*Spoilers for 'Fatman' follow*
Fatman is a movie starring Mel Gibson and Walton Goggins. Gibson is an embittered and disillusioned version of Chris Cringle, married to Mrs. Claus, played by Marianne Jean-Baptiste. Goggins is a hitman hired to kill Santa Claus, sent by an angry young child named Billy who was displeased to receive coal for Christmas.
When the trailer for this movie hit the timeline, it looked like one of the most ridiculous premises for any movie ever. We've gotten some absurd Santa movies, but never one where he gets into a firefight with a killer-for-hire sent by a disgruntled kid. Why is the kid given coal? In part because he threatened to torture a fellow fifth-grader with a car battery if she didn't give up first place in the science fair. We've definitely never had a Santa movie where Mel Gibson, of all people, is playing the man in the big red coat.
I watched this movie. Apparently it came out on November 13 to very little fanfare; the trailer said "coming this holiday season" and I guess two weeks before Thanksgiving is technically the holiday season. The movie was ... um, well. I don't really know what it was.
See, from the trailer, it feels like the tone is that of a dark comedy, that the premise of a child sending a hitman after Santa Claus is the underlying joke of the whole movie. But it just isn't. This movie takes itself rather seriously. Despite the fact that a large part of this premise is reliant upon the fact that Santa Claus' budget is in trouble because the U.S. Government subsidizes him for toys made. Since the kids of the world are getting worse, he isn't making enough toys to fund his operation, and therefore agrees to lend the building skills of his elves to the military to create control panels for fighter jets. That is seriously half the movie. Santa, like everyone else, has money problems, and has to grit his teeth and agree to an arm-twisting deal from the United States military.
Despite the fact that the movie does not appear to consider itself a dark comedy, there are plenty of moments that suggest otherwise. Like when Santa, while arguing with the suits from the government that he should be fully subsidized, says, "It's Christmas we're talking about here. We aren't giving out participation trophies." Or when the hitman, en route to Alaska to kill Santa Claus, stops at a pet shop to get a wheel for his hamster and tells the cashier, "You remind me of my mother. She talked too much and didn't know when to shut the f--k up." Or (as seen in the trailer) when Santa loudly proclaims to the hitman, "You think you're the first? You think I got this job because I'm fat and jolly?" Or when Santa downs a glass of milk full of fentanyl.
My immediate reaction as the credits rolled was that I just watched a very strange and very bad movie. It dedicated a lot of time and effort to developing the characters of the hitman and the kid who hires him. It turns out the hitman has a grudge against Santa because he never got a gift from him growing up and was always looking for a reason to hunt him down. Billy, the kid in question, has daddy issues, which leads him to try and kill his grandmother by dumping her medication into one big glass of milk.
I mean, just read those sentences. What the hell! How could someone sit down and write this with a straight face, believing it to be a gritty take on Santa Claus? The first two-thirds of the movie are just one bizarre scene after another that seriously made me question why this movie was made and exactly why it was on the television.
Then the end comes along. And it is a doozy. It's ridiculous. Nothing they told you in the first hour and 15 minutes of the movie matters. Santa, armed with a pistol, gets into a fight with the hitman, armed with an assault rifle. It devolves into the two beating each other with pieces of firewood. And then ... Santa Claus dies! The hitman stabs him through the chest multiple times with a sword he attached to his leg (???) and then, as Santa lays in the snow bleeding out, the hitman executes him with a pistol shot to the eye.
You read that correctly. Santa Claus, in the movie Fatman, appears to die via domeshot. The hitman is subsequently shot from 100 yards away by Mrs. Claus with a Civil War-era pistol.
But it turns out Santa Claus is immortal. He recovers from getting shot. In the head. Then pays an extremely ominous visit to Billy and threatens to come while he sleeps if the child continues to misbehave. He didn't say it out loud, but it sure seemed like Santa was threatening to kill this kid. What a concept.
After typing all of that out, I've changed my mind. Fatman is, in fact, a good movie. Not in any traditional sense. But in the way that the ending is so utterly ridiculous that you forget about the useless build-up. It's hard to accomplish that. What other movie is going to show you Santa Claus rediscovering his Christmas spirit only after an attempted assassination that left his workshop in pieces, several elves dead, and with Santa now needing an eye patch? None. No other movie will do that.
It is as unique a viewing experience as I've seen. That counts for something.