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Fatman (Blu-ray + Digital)

Paramount // R // January 26, 2021
List Price: $22.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ryan Keefer | posted February 5, 2021 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

The modest way in which Mel Gibson continues to take his career in new and interesting directions since an exile from moviemaking due to antisemitic and sexist remarks a decade ago, but whether it was before those or since those, a role as an aged version of Santa Claus was something that people could always suspect would happen, right? So I guess Fatman was a logical step, just the path to get there was a little roundabout. And it works!

Written and directed by the brother pairing of Eshon and Ian Nelms, Gibson is Chris Cringle, who lives out in the wilderness with Mrs. Cringle, aka Ruth (Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Edge of Tomorrow). Business is rough these days for Chris and Ruth, to the point where they decide to take on a contract with the United States Military. Meanwhile, a twelve-year-old named Billy (Chance Hurstfield) lives with his ailing grandmother and is a bit of a brat at school, and when he misses out on a science fair first place ribbon he hires a mercenary (Walton Goggins, Vice Principals) to sort things out. When Billy gets a lump of coal for Christmas, he hires the man for a new job; to kill Santa Claus.

Fatman manages to capture three people in various stages of cynicism about the holidays and it's fascinating to watch; Billy is plotting and kind of cold, but he's missing a bit of melancholy that comes with age. That's where Goggins' character comes in. A guy who is an assassin and who bribes kids out of Christmas gifts, the job of killing Santa makes him all the more venomous and gives him a feeling of sorting out personal demons which we see early on but springs into vitality as the job slowly brings him to Chris. Hurstfield and Goggins are both very good in their respective roles, with the latter bringing the badassery and shit-talking on a Samuel L. level these days.

Gibson as Cringle matches them step for step too. He sees what he's doing as a business too, and forgets about some of the things that make the holidays great. The things that only Santa can do (like see what people are thinking, knowing if you're bad or good, etc.), do come out in various ways to make you laugh or give you an emotional pause, and a scene before the third act starts where he gets a chance to show that reminds you that he still has it. As good as Gibson was, Jean-Baptiste turns in a natural performance that winds up being one of the best Mrs. Claus performances on screen in recent memory. She provides strength for Chris that he may not have otherwise and it's a treat to watch.

I've said before that when dealing with off-the-wall concepts in movies, that the cast's execution is critical, and if they're not buying into what is being sold, it would show and the film would suffer for it. Fatman has earnest performances by people dealing with the belief in Santa in the modern day up to and including Santa himself, and the ensemble is devoted to the story and provide earnest work in it, turning it into a movie that when someone asks you about it, you can't help but say in a kind of loud voice, "it was GOOD!" And given the nature of the film you won't get wowed, but you will be nicely surprised, and that's the takeaway from Fatman. Keep on keeping on Mel!

The Blu-ray:
The Video:

You get deep detail in Gibson's face and beard on the Blu-ray, the white of the snow is natural without blowing out, house and warehouse lighting is natural and occasionally warm and flesh tones are natural. This is not a bright picture on the palette, but the colors are reproduced nicely if it's the snow or the road treatment stuck on a car. I was surprised at first there was no UHD version around anywhere, but you don't really need it, the presentation here is outstanding.

The Sound:

The DTS-HD MA track also impresses. Gunfire is what I was struck by; I don't think I've heard silencer rounds come out so clean and balanced on the soundtrack in a while. When Chris works the heavy bag the thud of his punches brings out the subwoofer as do the larger moments of explosions and occasional firefights. Softer noise effects are good too and the soundtrack is a charm, the disc being a standout.

The Extras:

The disc has a commentary with Gibson, the Nelms brothers, Producer Michelle Lang and Cinematographer Johnny Derango, where they discuss shot and story intent, and rave about the cast that isn't there. Landing Gibson for the film is remembered, along with some various elements of the film that were changed or adapted. The on-set anecdotes have good recall behind them, and some of the backstory of characters is explored, and getting the big moments in the film. It is a nice complement for the film. Next are six deleted scenes (9:08) which you can play with Director Commentary, and the Director Commentary appears for a storyboard to film comparison piece for two additional scenes (9:58).

Final Thoughts:

Fatman is a sort of popcorn film around Bad Santa, or perhaps you take the popcorn and wrap it around your Christmas tree, I don't know. But the film is definitely a movie that is good for "Mr. and Mrs. Claus" while the kids watch Frozen for the umpteenth time. Technically it's a very good release and the bonus materials are fine but could have been a little more packed. But Fatman is worth a spin.

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