Reviewed by GREG KING
Directors: Eshom and Ian Nelms
Stars: Mel Gibson, Walton Goggins, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Chance Hurstfeld.
A weird, quirky and decidedly most unChristmas-like Yuletide film which provides a welcome contrast to the saccharine offerings that usually hit the screens at this time of the year.
Mel Gibson is not your typical jolly, bewhiskered and red suited Santa beloved of tradition here, but rather a cynical, grizzled alcoholic known as Chris Kringle who is bitter at humanity. More and more people seem to be making bad choices forcing him to make more deliveries of coal rather than decent presents. Because of this, his business seems to be struggling and he finds it harder to make end meet. The US government apparently subsidises his delivery of presents, and they expect some quid pro quo in exchange for their financial support.
Upset that he received a lump of coal for Christmas, Billy (Chance Hurstfeld), a spoiled and precocious rich kid raised by his terminally ill grandmother, hires a hitman (Walton Goggins) to take out Santa Claus. The hitman has his own personal reasons for agreeing to the contract.
However, Santa (Gibson) is not the easiest target. He and his wife Ruth (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), who loves to knit and bake, live in a farmhouse in a remote part of Alaska. The pair have been co-opted by the US military for a lucrative contract to use his workshop and elves to develop a control panels for fighter jets, and their premises are heavily guarded. Things turn very dark and very violent by the end.
The brainchild of filmmaking siblings Eshom and Ian Nelms (Small Town Crime, etc), Fatman is nonsensical stuff, a dark action comedy laced with heaps of violence and a high body count. However, the film is a tonally uneven mess, and it’s not quite clear what the Nelms brothers were hoping to achieve with this subversive Christmas tale. There is some nice cinematography from the Nelms’ regular cinematographer Johnny Derango, and the snow covered landscapes lend the material a harsh beauty.
This is a role that fits comfortably in Gibson’s wheelhouse of late, a violent, angry revenge fuelled action movie, and he brings plenty of gusto to his performance. His curmudgeonly demeanour and sour attitude make Billy Bob Thornton’s Bad Santa seem almost pleasant by comparison. Goggins brings a menacing quality to his performance as the psychopathic hitman. Hurstfeld is annoying as the brat whose selfish desires set in motion the action. Jean-Baptiste though is wasted in a fairly bland role.
With other more typical Christmas fare in the cinemas, Fatman may well appeal to audiences looking for something a bit more left of centre.