Thursday, 20 February 2014

Bad Santa (2003)





















No this isn't a National Lampoon movie although you could easily be fooled into thinking that with this title. As you might have expected this is a Christmas set film and its about a naughty Santa character. Again you could easily be fooled into thinking this is a silly kids movie with lots of fart gags...but no, its actually a black comedy and most definitely for the grown ups.

The whole point of this film is the ever so slight redemption of the main character played by Thornton. This guy is a low down permanently drunk criminal who drags his way through life whilst robbing department stores with his dwarf partner. The dubious duo take yearly jobs as a department store Santa and his elf worker, this way they get to know the ins and outs of the store so they can easily rob it. Things change for Thornton's character 'Stokes' when he meets a tubby little boy who he kinda befriends and takes a shine to...eventually.

This film is kinda unique in the sense that the main character has many flaws and issues which you tend to think he will sort out at some point by the end of the film. The twist and funny part is he doesn't really change at all, he does a little bit with the help of his little fat young friend, but not too much really, he still ends up as the same bum. The amusing things about the film are the constant little moments where Thornton's character gets angry or frustrated with the fat kid and swears at him. The little fat kid (eerily played by Kelly) seems to be a bit slow and just takes the abuse, in one ear and out the other. At times it can be very funny to watch these outbursts yet at other times you do feel sorry for the kid or Stokes because you know he sometimes doesn't mean it.

The heist aspect of the film is quite good and offers some reasonably tense moments, especially near the end. The various Santa sequences are probably the films highlights as we see Thornton getting sneezed and coughed on by lots of pant wetting scroats. Of course his reactions and the way he treats the kids are the best bits, he basically sneers growls and scowls at them, finally nudging them off his knee and virtually kicking them to the curb. Watching the reactions of the parents is great, as a man pushing 40 and with no kids I love it, if I was a parent I might feel differently I guess who knows.

The darkest sequence must be when a severely pissed Stokes crawls up the escalator towards his Santa grotto. His beard and clothes now filthy stained and damaged, he looks like shit, can hardly walk and promptly falls into a reindeer display. This whole sequence starts out funny but descends into a more cringeworthy incident as he freaks out and starts to smash up the Xmas display in front of everyone in the store, its still amusing but also poignant and depressing...much like the plot as a whole really.

The finale was a tad of a let down for me, it does seem like you're gonna get the predictable ending where Stokes will die trying to achieve a small slice of decency in his life, the right ending. A bit like the finale in 'The Wrestler' where Rourke's character goes out doing what he loves but also reclaiming a small part of his dignity right at the end. Even though this ending is predictable as I said, I think it would have been stronger for obvious reasons. Instead Stokes lives on and we get some mumbo jumbo about how he survived and what he plans to do after he heals up. This simply feels like an open ending so they can roll out a sequel which this film really doesn't need in my opinion, if it happens that is. I think it should have wrapped up there and then.

All in all I like how this is basically an anti-Christmas flick which sticks two fingers up at the sweet yuletide greetings side of it and embraces the Scrooge side with extreme profanity. Its not exactly original in idea, the drunk rude Santa schtick has been done before but you can't deny its amusing. Crude rude edgy and drenched in cynicism...but there is a soft warm heart buried deep in there and it just about manages to shine through in the end.

7/10