There's a timely message or two to be found amidst the carnage that is Eshom and Ian Nelms' Fatman, a would-be dark comedy that attempts to skewer the commercialization of Christmas as well as the uptick in violence seen in our youth. Obvious targets but, what with our society's 20-second attention span, it wouldn't hurt to explore them once more. You'll have to look elsewhere for any sort of intelligent examination of these issues as the brothers use them as an excuse to construct a mayhem-driven parody that, while it has its moments, never really hits its stride.
In many ways, the film is quite fitting for 2020 – the world is a mess, up is down, down is up and normalcy has become a quaint word used to describe a way of life that's steadily drifting from our collective memory. So, a movie about a hitman hired by a petulant kid to kill a grumpy Santa Claus seems just about right. Mel Gibson is the bitter fat man, disillusioned by the way the spirit of the holiday season has been wiped out thanks to rampant consumerism and general greed. While he may have cut kids some slack in the past, he has no problem letting those who don't toe the line know they're on the naughty list. His distribution coal has had a dramatic uptick and poor little rich kid Billy Wenan (Chance Hurstfield) does not take kindly to receiving his on Christmas morning. A textbook bully, he uses money from his grandma's account to hire Skinny Man (Walton Goggins), an assassin with issues of his own who eagerly takes this contract. Seems he has a score to settle with Kris Kringle.
Tone is so important when doing parody, and let's just say the Nelms are deaf in this department. Their premise has promise but their execution is, by and large, wrong. The most glaring error is the directors' brand of violence, taking a gratuitous approach instead of an over-the-top, comic tack that would have been more fitting. Yes, Skinny Man is an assassin, but we see him ply his trade far too often when a bit of imaginative writing would have had the character achieve his goals without always having to eliminate every Tom, Dick and Harry that crosses his path. As the body count rises, any potential fun the film may have had is killed off as well.
The only thing that makes this exercise bearable is the presence of Gibson and Goggins. The two veterans do all they can to bring a sense of flair to the story, but the chips are stacked against them Think what you will about Gibson, his screen presence is undeniable and he puts it to good use. Whether jolly or gruff, there's a twinkle in the actor's eye, while the casting of Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Mrs. Claus is inspired. Goggins doesn't fare as well, but it's not for lack of trying. There simply isn't enough in the script for him to work with and once his character's beef with St. Nick is revealed, it proves to be as thin as tissue paper.
The angle that the government subsidizes the Claus operation to keep the economy humming is inspired as are scenes where we see hundreds of elves working on a secret Army project, the head general envious of their unwavering commitment and work ethic. However, clever moments like these are too few and far between, the Nelms more comfortable with blowing things up than witty social commentary, In the end, Fatman proves to be just a bloody humbug.