Review by Sean Boelman
On paper, Fatman sounds like the type of mean-spirited action flick that runs directly counter to the spirit of the holidays. Yet despite its seemingly Scrooge-like disdain for Christmas, there is something undeniably fun about the goofiness of the whole thing, even if it won’t leave viewers feeling particularly jolly.
The film is about an entitled young boy who, upset with Santa Claus for leaving him a lump of coal, sends a hitman (who has his own grudge against Father Christmas) to take him out. It’s a ridiculous storyline, and the way in which it is executed makes it even more bizarre, almost an exercise in absurdism, but without the sense of humor to back it up.
There is also an additional subplot about Santa repurposing his workshop to fulfill a government contract building weapons parts, but it goes nowhere. As this storyline is introduced, it seems as if the movie is going to turn into a deconstruction of the consumerist practices around the holidays, but this is largely abandoned in favor of more mindless action-comedy.
Those hoping for this to be a game of cat-and-mouse between Santa and the assassin will be sorely disappointed. In fact, that only makes up the third act, and while that is a memorable note to end on, the first two-thirds struggle to find their footing. A lot of it is a bratty kid whining or the hitman driving to his destination.
Still, the finale is an impressive show of action and bloodshed, making up for the stalling that constituted much of the rest of the film. Directors Eshom and Ian Nelms do a good job of utilizing their set design in this action sequence, first playing around in Santa’s workshop-turned-military-factory, then taking it outside in the snow-drenched fields.
One of the movie’s greatest shortcomings is that the characters are nearly insufferable. Audiences simply won’t care about the hitman or his young client because much of their screen time is spent complaining about how they didn’t get their way (which is obviously because they are on the naughty list). And the Santa shown here is miserable and misanthropic.
Walton Goggins is the clear highlight of the film, giving a sinister performance of the assassin with an unorthodox mission. His delivery of the one-liners is spot-on and will leave viewers wanting to see him again as the lead in a B-movie action flick. Young actor Chance Hurstfield nails the annoying aspect of his role.
Fatman is a mess, and it really shouldn’t work as well as it does. Don’t expect this to be a new addition to holiday canon, but it’s decent enough fun for what it is, even if it doesn’t offer much in the way of festive cheer.
Fatman hits theaters on November 13 and VOD on November 24.