November 20th, 2020
STARRING: MEL GIBSON, WALTON GOGGINS, MARIANNE JEAN-BAPTISTE, CHANCE HURSTFIELD
DIRECTED BY: ESHOM NELMS, IAN NELMS
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
The concept of Mel Gibson playing Santa Claus would be as ridiculous as it sounds, no matter who directs it, or what the story is about, or who co-stars with him. As I did in previous reviews for Dragged Across Concrete, or his directing job on Hacksaw Ridge, it can’t be forgotten that Gibson has a tainted record- That’s putting it mildly. He’s damaged goods and he doesn’t deserve the work by any stretch, but you can’t review movies based on the flaws of a human, but on what you see on the screen. Fatman is a Christmas movie with two characters on opposite sides, on two paths, eventually colliding head to head. Directors and brothers Eshom & Ian Nelms do a good enough job to keep Gibson’s character subdued, while Walton Goggins plays a sinister hitman, given the task to kill jolly ‘ole St. Nick. The end result is an entertaining farce, a mixture of dark humor, wild fantasy, and holiday bloodshed. Fatman is the kind of Christmas movie concept that brings fans of the genre plenty of cinematic cheer.
On one side you have Santa, aka Chris Cringle (Mel Gibson) along with Mrs. Claus (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) by his side for support, and a plate full of cookies. The work this season is not bright, kids don’t believe, more children are bad than good, and they just don’t have the money to keep the factory running at the North Pole. This forces Santa to lease out the north pole to military defense funding, saving the spirit for another year. On the other side is a spoiled rich kid named Billy Wenan (Chance Hurstfield) and when Santa leaves a lump of coal in his stocking, that inspires him to hire a hitman, a cold hearted killer that goes by the name of Skinny Man (Walton Goggins). Now the stage is set for the hitman to find father Christmas and take him out. Getting the job done is not as easy as it might sound.
There is much to be appreciated about the Nelms brothers, a writing/directing duo that has the right amount of courage to make a movie with Mel Gibson. Their previous film, Small Town Crime, had the sharpness of a serrated edge on a rusty knife. It was a throwback to 70’s cop dramas, with a new noir twist. With Fatman, they’re take is the kind that makes a R rated Christmas movie work. The pacing is bouncy and the rules are set out early, plus there’s always an excellent collection of character actors along the way. That fact makes it impossible to not see the Nelms brothers as following in a Coen brothers path.
And how is Gibson as Santa? Sadly, he’s not doing too much of the lifting here. He’s a sadder version, visiting the local watering hole, reminding the regulars what he got them for Christmas as kids, and when not prepping for the 25th he practices shooting at old tin cans. The star here is Goggins, from start to finish, filled with montages of him traveling to tunes on the road, while his character has his own traumatic experience with Santa as a kid to motivate him. On top of that is his preparation of his military skills like John Wick, building the films climax of Santa vs. Hunter.
I’ve spoken about it before, how the Christmas movie genre is filled to the brim with bad movies, so yes, the bar is low, but Fatman does what it set out to do. The ending is a climactic explosion of fun and blood soaked snow. That’s not to give too much credit to Mel Gibson, his Santa is fine, hard around the edges, hell bent on delivering presents to all the boys and girls, no matter how many bullet holes in his sleigh. It takes a lot to get down the Fatman and maybe he’s been the action star to get us into the holiday spirit.
FATMAN IS IN SELECT THEATERS AND AVAILABLE NOVEMBER 20TH ON DEMAND.
Written by: Leo Brady