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Fatman: A Unique Thriller About Santa Claus Battling a Hitman

November 9, 2020
Photos courtesy of Saban

Fatman is a unique hybrid that blends ultra-violence, cheeky world building and dark comedy – and it mostly works. It’s a wild film that introduces us to a world in which Chris Cringle (Mel Gibson) and his wife Ruth (Marianne Ruth-Bapiste), take on Military contracts during off-months, and children hire hitmen after they receive coal in their stockings. Normally, making a hard R-rated film about a well-kempt hitman named “Skinny Man” (Walton Goggins) traveling to Alaska to put a bullet in Santa’s skull, might feel too gimmicky, but, directors/writers Eshom and Ian Nelms do a fine job building a world worth visiting.

What makes Fatman worth watching, are the tiny moments of world building involving Santa’s healing ability, junk-food loving elves, and government contracts that keep the operation funded. Santa’s operation is wonderfully low-key, and his magical reindeer and elf staff are grounded in a neat reality that feels welcome after decades of magical shenanigans at the North Pole. Also, the relationship between Chris and Ruth is lived-in, and their dynamic feels like they’ve known each other for hundreds (thousands?) of years.

What keeps the movie in the “B” range is the antagonist and dour tone that occasionally gives way to welcome dark comedy. While the idea of a child hiring a hitman to murder Santa is fun, tonally, it comes from a different movie, and might’ve played better if a pissed off mafioso parent hired a goon, after his kid received a terrible Christmas present from Santa. The tonal shifts between the over-the-top murderous child, and the relatively grounded Santa, don’t blend well. However, after Walton Goggins makes his trek up north, the movie settles into a fun (and super violent) duel between hunter and prey.

photo courtesy of Saban

While the film starts slowly, and carries on with a dour tone, Fatman picks up steam as the confrontation gets closer and we learn more about the expanded world. Ian and Eshom Nelms deserve applause for the incredibly original story, and the performances by Gibson, Jean-Bapiste and Goggins are expectedly excellent. The mish-mashed tone may keep some away, but for those willing to embrace unique world building, and brutal violence will dig this film.

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