My Alternative Xmas Movie Advent Calendar – Dec. 19th: Fatman (2020)

Saturday is my poker night so I’m multitasking. Unfortunately, there’s no convenient segue when it comes to this next movie but, since the last entry was a fresh take on an existing genre, we’ll stick with that. Mel Gibson makes his second appearance on the list in the ass-backward Santa Claus story, Fatman

Written & Directed by Eshom and Ian Nelms

Starring: Mel Gibson and Walton Goggins

Times are tough for Chris Cringle. Automation, mechanization, and outsourcing have cut into his business and he’s not happy about the trajectory of today’s youth. He is subsequently forced to alter his government contract in order to keep the lights on at the factory. However, when a spoiled, entitled rich kid (who’s implicitly the son of a mob boss) gets a lump of coal in his Christmas stocking, he hires an assassin with a personal grudge to track down and kill Santa Claus. 

If this sounds outlandish that’s because it is, but that’s the point and also what makes it so entertaining. Eshom and Ian Nelms took an old-fashioned gun-for-hire story, mixed in a little Ritchie Rich, and threw on the Xmas decorations. The script went more in-depth with character foundations than I had expected but it made the story more than a simple, one-note narrative. We get to peek behind the curtain and see the business side of Santa, the ruthless ambition of a mafia kid (played wonderfully by Chance Hurstfield), and the complex makeup of a professional hitman. This is a much grittier and grounded version of who and what Santa would be if he were real, which is a departure from the standard mythical depictions of the Yuletide god. It all boils down to character motivation and in the end, St. Nick’s loyalty is what stands out the most.

Mel Gibson is an extremely rough-around-the-edges version of Chris Cringle (Kringle?). He’s been around a long time, he’s seen it all, and even has the battle scars to prove it. It’s really the story of an old man who’s hanging onto tradition as the world changes around him and why his values are important in the modern world. We’ve seen that before but it’s cleverly folded into the story here and Gibson plays it well. Even though he gets top billing, he’s not the star of the show. 

Walton Goggins has long been one of my favorite actors, in part because he’s great but also because he gets to play some of the most entertaining characters. This was one of those situations. His eccentric hitman, Skinny Man, has a lifelong obsession with revenge on Santa for a perceived slight from childhood. He also has a very particular sense of style that pride that plays out nicely on the screen. Goggins has a dramatic flair that fits the character perfectly and watching the two separate trajectories collide delivers the kind of payoff you’d hope for. 

This isn’t a slapstick approach even though the idea itself is unconventional. Fatman is crazy, but it’s a good kind of crazy. You can rent or purchase it through video-on-demand services. 

Ho Ho Ho! Happy Holidays!