Coming Soon: Fatman (2020) - Reviewed


The War on Christmas (tm) is alive and well in the Nelm's brothers' latest offering, a violent modern day fairy tale starring the controversial Mel Gibson as a grizzled incarnation of Santa Claus.  Featuring a unique approach to the material, a surprisingly grounded presentation, and a problematic combination of Gibson and a placid script, this is a divisive film that ultimately misfires an outstanding premise.  

Chris Kringle, a world weary, alcoholic boomer is a real, supernatural force in a world (in his mind) that continues to ebb closer to darkness.  A wealthy, psychopathic child hires a contract killer to hunt down Santa Claus after getting a lump of coal for Christmas, setting up a brutal showdown.  The Nelm's script is the obvious flaw.  This is a film that should be an instant guilty pleasure, and yet the struggle between parody and conservative critique is present at almost every turn.  The story is at its most interesting whenever the implications of Santa being real are explored, yet nothing is taken far enough.  The lore, the mythos of Saint Nick is only touched upon, given a back seat to Gibson ranting about the good old days and kids these days.  

There are, however, merits.  Walton Goggins shines as the Skinny Man, an assassin with a personal bone to pick with the Jolly One.  The Nelms have a talent for quirk and when they allow it to shine, as they did in Small Town Crime, they are at their best, and Goggins' menacing killer is a shining example.  The sensational Marianna Jean-Baptiste brings grace and elegance to the role of Kringle's wife Ruth and her scenes with Gibson display a welcoming amount of chemistry and hope that once again is not given enough time to breath.  

Johnny Derango's cinematography is another high note, masking the film's low budget with sweeping shots of Klaus' wilderness sanctum and crisp closeups of the principals.  This is the greatest tragedy of Fatman.  Its outstanding premise combined with Gibson's presence should be enough to skyrocket this film into the annals of Christmas Movie all timers and yet something about it just doesn't work.  It's not funny enough, it's not violent enough, and ultimately, Kringle's economic and spiritual dilemma feels oddly familiar in a year of unprecedented American division.  

Debuting in theaters Friday and coming to digital on demand next week, Fatman is a curious film that ultimately is a lukewarm affair.  Afraid to commit to its conservative leanings and an outright refusal to embrace its genre trappings the film languishes in a limbo of unfilled potential. 


--Kyle Jonathan