Monday, November 09, 2020

Mel Gibson is the Fatman

You're not wrong about the apparent decline of society. Santa can confirm it numerically. He knows when you’ve been good or bad, but these days, folks are more likely to be bad, which reduces Santa’s government toy production subsidy and increases his unit costs. Yet, more people want something for nothing, or in this case, presents, despite some very naughty behavior. One particularly rotten kid even puts contract out on Santa’s life in Eshom & Ian Nelms’ Fatman, which releases in actual theaters this Friday.

It was a rough Christmas for Chris Cringle. Present delivery hit an all-time low and coal was higher than ever. Evil little entitled Billy Wenan is definitely part of the problem. He has a long-standing professional relationship with “the Skinny Man,” an embittered assassin, to intimidate his middle school rivals. Naturally, when Wenan gets a well-deserved lump of coal, rather than looking within and examining his own behavior, he lashes out, hiring his regular hitman to kill Santa. It turns out the ruthless killer also deeply resents Santa, so he is more than willing to accept the contract.

Meanwhile, Cringle is suffering from a unique form of post-Christmas depression. To keep the workshop in business, he will have to accept a military contract delivering control panels. That means Captain Jacobs and his men will have added security in place, but they still aren’t expecting the kind of trouble the Skinny Man represents.

is definitely not a family movie, but it offers up a pretty amusing twist on the Christmas action movie tradition. In a brilliant casting move, Mel Gibson and his Unabomber beard play Cringle, drawing on all our fond Christmas season memories of the original Lethal Weapon. He looks appropriately weathered, but still tough as nails.

He also shares some terrific on-screen chemistry with Marianne Jean-Baptiste, playing Ruth Cringle. There have been a lot of movie Santas, but she might be the most memorable Mrs. Cringle. On the other hand, Walter Goggins basically just makes a serviceable villain as the assassinate, but Chance Hurstfield’s Wenan really is a nasty little kid.

Regardless, the best parts of the film are the ways it riffs and embellishes on traditional Santa motifs. Eric Woolfe gets a lot of laughs as Elf 7, Santa’s foreman, explaining Elven dietary and labor practices. Also, rather refreshingly, the Nelms Brothers do not turn the American military into bad guys (although they do portray a number of Federal bureaucrats as arrogant jerks). In fact, Robert Bockstael rather humanizes Captain Jacobs (who certainly has his moment of heroism).

Even with Santa, there is no such thing as a free lunch. If you don’t want coal for Christmas, you have to earn your presents. Millennial Sanders voters probably won’t want to hear that. On the other hand, Gen X fans will be happy to see Gibson return to the kind of human-driven action he does best. Recommended as an eccentric throwback holiday action movie,
Fatman releases in theaters this Friday (11/13) and will be on-demand Tuesday (11/24).