Fatman offers a decidedly dark and twisted take on the holiday season. Christmas cheer is replaced by an evil kid, ruthless assassin, and a beleaguered Santa Claus with a budget deficit. The film is being marketed as a bleak action comedy, but is a surprisingly thoughtful satire. Fatman reflects the worst instincts of modern times. It shows how selfishness and immorality can lead to violent outcomes. Some audiences will be appalled, but the story told definitely has merit.
Mel Gibson stars as Chris Cringle, a hardworking Santa who's struggling to keep his business afloat. He has a wonderful wife (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) and legion of committed elves, but a crippling budget shortfall endangers the entire operation. His annual subsidy from the government is based on the number of gifts given. The naughty list has grown exponentially. More children are not deserving of presents. Lumps of coal have seriously affected the bottom line.
Billy Wenan (Chance Hurstfield) is a pint-sized tyrant who always gets his way. Raised by an ailing grandmother, Billy runs their wealthy household with an iron mitten. Second place in the school science fair, not happening, Billy never loses. His fury reaches critical mass when he receives a lump of coal on Christmas. Billy hires a merciless hit man (Walton Goggins) to hunt the Fatman down.
Filmmakers Eshom and Ian Nelms (Small Town Crime) put real world grit into a fabled character. Their version of Santa could be any business owner trying to get by. Unfortunately, his product is based on the goodness of humanity. Mounting losses leads to a lack of faith. A fascinating subplot has Chris outsourcing the elves for a secret military project. These scenes are hilarious, but equally troubling. A decent man has to compromise his values for a paycheck. Watching government bureaucrats take over Christmas is a sobering lesson.
Walton Goggins is a soulless, cold-blooded antagonist. The remorseless killer also has a bone to pick with the Fatman. He's funny as hell shaking down Billy's science fair competitor. But the chuckles turn to chills with his staggering body count. Goggins brings a realistic menace to the plot. He's an unbridled psychopath with zero redeeming characteristics; the final result of childhood abuse and neglect. His showdown with the Fatman is absolutely brutal.
The relationship between Mel Gibson and Marianne Jean-Baptiste is endearing. The grizzled Chris Cringle has an able and supportive partner. Their scenes of actual warmth and kindness temper the ugliness of the plot. They are believable and have chemistry as a couple. Fatman could have been a more traditional film. I could honestly have just watched them dealing with the nightmare of running Christmas.
To be clear, Fatman is not a children's movie in any sense. The film isn't raunchy like Bad Santa, but easily earns its R-rating with violence, language, and adult themes. Fatman requires abstract thought and an appreciation of a subversive plot. It runs long, but ably satirizes the lack of true Christmas spirit. Fatman is a production of Fortitude International, Ingenious, and Mammoth Entertainment. It will open in select theaters on November 13th. Followed by a digital and on demand release on November 24th. Fatman is distributed by Saban Films.