FATMAN Review: Mel Gibson's Santa Claus Makes The Slay Bells Ring In Bonkers Black Comedy

The Nelms Brothers' Fatman hits video-on-demand today, and if a very different kind of Christmas movie starring Mel Gibson as a disgruntled Santa Claus sounds like your thing, it's well worth a look...

In Fatman, Mel Gibson plays a disillusioned Santa Claus who accepts a military contract to build weapons in order to make ends meet, while being hunted by a ruthless hitman hired by a child sociopath who wants revenge for getting a lump of coal in his stocking.

If that sounds like your cup of eggnog, then you'll probably have a blast with this unique genre mash-up from the Nelms Brothers (Small Town Crime, Carrie and Me).

Chris Cringle (Gibson) is far from the merry old soul he (presumably?) once was, feeling embittered by the state of the world around him and the fact that far too many kids are undeserving of presents. His loving wife Ruth (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) does her best to keep his spirits up, but when his government subsidies check is halved (fewer presents, less cash), things look bleak.

Cringle's problems only worsen when one particularly naughty kid (Chance Hurstfield) who made the list decides to hire his personal assassin (Walton Goggins) to bring him Santa's head.

He may not be everyone's favourite person, but Gibson has always been a magnetic screen presence, and he's pitch-perfect here as the gruff, but still kind and likeable Santa, struggling to maintain his optimism in an increasingly cynical world. Jean-Baptiste is also on form as Mrs. Claus, and their relationship proves to be the heart of the movie. Goggins, meanwhile, exudes menace as an icy killer with his own very personal grudge against the man in the red coat.

Fatman' Trailer: Mel Gibson is a Bad-Ass Santa Claus and Walton Goggins  Wants to Kill HIm | Screen Realm

The outline may suggest that this will be close in tone to something like Bad Santa, but it actually takes itself a lot more seriously. There are some funny moments, but Fatman dispenses with sophomoric humor completely and actually succeeds in injecting a sense of realism into what is clearly a rather ludicrous premise. The blood and bullets fly, and even though it never gets gratuitous, the violent climax may prove to be divisive.

It's a shame the writers/directors didn't allow just a little more of the ol' Christmas Spirit to seep in, although one could argue than when those lighter moments do come - a scene in which Cringle reads thank you letters from some of the good kids he delivered gifts to will warm the cockles - they're all the more effective.

A really great Christmas movie is a rare thing these days, and while Fatman doesn't quite hit the mark when it comes to delivering the holiday cheer, its unorthodox charm and a trio of terrific central performances should make it a festive favorite for years to come.

4-out-of-5-stars-rating (1) - FlickHive

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