review by Bobby Blakey
Legendary action director John Woo has delivered some iconic action flicks over the years including Hard Boiled, A Better Tomorrow, Face Off, Hard Target and more. Now after many years Woo is returning to an American production with his latest film Silent Night starring Joel Kinnaman, Scott Mescudi, Harold Torres and Catalina Sandino Moreno. Could this film bring the violent holiday cheer it promises or will audiences fall silent?
Silent Night follows a tormented father who witnesses his young son die when caught in a gang’s crossfire on Christmas Eve. While recovering from a wound that costs him his voice, he makes vengeance his life’s mission and embarks on a punishing training regimen in order to avenge his son’s death.
Being a huge John Woo fan, I was naturally excited to see a new film from him on the big screen. For those that may not already know outside of the expected action this film sports another niche in it contains no dialogue whatsoever outside of some radio and TV news reports. This could have gone horribly wrong in trying to tell a powerful story, but it is perfectly handled and manages to bring a wide range of emotions and chaos.
The story is simple and wasted no time getting right in on the action. Through a series of flashbacks, we discover the extent of what set this up and the emotional journey he is going through. This also sets up him losing his voice and the direction of the idea it is working with. Part of what I loved about the story is that it takes its time dealing with grief as well as the decision and preparation to do what he plans to do. The action takes a little while to ramp back up due to this element, but I think gave it the more humanizing element it needed.
For this film to work Kinnaman needs to be able to pull off this performance. It has
to be insanely hard to express so much without being able to utter a sound. Throughout the film he has to run the gamut of emotions including pain, heartbreak, sadness, anger, depression and so much more. He says so much without ever saying a word and gives a hell of a performance. The rest of the cast are fine as they are either fodder on his road of chaos or the those around his life. His wife, played by Catalina Sandino Moreno also gives a great performance as she must be the emotional glue that cements what is happening around him and how it is affecting the world around him leading to his break.
As emotionally heavy as this film is being a John Woo flick the fans want the action and there is plenty of it. After the opening set up there is down time before we finally get to the chaos, but when it starts it is all kinds of bad ass. Thankfully they did make him just a unstoppable bad ass, but someone who spent nearly a year trying to prepare and as ready as he is going to be. There are some truly great shoot outs and car-fu moments that will no doubt entertain. The film flies through these elements at a fast pace and lets the bullets and carnage reign supreme. Sure, its not breaking any new ground and not nearly the top of Woo’s game, but it showcases that he still has it on point.
I loved this film that walks the line of a mash-up of the Punisher meets John Wick with very little to do with Christmas other than the setting of the tragedy and revenge. It may not be an uplifting holiday classic, but it is one that will be on rotation for me for years to come.
Decide for yourself and check out Silent Night in theaters now from Lionsgate.