Written and directed by Ian and Eshom Nelms, “Fatman” is a weird little Christmas movie with an absurdly dark story premise. Mel Gibson stars as Santa Claus in this one, figured I should get that out of the way up top since that may be the love it or leave it factor for some. Though for anyone curious, Gibson plays the role with a grumpy and gruff sincerity, nothing too crass or patently ridiculous here, in fact that extends to the whole atmosphere of the film. While everyone acknowledges the fantasy elements at hand, everything is played down and more realistic than you might expect. The hook of the story is that a spoiled rotten rich kid (Chance Hurstfield) hires a hitman to kill Santa Claus after receiving a lump of coal for Christmas. That hitman just so happens to be played by Walton Goggins.
Most of the film is dedicated to setting up the particulars of the world and the eventual showdown between Goggins and Gibson. Once the kid sets Goggins on his journey to track down Santa Claus, our time is spent between the Hitman’s strange quirks and Santa’s financial woes. Goggins imbues the contract killer with a personal grudge against Santa, he too received coal as a kid, and thus he obsessively collects children’s Christmas gifts made in Santa’s workshop. Santa on the other hand is caught up with a bit of a cynical attitude at first, more and more kids are ending up on the naughty list than ever before, and the government is tearing up their contract with him, it’s enough to drive Santa to the bar- literally. Santa ends up having to make a new contract with the Military to stay fiscally solvent, and it’s enough to get him back to the punching bag to take out some of that stress. By his side is the lovely Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Mrs. Claus who plays the part as a true partner and a calming presence. I really enjoyed all of the little things in this film. The fact that Santa drives a faded old red Ford pickup truck from the 1970’s made me crack a grin. I also loved that Gibson’s Santa is truly a cookie fanatic in a few scenes, playfully grabbing cookies off of Mrs. Claus’s plate even after she tells him he’s had enough. There’s a lot to enjoy here in this world. We also get a few scenes early on that establish the Hitman’s skill and efficiency, something to consider him a real threat once he finally arrives on Santa’s property in Northern Alaska. When the Hitman does comes across Santa’s path, the movie finally lives up to the potential that the premise promised us.
Once the shootout between Gibson and Goggins begins, it feels like the films is suddenly directed by Quentin Tarantino! There’s a beautiful wide angle shot of the two of them standing across from each other, drifts of snow and piles of chopped wood lay between the two. It’s definitely the scene that was pitched when trying to sell the screenplay I’m sure. The whole film leads up to this scene, and it lives up to the expectations. It’s a thoroughly entertaining film that doesn’t stay mired in the darkness that comes with the ideas in play. It’s a little different than your average Christmas movie, but it’s all the better for those differences. If you’re looking for a fun way to pass the time this Holiday season, this one’s worth your time! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
Final Score: Two Old Pistols