It may be no coincidence that the production team has paid close attention to detail while casting Leguizamo.

In his memoir Pimps, Hos, Playa Hatas and All the Rest of My Hollywood Friends, Leguizamo recalls Christmases when they were so poor that he was told that “Santa wasn’t giving out any presents because he was depressed and suicidal.”

As Scrooge, he seems to channel bad memories into his character, and the viewer can be thankful for it.

If you are a fan of watching Home Alone (1990) or Die Hard (1988) every or every other Christmas, then it could be a good time to buy the tickets, take the ride and enjoy the update.

Violent Night is in cinemas now. Running time:  112 minutes.

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