The premise suggests a potential wellspring of divertissement: in the midst of a likely government shutdown of Santa’s workshop, Billy (Chance Hurstfield), a rich kid who didn’t get what he wants for Christmas, hires a hitman (Walter Goggins) to ice Father Frost. The writing and directing team of Eshom Nelms and Ian Nelms play it straight without a hint of slyness. They dispense with most of the cliches associated with Old Saint Nick — red suit, reindeer-drawn sleigh, jolly demeanor, etc. — only to replace them with an uninspired slew of stereotypes associated with B-movie contract killers. The first time we see Chris (Gibson), he’s taking target practice. (Mad Max Kringle?) There are moments of invention scattered throughout — the hitman as toy collector, Billy spending the entire film draped in Junior executive threads, and the scene-elevating presence of Marianne Jean-Baptiste bringing a desperately needed light touch to the role of Santa’s wife Ruth. And the choice, whosever it was, to cast ho-ho-homophobe, racist, and antisemite Mel Gibson as America’s chimney-sliding symbol of joy was not only ingenious, but proof positive that the concept of cancel culture will forever evade him. How does this guy continually find work in an industry known for its lack of foreskin? Alas, the character needed a much lighter touch than the one Gibson was capable of applying. It’s a one-note performance, his razor-burned-tonsils delivery divesting the character of any sign of emotion. (2020) — Scott Marks
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