The trailer says it all: John Woo is a legendary director. The Killer, A Better Tomorrow, Hard Boiled, Face/Off. Successful action films whose influence is still evident today.
A glaring example of this influence is in the John Wick tetralogy. It’s no surprise that Thunder Road Films, one of the production houses behind it, also helped finance Silent Night. In addition to explosive shootouts, thrilling chases and brutal fights, revenge is at the heart of both works. The approach is where they differ.
While the extreme seriousness of John Wick’s universe has the effect of lightening the cruelty of the events, in addition to its comic-book aesthetic, the premise of Silent Night is too tragic for us to appreciate its violence without discomfort disproportionate.
Brian and Saya Godluck – “Godluck”, really? ! – experienced every parent’s worst nightmare: Their 7-year-old son died in their arms. Christmas Day, no less. A stray bullet from a shootout between rival gang members hit him. Silent Night opens with the father trying to catch up with the murderers. His chase ends at the hospital. Brian survives, but is no longer able to speak. Because the title is not only a reference to the famous Christmas carol. No one says a word in Silent Night. The only voices come from the radio.
The couple is divided by grief and each experiences it in their own way. After weeks of drinking, Brian decides he’s going to kill all the gangsters in the fictional Texas town of Las Palomas. His preparation lasts months and, for a rare time in cinema, seems realistic: combat lessons on YouTube, bodybuilding, visit to the shooting range, obstacle course in a car. Joel Kinnaman manages to convince us of the difficulty of the process, which nevertheless drags on. The performance of the Swedish actor is remarkable overall. Catalina Sandino Moreno, who plays his wife, is also very fair and offers an interpretation full of strength and desolation.
The last act is devoted to the execution of the father’s revenge plan on Christmas Eve. John Woo’s camerawork and Marco Beltrami’s music maintain the tension and the scenes are skillfully choreographed and composed. All this spectacle violence, however, is difficult to appreciate because of what caused it. A final reminder of the initial motivation is simply inappropriate.
John Woo, whose first American film since Paycheck in 2003, is still capable of great action moments, but must choose better frames to deliver them. Also, Silent Night lacks doves.