Fatman (2020) poster

Fatman (2020)


USA. 2020.


Directors/Screenplay – Eshom Nelms & Ian Nelms, Producers – Todd Courtney, Nadine De Barros, Michelle Lang, Rob Menzies & Lisa Wolofsky, Photography – Johnny Derango, Music – Mondo Boys, Visual Effects – Blue Rain Productions (Supervisor – Aaron Wright), Egg Plant Picture & Sound (Supervisors – Sam Javanrouh & Helen Thach) & Torpedo Pictures, Special Effects Supervisor – Michael Innanen, Prosthetics Supervisor – Zane Knisley, Production Design – Chris August. Production Company – Mammoth Entertainment.


Mel Gibson (Chris Cringle), Walton Goggins (Skinny Man), Chance Hurstfield (Billy Wenan), Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Ruth Cringle), Robert Bockstael (Captain Jacobs), Susanne Sutchy (Sandy), Michael Dyson (Herman), Deborah Grover (Anne-Marie Wenan), Ellison Butler (Christine Crawford), Eric Woolfe (Elf 7), Paulino Nunes (Weyland Meeks), Lynne Adams (Pet Shop Owner), John Tokatildis (Mike the Trucker)


Chris Cringle maintains the Santa Claus operation from a small farm in Alaska but is facing cuts in the financial support he gets from the US government. This is affecting the quality of the toys his elf workforce has been able to produce. In Minnesota, young Billy Wenan is upset that he has only received second prize in the school science fair and hires a hitman to force the girl who won first place to confess to cheating. As Christmas comes, all that Billy receives for a present is a lump of coal. Furious, he hires the same hitman to track down and kill Santa. Meanwhile, to deal with his financial losses, Chris is forced to accept a contract from the US military.

Fatman was the fourth film from brothers Eshom and Ian Nelms. The two appeared with the comedies Squirrel Trap (2004), Lost on Purpose (2013), Waffle Street (2015) and the drama Small Town Crime (2017). (My initial thinking from the title was that this was either a film based on the Kevin Smith podcast or a version of the parody character that appeared in Batman comics).

There have been a great many Christmas films ranging from classics like It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) and Miracle on 34th Street (1947) to A Christmas Story (1984) and various versions of Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol (1843). Christmas-themed films – either ones that maintain an upbeat positive Yuletide sentiment or fantasies involving Santa and/or his elves – are so numerous on tv every Christmas season and so banal in quality that I no longer make the effort to cover them.

There is another whole body of darker Christmas films from the magnificent The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) to the twistedness of Bad Santa (2003), the rampaging Santa monsters of Rare Exports (2010) and the Robot Santa Claus episodes of tv’s Futurama (1999-2003). That’s aside from a whole bunch of Christmas horror films about psychopathic Santas and killers stalking people at Christmas beginning with the All Through the House segment of Tales from the Crypt (1972) through the likes of Black Christmas/Silent Night, Evil Night (1974), Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) and sequels, All Through the House (2015) to the more recent spate of Krampus films and a good many others. (For more detail see Christmas Films).

Chris Cringle (Mel Gibson) and wife Ruth (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) in Fatman (2020)
Chris Cringle (Mel Gibson) with wife Ruth (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) behind to the left

The whole premise of the kid hiring a hitman to kill Santa after receiving a lump of coal as a present has a darkly amusing appeal to it. The first major signal that Fatman is not going to be a family friendly Christmas film is the sight of Chance Hurstfield about to torture an abducted fellow schoolgirl (Ellison Butler) with bulldog clips attached to a twelve volt car battery – it is a threat that only exists in implication, nevertheless …. The film also comes with multiple scenes of Walton Goggins shooting people in his way and Santa and various others delivering the f bomb and assorted adult language. Not to mention scenes with Mel Gibson’s Santa recovering from bullet wounds after being shot at by children with a rifle.

There is a rather amusing idea at the heart of Fatman – the idea of Santa being forced to deal with today’s economic market forces including cutbacks in government subsidies and competition in toy production from international outsourcing. The solution would seem to be him turning the elf workforce to accepting a military contract. This results in some rather hilarious scenes with the military moving in and upgrading the security of the elf factory, including lining the elves’ up to snip the bells off their shoes so as not to trigger sensors. And particularly of a scene where the military commander (Robert Bockstael) tries to suggest the elves eat a more healthy, less sugary diet.

Mel Gibson, who seems to have gotten a whole lot older since one saw him anything, plays a grumpy cantankerous Santa which if gossip sites are to be believed is essentially Mel cast as himself. Walton Goggins has been playing roles as killers and thugs since the 1990s and gets a rare leading part here, which he launches into with a perfectly honed ruthlessness. As also does young Chance Hurstfield cast as the kind of preppy entitled kid you love to hate.

Trailer here

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