[su_dropcap size=”5″]A[/su_dropcap]s the perkiest, jingliest holiday of the year, Christmas has always attracted its share of counter-content: Think of the raunchiness of Bad Santa, or Bill Murray’s sardonic Scrooged. Hell, add Bruce Willis squishing Euro-sleaze terrorists in Die Hard, while you’re at it. Point is, for all the smug pride the makers of Fatman must feel, nothing about this gory, grimy mess of cinematic mush has any newness to it at all. Hollywood has delivered ugly Christmas movies before, but rarely with the wrongheaded, unfunny delivery of Fatman. This is like getting whomped on the head with a stocking full of reindeer shit.
I honestly don’t even know where to start. Fatman gives us a trio of unappealing storylines: Billy (Chance Hurstfield), a petulant, narcissistic trust fund brat, fumes when he gets 2nd place in the local science fair and a lump of coal under the Christmas tree. He commandeers the family checkbook and hires a hitman (Walton Goggins) to wipe out the fair champion and Chris Cringle. Turns out the assassin–who feels like a cross between John Cusack in Grosse Pointe Blank and Deter from Sprockets–has his own score to settle with Ol’ Saint Nick.
And that, mah dear readers, leads us to Santy Claus (Mel Gibson). You see, this Santa is a grouchy crackpot who spends his days swigging whiskey from a flask and angrily plunking beer bottles with his .45. Kids are bad, and they’re getting worse every day. The well-behaved kids are so few, there’s no need to check their list twice, much less make many toys. Poor Santa even gets strafed with bullets as his sleigh travels the globe. Naturally, he and Mrs. Claus (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) are ready to hang it up. That’s when the military swoops in and makes Santa a lucrative offer to transform his elven workshop into a war factory, churning out guidance systems for the Air Force.
I mean–huh? Fatman is so much scuzzy bundled into one little film. Its reach for black comedy wildly exceeds its grasp. Most of the jokes don’t land, and even when they do, the humor drowns in a sea of heartless violence. Said violence aims for the electric crackle of Quentin Tarantino, but these characters are so relentlessly unappealing, none of the action generates much excitement.
If nothing else, the movie does showcase some truly talented performers: Even when he’s playing a wholly unpleasant character, Gibson still commands the screen and invests every bit of dialogue with movie star gravitas. His work here is a reminder of the icon he was before some truly nasty personal beliefs transformed his career into a burning dirigible. Goggins plays the Skinny Man–no kidding, that’s how the credits call him–as a Coen Brothers riff, or a strange mix of wacky and emotionally wounded. Jean-Baptiste puts the most humanity in the film, as Santa’s desperate voice of reason.
By and large, humanity is something sorely lacking in Fatman. I get that all this is supposed be to an exercise in macabre storytelling. The filmmakers are clearly aiming for clever and edgy. Still, it would’ve been nice to feel something for anybody in this entire movie. Even Home Alone had that twinkly old man with the snow shovel. Even Die Hard gave us Carl Winslow and his stale Twinkies™. When the only distinguishing feature of a Christmas movie is the number of dead elves it shows, you know something has gone terribly wrong.
100 min. R.