Violent Night: reviews, trailer, cast and everything we know about the Christmas action movie

David Harbour in Violent Night
David Harbour in Violent Night (Image credit: Universal Pictures)

If you've always thought there just hasn't been enough explosions and blood in Christmas movies, then Violent Night may just be for you. This 2022 new movie brings the action to the holiday season as Santa takes on a group of thieves in order to save one family's Christmas.

While some prefer the holiday offerings of Hallmark Christmas movies or Netflix Christmas movies, Violent Night is here for some alternative holiday cheer, a bit reminiscent of the cult hit Anna and the Apocalypse or the classic Die Hard. The movie comes from the producers behind John Wick, Nobody, Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2, so it has a good pedigree.

Here's everything we know about Violent Night.

Violent Night release date

Violent Night is playing everywhere (US, UK and most of the world) as of December 2. The movie is available exclusively in movie theaters, including select IMAX theaters for one week only starting December 2, allowing you to see Santa Claus kick some butt on the biggest screen possible. You can find out where on IMAX's website.

Here's everything you need to know about how to watch Violent Night.

Violent Night plot

Here is the official plot of Violent Night from Universal Pictures:

"When a team of mercenaries breaks into a wealthy family compound on Christmas Eve, taking everyone inside hostage, the team isn’t prepared for a surprise combatant: Santa Claus is on the grounds, and he's about to show why this Nick is no saint."

The script was an original idea from Pat Casey and Josh Miller, who recently wrote Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

Violent Night trailer

The Violent Night trailer premiered on October 5 and caught many people's eyes. David Harbour’s Santa Claus looks like a fun iteration of the jolly old guy, who is ready to kick butt to save Christmas. Give it a watch below: 

Violent Night cast

As mentioned, David Harbour plays Santa Claus in Violent Night. Harbour is best known as Jim Hopper in Stranger Things, though he has a good bit of experience being a big screen action star, having appeared in Black Widow, Extraction and The Equalizer; he also was in the most recent reboot of Hellboy, but we'll let that one slide.

Going up against Santa Claus as Violent Night's villain is John Leguizamo, whose credits include When They See Us, John Wick and Moulin Rouge!, and most recently The Menu. 

Also in the cast are Cam Gigandet (Without Remorse), Alex Hassell (Cowboy Bebop), Alexis Louder (The Tomorrow War), Edi Patterson (The Righteous Gemstones) and Beverly D'Angelo, who has some experience with Christmas movies after starring in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

Violent Night reviews — what the critics are saying

Violent Night looks to be on critics' nice list, as the movie currently (as of December 1) has a "Fresh" rating of 71% on Rotten Tomatoes. Here are some samplings of reviews:

Angie Han, The Hollywood Reporter: "Delivers exactly what it promises on the box. It does not necessarily deliver much more than it promises on the box, but then it doesn't need to."

Soren Anderson, Seattle Times: "A hugely entertaining crowd-pleaser studded with laugh-out-loud moments from beginning to end. Ho hos aplenty in this one."

Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic: "To say Violent Night isn't for everyone overstates the obvious. But if you're looking for a bracing antidote to Hallmark Christmas movie treacle overload, it's a holiday treat."

What is Violent Night rated?

Violent Night has a rating of R in the US and 15 in the UK for "bloody violence, language throughout and some sexual references."

How long is Violent Night?

Violent Night has a runtime of one hour and 52 minutes.

Violent Night director

Violent Night is directed by Tommy Wirkola, a Norwegian-born director who is familiar with mixing snow and blood, having directed 2009’s zombie movie Dead Snow and its sequel Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead. Among Wirkola's other credits are Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters and The Trip

Violent Night poster

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)
Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Only Murders in the Building, Yellowstone, The Boys, Game of Thrones and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.