“Ironically cast Mel Gibson as Santa Claus”
“St. Nick is a man’s man”,
“Elves + Military join forces”
“Smug brat puts a hit out on ‘man in red’ after receiving a lump of coal”
Fatman is comprised of these ideas and others, and they must’ve looked great on a dry erase board in a pre-production meeting. But for ideas to flourish, they have to evolve from their pitch phase with the help of creative minds. Unfortunately for Fatman, screenwriters/directors Eshom Nelms and Ian Nelms bait the audience with this absurd audacity, and leave the potential to rot under the weight of the film’s dull material.
Gibson, a suspicious actor, is a bold choice to portray Santa. I liked Fatman’s choice to adapt the otherwise jovial character as a grizzled and exhausted mountain man who is hanging on by his final shreds of sanity to make Christmas happen; including making business decisions that he may not agree with, but he understands how it’ll benefit the holiday. And actually, Gibson physically suits the part of this specific interpretation. The problem with Santa, like with much of Fatman, is that this character doesn’t have a personality. We’re simply watching Gibson and his directors fulfil the bare minimum of an off-beat idea. Same goes for Santa’s staff of elves, who all have an interesting design and work ethic but are unexplored otherwise, and the film’s goofy villain “Skinny Man” (Walton Goggins), a trigger-happy hitman who can relate to his young snotty client (Chance Hurstfield) because he too has an axe to grind with Father Christmas. That information on “Skinny Man”, however, is established briefly with only a few lines of dialogue towards the end of the film.
Fatman disappoints on a camp level as well. This twisted holiday tale is played with overwhelming, unenthused contempt; almost as if everyone behind-the-scenes misunderstood that “dark and gritty” should be channeled as “morose and bored”. The drained colour palette reminded me of the underrated Canadian sci-fi/fantasy Patch Town, but at least that film found ways to punch out through its deliberate dreariness. Fatman has opportunities to take big outrageous swings (like Hobo with a Shotgun did), but the efforts are dialled down across the board. This may have allowed the filmmakers to stay rooted in reality, but it’s a sacrifice that dampens how fun and ballsy this movie could’ve been.
There’s a reason why Fatman’s trailer worked so well. We were intrigued by the stocking stuffers the movie teased us with. It’s too bad we were mislead to thinking there was a bigger gift waiting for us.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie