“Fatman,” a new film starring Mel Gibson as Chris Cringle and Walton Goggins as a hitman hired to kill him now playing on VOD, is another entry into the great Winter pastime of arguing whether or not certain films can be classified as Christmas movies.
Does a December 24th setting, holiday music, a Grinchy villain in the form of Hans Gruber and hero who says, “Now I have a machine gun, ho, ho, ho,” after killing a man make “Die Hard” a Christmas movie? It depends on your definition and I’m guessing that same metric will apply to “Fatman.”
Gibson is Cringle a.k.a. Santa Claus, a disillusioned holiday icon upset with the commercialization of Christmas. “Maybe it’s time I retired the coat,” he says to Mrs. Claus (Marianne Jean-Baptiste). “I’ve lost my influence. I’m a silly fat man in a red suit. Christmas is a farce and I am a joke. There hasn’t been any Christmas spirit for years.” After a string of bad Christmases, he’s broke and forced to take on a military contract making control panel for bomber jets to keep the elves employed and pay his electric bill. “I should have charged a royalty for my image,” he grumbles.
Meanwhile a wealthy preteen Patrick Bateman type, upset that he received a lump of coal in his stocking, hires an unhinged hitman known as the Skinny Man (Walton Goggins) to assassinate (Not So) Jolly Old St. Nick. “Do you think you’re the first?” Santa asks him. “Do you think I got this job because I’m fat and jolly?”
‘Tis the season for carnage and bloodshed.
There is a message in “Fatman,” but it isn’t about goodwill to all men. It’s an essay on humanity’s failings, a lack of morals or fear of consequences. How the stuff that makes Christmas special—family, generosity, happiness and joy—have somehow been erased in today’s world. We know this because Gibson mumbles and grumbles about it nonstop before the shootout at Santa’s Workshop eats up most of the film’s last half hour.
So, is “Fatman” a Christmas movie? Not really. In fact, it can’t seem to make up its mind what it wants to be. It’s by turns bleak, cartoonishly violent and brutal, all blanketed in a shroud of dark humour. It’s all over the place, a concept in search of a tone. It’s not completely ho-ho-ho-horrible, but if this Santa Claus comes to your town, you better watch out.