He’s not Santa Claus anymore, he’s Fatman. During the last decades, Santa Claus has gone through all kinds of evolutions. From Tim Allen’s benign and wacky trilogy Go Santa Claus! Directed successively by John Pasquin and Michael Lembeck until the most recent, in which Kurt Russell portrays the character for Netflix with a quarrelsome and worldly air, the iconic figure of the most beloved time of year has had a face for every generation.
But nothing comparable to the boomer, enraged and in danger of being murdered version of Mel Gibson, which hits the screen to show everything that could happen when the cruelty of the modern world transforms the traditional Kris Kringle (this time, Chris Cringle, to make everything more concrete) at the center of a conspiracy worthy of a spy thriller .
Excessive? Bizarre? It gets better: this Santa Claus is the measure of our world “obsessed with business and capitalism”, so he has liquidity problems, an appreciable debt and, in addition, he does not stop remembering better times when his benign figure was most appreciated and of course, admired.
Mel Gibson creates a character who stands on a very black sense of humor, but also by a reflection of unprecedented ferocity on the loss of innocence, disenchantment and the pains of the contemporary. How could it be less, he also has a slight political comment with the character full of class rage that does not stop making it very clear in every possible scene. Santa has considerable financial problems, considerable bitterness and blind fury against the world, which receives a price on his head for immediate response.
And who is the daring one capable of threatening the quintessential Christmas spirit? Of course, a rich kid who receives coal instead of the promised gifts and decides that he will solve things just as television, movies and the internet have taught him: with a hit man. So he hires Skinny Man (a formidable Walton Goggins), a ruthless hit man who embodies the meanness of our time as a creature out of a cartoon armed to the teeth.
Goggins’s character accepts the deal to murder Santa Claus – and to some extent, to wipe out the idea of Christmas – for the cash gain, but also for mysterious reasons that the film rounds out to create a subtext that it ends up being worrisome in simplicity.
Even so, the attempt to reflect on the voracity of our time ends up being as attractive and suggestive as it may seem: Chris is Santa Claus, but also the fragmented image of all the reasons for the cynicism of a vain world.
With a similar premise, the film needs a considerable dose of parody during its opening sequences or at least a second act powerful enough to deal with the darkness of the background that it must deal with towards the end.
The script by directors Eshom Nelms and Ian Nelms does not have enough substance to deal with subjects of such cruelty, and even less in the middle of an increasingly tricky scenario that does not lead to anything other than a series of unheard-of laughter. which is surely one of the most unsatisfactory endings in recent years.
Mel Gibson’s Chris Cringe is also a collection of clichés that lacks what at first glance could be a powerful criticism – if that was the intention – towards the idea of Christmas. Or just the perception of the false happiness of a time prefabricated and rebuilt on something weaker than the imposed hope.
This drunken, bitter and cruel Santa, is an old and murky version of Martin Riggs from the Mortal Weapon saga, that the film parodies in some of its best scenes and to which it pays occasional tribute with all the intention of remembering that the motor center of the plot is violence.
In fact, one of Fatman’s few hits is taking the worst of Gibson – enraged at the system, turned into an outcast in Hollywood – and take it to the movies like a critical mask of pure rancor about to explode.
There is something of enormous strength in the image that Gibson achieves of himself through an emblematic character and perhaps in more skilled hands, Fatman would have managed to be a good way to express what the actor has spent years analyzing on the periphery.
Fatman is the new Santa Claus
But the directors are more interested in the twistedness of the general premise – a spoiled child who wishes to exterminate Christmas – and very soon they lose their bearings to find an uncomfortable formula to narrate a plot that could be more than a satirical mockery of forgettable and low level.
Almost inevitably, the film also tries to make some notes about Trumpist America, in the form of this Santa who, in fact, has a US passport, turns his workshop into a corporate entity and depends on a Pentagon office, which reduced the budget considering that Chris – and his importance – it declines fast enough to be eradicated.
So the probable “murder” of Santa is not just the work of an enraged child, it is also the consequence of a cruel, all-consuming system. “We’re a business,” Chris growls in one of the weirdest moments in the movie, “and altruism is not a deductible on your bottom line.” The script is full of references, strange insights into reality, and a metalanguage that surprises at its most effective moments and disappoints, when it is simply a play on words that some fans of certain modern mythologies may recognize.
Much more important for the script is this parodic duel between Christmas scorned and the powerful coldness of the murderer whose mission is to destroy the last great modern myth. Seen like this, the dialogue that the film establishes between the possibility of hope and the awkwardness that hides behind the idea, is an unpleasant game of little winks to poorly sketched ideas and much more intriguing than the movie shown on screen.
It is not a question of two worthy adversaries in full battle, but two ideas that collide and separate again and again, never achieving a link that supports anything about the subtext that is guessed, but never deepened. Skinny Man spends much of his screen time studying Santa’s behavioral habits, debunking every myth and legend surrounding the figure, while Chris basks in his pain and anguish. In the end, the big showdown is far more anticlimactic than symbolic, turning the entire journey to that bloody apotheosis into a predictable battle between bored and bewildered enemies, after a long, aimless wait.
If in Terry Zwigoff’s Bad Santa (2003), Billy Bob Thorton was a competent look at social hypocrisy, Gibson’s Chris Cringle is an absurd conception of the current need to believe in goodness, against all evidence.
Of course, Gibson has a natural knack for turning anger and resentment into a credible comment on the superficial: the character spends a good deal of time making it clear that every idea we have about Christmas is false, trivial, and sustained about an obsession. commercial that allows control of the masses “more easily.” All a conspiracy theory that turns out to be true and that Gibson endows with a mundane notion about its importance. Santa Claus is real because he is needed, as an opportune symbol – opportunist – in a world that is falling apart with nightmare slowness.
But the film does not advance beyond that point and the ferocity that it suggests in each scene in which Gibson brings to life a common feeling at Christmas is missed: that of desperate hopelessness. Furthermore, the spoiled child played by Chance Hurstfield is the perception of a generation brought up by and for the internet, the unsatisfied whim and a kind of twisted greed that, better constructed, would have been a point of attention and interest in the middle of the plot.
But in Fatman everything happens quickly,with excessive need to make it clear that Santa Claus is a consequence of the world and that his death could mean the end of a whole look at innocence.
As a clumsy reinvention of the Santa Claus myth, Fatman has little to offer in the end, other than perhaps the only known image of Santa shooting with good aim and bloodstained lips. If that is enough for the film to be a quiet seasonal success – and everything seems to indicate that it will be – what awaits you is a transition to something more elaborate, hard and strange than the review. Perhaps his only real future triumph.
The article Santa Claus with submachine gun: ‘Fatman’ arrives with Mel Gibson, the Christmas gift you did not expect was published in Explica.co.