Walton Goggins tries to murder Mel Gibson.
Given the dry spell of reviews these past few weeks here at How About Notflix, I decided to go back and rewatch yet again one of my favorite films from 2020 that inexplicably never got a review here. Yes I’m talking about the Mel Gibson movie Fatman. I love Fatman, enough that I rented it twice and then bought the DVD from Redbox when it was being liquidated. I’ve seen the film roughly five times in the last year.
Fatman is billed as a comedy movie starring Mel Gibson as who else but Chris Cringle himself. The film sets up a storyline about a world where Santa not only exists, but explains his operations as being subsidized by the United States government as a method of increasing holiday-time economic growth. In this world however Chris is not only getting old, but more bitter and cynical in his age as he views the children of the world becoming more vicious and the list of good kids decreasing every day. Marianne Jean-Baptiste plays Cringle’s wife Ruth, a very strong willed and strikingly British actress whose blackness may shock moviegoers who recall Mel Gibson’s racist tirades from ten plus years ago. And they smooch a lot.
Now the main plot of Fatman comes down to child antagonist Billy Wenan (Chance Hurstfield) who receives a lump of coal for Christmas and does what any Ben Shapiro lookalike would do. He hires a hitman to kill Santa. That hitman comes in the form of Walton Goggins, a professional killer who also happens to have a beef with Santa of his own. Goggins runs a toy shop as a front where he spends his killing money buying toys that other people received from Santa. It’s all absurd on a level that makes it great.
Chance Hurstfield does a fantastic job as Billy Wenan, a psychopathic little bastard who steals from his grandmother and is used to getting what he wants through completely disproportionate threats of violence. By the time we see him in Fatman he’s already well-acquainted with Walton Goggins having apparently hired him on several occasions to intimidate fellow students. And he does look like a tiny Ben Shapiro, but it might just be the eyebrows.
Walton Goggins meanwhile is perfect for his role, given how many times he’s played a cold blooded killer in various Tarantino and non-Tarantino films. It might be his hair, but Walton Goggins constantly looks dirty no matter what role he’s in. Every encounter he has with various characters over the course of the film, like the guy who comes in to sell him his toy car in the beginning, is just perfect.
In fact it’s hard to find any bad acts in this movie. Marianne Jean-Baptiste plays an unorthodox Mrs. Claus, a similarly tired character who loves her husband and sees more optimism in the world than Chris does, but also keeps her husband on the right path when he needs a push and a cup of hot cocoa. Jean-Baptiste has charm out the wazoo. Mel Gibson similarly has become the perfect grizzled old man thanks to his gruff voice and two-toned gray beard. He feels like a real cynical version of Santa rather than an actor trying to portray Santa, like in the Tim Allen movies. One of my favorite characters is Elf 7, played by Eric Woolfe and the foreman of the shop.
The b-plot of the movie revolves around Chris and Ruth finding themselves short on funds to keep the operation going thanks to lower subsidies from the government, due to Chris not giving out as many presents. The military uses this opportunity to strongarm Chris into taking on a contract to build screens for military equipment, and we get to see more of how the North Pole operation works. Similar to Sam Elliot’s Bigfoot movie, it’s interesting to see supernatural concepts like Santa, the elves, and more all portrayed in a completely straightforward manner. The fact that Santa delivers all the presents in a single night or intimately knows every person he sees is never given explanation or a second thought.
One aspect of the film that sticks out like a sore thumb are the parts clearly scripted and filmed to be trailer filler, like when Walton Goggins screams “I’ve come for your head, fat man” in his encounter with Chris or the kid going outside to hold his rock up to the sky and shout “you’ve just made a big mistake, fat man!” The whole film is an odd sort of diluted shlock, presented in a completely deadpan manner that feels like an improvement over if the director (Eshom Nelms) had made it silly or exaggerated. It’s also why I feel like the label “comedy” is misleading. At best it’s a black comedy, with very little ha ha moments.
Fatman is a great movie to watch on Christmas, or really any other time of the year.