Released in 2020. Written and directed by Ian and Eshom Nelms. Starring Mel Gibson, Walton Goggins, and Marianne Jean-Baptiste. Running time 1 hour 40 minutes.
It’s present day and Santa seems to have lost the appeal he once had which causes his business of making toys and delivering them to good kids on Christmas Day slow down. One of the twists here is the GOVERNMENT pays him based on how many toys he produces and delivers! Santa is on the government payroll? Meanwhile, a spoiled rotten kid, who’s rich dad has basically left him alone for the holidays, gets upset when Santa leaves him coal instead of whatever he asked for. The kid wants revenge so he hires an assassin to kill Santa. Yes, you read that right. (I blame the parents.) The assassin has bitter feelings for the Fatman, too, so he agrees to take the job. Since Santa/Chris needs money to keep the factory going to take care of his elves, he and his wife Ruth agree to a government contract to manufacture FJ63 fighter jet control panels for the military. All the while, the Skinny Man (assassin) prepares for his personal overdue confrontation and tracks down where Chris lives. The confrontation, battle, and the final message for the spoiled kid leaves the viewer with a deeper understanding of what the song has been saying all along…”he knows if you’ve been bad or good…”
What worked for me
I loved this film from start to finish. I love the present day look of Santa/Chris played by Mel Gibson. He’s bulky but not in the fat, jolly Santa way with rosy cheeks. There’s actually nothing really jolly about him at all. He’s a real guy married to a real lady ( mean, real but magical. Stick with me.) with scars to prove what he’s been through and enough bitterness about what his life’s work has become. Ruth, played beautifully by Marianne Jean-Baptiste, is cookie making machine and the most understanding and supportive partner Chris could have. They’ve been through a turkey bacon and sugar free phase together for gosh sakes! When Chris comes back into the house after working out and he wants to get frisky, she turns him down flat with a rolling pin. I was kinda happy they moved past the sex because I didn’t think I was ready for that but they do it anyway later and I KNEW I wasn’t ready to see him that way. I mean, it’s implied but still. (It’s Santa.)
I loved Walton Goggins as the Skinny Man assassin. He’s intense and over the top and quite unpredictable which is interesting because when you’re first introduced to him, he seems a bit more orderly–albeit obsessive–but still together. It isn’t until he takes on the job and begins his research bringing up old memories that his character becomes more unhinged from reality. His scenes are so good to watch: the turtle neck sweater, prepping for the job (“I broke it, I broke it.”), and his journey (the music, the stops)–but the confrontation is where the soul of the matter comes together. “I’ve come for your head FATMAN!” You can hear the anguish, exhaustion, determination, and resentment in this line. I kinda felt sorry for Skinny Man, but only for a minute.
Yes, the battle is epic. The huge blood stain on the Skinny Man’s white parka is dramatic and gorgeous against the snowy backdrop. BUT, it’s the exchange leading up to battle. After the Skinny Man calls Chris out, Chris stands before him (at a distance) as if to try to reason with the assassin. The Skinny Man (like many kids, I’m sure) has held a deep resentment for Santa since writing to him for help with his abusive father. Chris explains he couldn’t do anything about that (“There are limits to what I can do.”) but it doesn’t matter as the Skinny Man has given up on life in order to take Santa/Chris down with him. It’s kind of a sad moment and you wish someone could’ve rescued this kid but no one did and now he’s about to kill Santa/Chris. (When THE moment happened, I was STUNNED. I was like, WHAT! JUST! HAPPENED?! Then, later, I was relieved and awed by the grit and magic of Santa/Chris. Yes, I am an adult; however, at that moment, I was stopped in time.)
I loved the way the story unfolded, the snowy Alaska setting of North Peak, the assassin’s 4 door Plymouth with the roll-up windows, the relationship between Chris and Ruth Cringle, the way Chris “knew” things about people, the way he deals with the rotten kid Billy, played extremely well by Chance Hurstfield, and how the story explains the present day situation for Santa/Chris. Seems believable to me.
The cinematography is gorgeous with amazing attention to detail and every plot and sub plot is wrapped up nice and neat like a gift on Christmas day. Even the hamster question got answered for me. (Well, not me specifically, but you know what I mean, right?) The dialogue is like brain candy for me. Delivered with such precision and sincerity in every scene. The darkness of the plot mixed with this particular script could’ve gone WAY wrong but it doesn’t. Every line lands just as I imagine Ian and Eshom intended while writing. Perfection.
What didn’t work for me:
There wasn’t a gag reel in the special features on the BluRay. How could there not be a gag reel? How could people get through some of those intense scenes with the Skinny Man? The post office manager? Or even just the crew after filming the turtleneck sweater bit? I feel a bit cheated there. Also, this film includes a pet peeve of mine, sorry to say, but it really irks me. The entire military staff is completely inept. I get Skinny Man has to get past them in order to take down Chris and maybe they aren’t taking the concept of securing the area seriously because of the location and who’s gonna know they’re there anyway, right? It doesn’t paint them in a very good light. I mean, one soldier cannot hammer a freaking nail, they can’t load a pallet of crates, or lift it for that matter once it has fallen over. “What’s that noise? It’s a ski…” Oh brother. I mean, really?
This movie was all I wanted and what I didn’t know I wanted in a Chris Cringle story. A fresh take on a traditional Christmas character with a dark, twisted, and hilarious story. I can appreciate Chris’ mixed feelings of not being wanted or remembered causing him question whether he should continue or just live a quiet life alone with Ruth. I think coming face to face with such a worthy opponent in the Skinny Man and having the opportunity to take a more proactive approach for the future brought back the fire within of why he does what he does. Btw, when he tells Billy he’s keeping an eye on him near the end, it truly creeped me out and made me a little nervous, haha. I was like, oh snap. I’m sure a lot of kids would straighten right out after a visit like this.
Fatman know lives my physical media collection and is on my Christmas Classics list. It isn’t a story for everyone but I LOVED it! I give it a 5 out of 5!!
Available on streaming platforms and Redbox. Watch the trailer below: