Friday, December 1, 2023
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Fatman Review

What a truly strange career Mel Gibson has. Only four years after he directed the awards darling and surprisingly solid Hacksaw Ridge, he finds himself in a festive-themed action flick. How the mighty titans of the industry have fallen, but this isn’t the first time Gibson has featured himself in an uphill struggle. He’s dug himself out of the controversy void once before with The Beaver, but I don’t think Fatman, a film in which he plays a modern imagining of Santa Claus, is a film that will do him any favours. Maybe that’s cynical of me, his career was re-launched with the help of a beaver sock puppet, so perhaps having this controversial figure of Hollywood play a character encapsulated by cheer and goodwill is the power play he’d need for a third run in the big leagues.   

A young, rich kid, who looks eerily like Colin Farrell, uses his wealth and rage to hire a hitman to hunt down and kill Santa Claus after he receives a lump of coal on Christmas morning. Hiring the Skinny Man (Walton Goggins), seems to be a reliable plan, his obsession with hunting down Chris collides with the wishes of a privileged Billy Wenan (Chance Hurstfield). Hurstfield’s performance is surprisingly great, but he feels forgotten about in the latter moments of the running time. Goggins replaces Hurstfield in the villainous capacity when the action ramps up, a necessary and well-suited trade-off that sees a succession of engaging action sequences, and a bit of light comedy tied to the more demanding moments. 

I hope to see more of the Nelms brothers’ work, though. They seem to make tight action pieces, and their direction throughout Fatman shows signs of competency that would gel extremely well with that genre. There are some nice sight gags from time to time, and there’s more than enough to make this a consistent comedy. Their devotion to making sure there’s something for everyone is an extremely bold gamble to make, but it sees them through well enough. There’s a lot to unpack in just ninety minutes, but their work is sufficient enough to make this an enjoyable watch.  

Perhaps Fatman caught me in a rare good mood. It has charming, light tones to its characters in the opening segments, and the bizarre concept is enough to bring about some moments of festive fun. There’s a bit of a flimsy message throughout Fatman concerning how power corrupts even the youngest of minds, but it’s brushed aside to make way for acceptable action, solid comedy, and somewhat strong character development. All the makings of a relatively comfortable action flick that just so happens to drag the spirit of Christmas along with it, kicking and screaming as it throws guns and gusto into a traditional Christmas character. 

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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