PG Score: 6.5/10
Fatman was released in theaters on 11/13/20. It will be available for streaming on 11/24/20.
Fatman is one of the more unique interpretations of the beloved Santa Claus. It combines pitch-black comedy and gritty gunplay to build on a downright outlandish premise. Clinging to the backs of its two gifted lead actors, this dark variation is carried by amusing characters and sheer originality.
Plot and Style
The peculiar plot centers on Santa Claus (Mel Gibson) as he faces off against a hitman, credited ironically as Skinny Man (Walton Goggins), dispatched by spiteful child Billy Wenham (Chance Hurstfield). Gibson’s Santa goes by Chris (a modification of Kris Kringle), but is constantly referred to as the “Fatman” by the antagonists.
Apart from a few oddly placed stern moments, the movie is not meant to be taken very seriously. Writers/Directors Eshom and Ian Nelms (Small Town Crime) dispense a steady dose of dark humor to consistently remind their audience of the intended tone. The dialogue is primarily composed of snappy one-liners and oddball exchanges that play to the actors’ strengths, especially Goggins. His “cool, calm, and collected until he’s not” demeanor and effectively grim delivery make his eccentric contract killer the most entertaining character of the bunch.
Not Enough Laughs
Unfortunately, the comedic element regularly misses the mark throughout the 100-minute runtime. Many of the punchlines fall flat and the laughs that are elicited are short-lived. To compound those shortcomings, the Nelms brothers sprinkle in solemn segments that leave a jarring aftertaste. On multiple occasions, Chris offers his view on the deterioration of the integrity of the children in society through long-winded monologues. These dramatic sequences feel forced and do not blend well with the rest of the film. However, these setbacks are not for lack of effort on the parts of Goggins or Gibson.
Both actors fully dedicate themselves to their zany characters and the result is the main highlight of Fatman. Mel Gibson is well-cast in the titular role and makes for a suitably gruff version of Santa. Equipped with a hefty beard and an assortment of handguns, his character is often seen training in various forms of combat. From target practice to brutalizing a punching bag until it leaks sand, Chris makes it a point to prepare for whatever dangers may come his way.
Aided by his wife, Ruth (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), his sole motivation is ensuring a successful Christmas every year. When the overwhelmingly increasing number of coal-receiving kids reaches a tipping point, this forces Chris to make some difficult changes to keep his gift-giving operation afloat. As a seasoned performer, Gibson masterfully conveys this desperation and reluctance with ease.
Good, but Infrequent Action
Fatman features a few high-octane firefight sequences and a satisfying one-on-one showdown. Nearly all this takes place during the climactic final set piece, so the problem is that there just isn’t enough of it throughout. The movie contains more buildup than expected given the wacky foundation it rests upon. Much of this is relatively engaging since the characters are good for at least a few chuckles and compelling enough to stomach some of the slowdown. However, there simply isn’t enough action to wholly counteract the hit-or-miss humor and uneven genre-blending.
Still Worth It
The Nelms brothers rely too heavily on the star power of the lead actors, and the execution of their inventive idea leaves room to be desired. Thankfully, an equally charismatic protagonist and antagonist work wonders to tip the scales in the right direction. While the end does not fully justify the means, Fatman still belongs on the nice list.