By Alif Majeed.
Mel Gibson’s introductory scene in Fatman has him listening to the radio with a nervous twitch while driving to work. He looks like he will come unhinged and have a meltdown any second now. It’s like filmmakers still doesn’t see him come out of his “Crazy Mel” phase.
Almost all his movies after his infamous rant have been under the shadow of the same. But to cast him as a modern-day roly-poly Santa Claus is pretty inspired. (“You think I got this job because I was fat and jolly?” he says at one point). He does way better here than Russell Crowe did in Unhinged that came out earlier this year, where a senior A-lister headlined a genre movie.
The movie answers one of the nagging questions I always had about Santa Claus, which was, ‘How does Santa afford all the gifts that all the kids wish for?’ The answer as per Fatman is he can’t. This is not a Santa Claus who has an unlimited bottomless pool of resources for creating the gifts. He is one whose resources are pretty depleted and stretched to the brink. A guy who has to deal with bureaucracy and red-tape to make ends meet, while lamenting the fact that he has to send some children coal for Christmas because of budget cuts. Even if he doesn’t mind doing that as he agrees some mongrels out there deserve it.
One such mongrel is Billy Wenan (Chance Hurstfield), a brat who wouldn’t hesitate to torture a schoolmate for making a better school project than him or try to kill his granny for annoying him. When he receives coal as a gift for Christmas, he takes it as a personal insult and hires an assassin (Walter Goggins sleepwalking through his own parody) to well… Kill Santa Claus.
One of the major pluses of the movie is that the directors, the Helm brothers, sustain the mystery of whether this is the actual Santa Claus or a guy who runs a toy company in the North Pole throughout much of the movie. There are moments where even though Santa shows various displays of powers, you still end up thinking maybe he could be a powerful guy with a great immune system or is plain lucky to survive a bullet. If there is anything we got from Logan, it is that to show an immortal guy nursing his mortality; show him nurse an injury.
Mel Gibson and Walter Goggins might try to out-unhinge each other here, but Chance Hurstfield brings the right balance of crazy and sanity as the spoilt brat from hell you don’t want to tick off. This was what Artemis Fowl should have gunned for in its portrayal of the titular rich criminal mastermind kid.
Genre movies, as one line concepts, offers a lot of promise for its action. It becomes a major bummer when the action doesn’t match up to your expectations. One of the major disappointments of Rambo: Last Blood, bad as it was, was the complete lack of action, right till the climax.
Rolling Thunder, a genre classic from the 70s, did it well where the pitch-perfect last 10 minutes of violent outburst tied up everything that came before. Even the boring introspective parts. That sadly doesn’t happen here.
It might have looked like a good idea on paper. One not created by studio executives sitting around the round table, but what a bunch of friends who got high on a lazy afternoon would cook up. That is not much of a problem, but it gives rise to movies like Assassination Nation or American Ultra (where Walton Goggins played a very similar role). Couple of similar bonkers movies which don’t live up to the promise of its premise, which got it green-lighted in the first place.
I did enjoy much of the movie, and I was eager and curious about the direction the movie was going to take. The lack of action was not bothersome, as I was imagining the dollops of action coming up with Santa Claus in action mode. All that build-up just lines up for the final showdown that looks like a western set in a snow-clad mountain, which fizzles out after it barely begins.
“There are limits to what I can do,” The Fatman says at one point. As a movie, you get a feeling that the makers spent up all the budget by the time they got to the climax. But we should give props for the concept and the inspired casting that makes much of the movie engaging. Only to limp its way to its underwhelming climax that short circuits the lights out of the rest of the movie.
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