When the trailer for Fatman came out a month ago, the world wasn’t sure what to make of it: was Mel Gibson really going to play an angry Santa being hunted down by a hit man? Or was this trailer just another brilliantly off-kilter joke about how 2020 had even caused Saint Nick to take a hit?
Once a release date was scheduled we realised, Oh, yes! Fatman is a real movie that has really been made – and is really coming out.
Mel Gibson stars as Chris, a grizzly liver-cured Santa who’s fed up with a world that has forgotten the importance of Christmas and the enduring sacredness of kindness and un-entitlement. His immortality has become a cruel burden that only makes the pain of his world-weariness more acute, and he’s completely unenthused about the idea of continuing to work year after year, spreading cheer and gifts to people who don’t appreciate them. The kind of ‘goodness’ Chris wants to see isn’t the superficial stuff of a nice list – it’s a goodness that runs deep into the heart of humanity… and he isn’t finding it.
As a result, Chris gets on the bad side of a high achieving wealthy kid named Billy (Chance Hurstfield) when he gives him coal for Christmas after a spout of bad behaviour. Billy decides the only sensible thing to do is get revenge on Santa by ordering the Skinny Man (Walton Goggins) to take him out.
If you’re thinking ‘This doesn’t sound much like a cheery Christmas movie’ you’d be absolutely right.
Fatman is more of a dark-comedy fusion of Bad Santa and First Blood – but oddly, doesn’t end up being much like either.
There is definitely a bout of violence toward the end when Chris faces up to his hunter – and, fair warning, it is a bloody one – but most of the movie is spent watching Santa glumly wander around the white Alaskan wilderness wondering if he should take another pay-check from the American government for his annual globetrot or retire with his long-suffering wife (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) instead.
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The more valuable aspects of Fatman are its thoughts on how society doesn’t aspire to selflessness in the ways we once did, and how we handle the situations where we don’t get what we think we deserve.
We might not be at the point where we’d hire a hit man on Santa, but we all have times where we think our efforts and achievements should be valued in a way they’re not. Sometimes we act a certain way hoping for a certain outcome – doing good to be seen as good – and when we don’t land where we’d expected to, that can rile us up.
Save for the reality check that 2020 has been for so many, in a lot of ways our society isn’t too distanced from the one portrayed in Fatman. No doubt as you’ve traipsed the never-ending levels of your local Westfield during the festive frenzy you’ve clocked the air of entitlement around getting gifts, and how easily we can get sidetracked from what Christmastime is really about and why generosity should be prized.
Given Fatman’s wobbly execution and mature themes, its audience may not be a very broad one. However, if you can take its values and pass them down the line, Fatman may just have served a purpose.
Fatman is rated MA15+ and in cinemas now.