Combustible Celluloid
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With: Mel Gibson, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Walton Goggins, Chance Hurstfield, Eric Woolfe, Susanna Sutchy, Robert Bockstael, Michael Dyson, Shaun Benson, Paulino Nunes
Written by: Eshom Nelms, Ian Nelms
Directed by: Eshom Nelms, Ian Nelms
MPAA Rating: R for bloody violence, and language
Running Time: 100
Date: 11/13/2020

Fatman (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Claus the Revenge

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The strange, dark Christmas movie Fatman is a curious mix of fantasy and violence, and surprisingly few overt laughs, but still, it somehow seems confident and fully committed to its bonkers situations.

Grumpy Chris Cringle (Mel Gibson) is upset, drinking too much and target-shooting to take out his frustrations. His toy workshop can't make ends meet, and the government subsidy check he receives annually is painfully low; this is because there are fewer and fewer good children in the world that deserve gifts on Christmas morning. While his loving wife (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) tries to keep him going, he reluctantly agrees to a contract, using the elves to make parts for military airplanes.

Meanwhile, one nasty child, wealthy, spoiled Billy Wenan (Chance Hurstfield) — who has cheated and used threats to win the school science fair — receives a lump of coal, and angrily calls in a hitman (Walton Goggins) to bump off old St. Nick. For the hitman, this is an especially vengeful task, given that Santa Claus never brought him any gifts as a child.

Written and directed by the Nelms brothers, Eshom and Ian, Fatman takes a little while to establish, that, yes, Chris Cringle is the real Santa Claus. He does drive a rattletrap pick-up truck, but he knows who's naughty and who's nice, he seems to have been around for a very long time, and he has honest-to-goodness elves working for him (they exist on an all-sweets diet). So, despite his grumpiness, and despite uneasy real-world connotations of Mel Gibson occupying the role, the character works.

Another secret weapon is Jean-Baptiste as a delightful, no-nonsense Mrs. Claus, supporting him and making the situation feel warmer. Goggins is always good at beady-eyed psychopaths, and Hurstfield — easily drawing comparisons to certain real-world bullying tyrants — is the perfect little demon child.

The tone of Fatman is always weird, with pieces and sections feeling like they almost don't quite fit together, butting up against each other and then oddly fitting. It never really feels like it's gone off the rails, and it's not entirely surprising, either, but it's just off-kilter enough, and with just enough of a good heart, to make it worth a holiday viewing.

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