Silent Night: A John Woo Christmas

I love Christmas action movies. While everyone pretends there is some excellent internet debate about Die Hard being a Christmas movie, they ignore all the other awesome action Christmas movies. Silent Night isn’t just a new Christmas action movie but John Woo’s return to the American big screen.

John Woo is famous for his Hong Kong action flicks. Inspector Tequila and his dual handguns, doves, and slow-mo are all traits of his movies. A few of his American action movies are legendary, but not necessarily for the right reasons. Silent Night hit theatres and has had mixed reviews. As a fan of Christmas action flicks, I had to see it.

The Gimmick

I’ve got to mention the movie’s gimmick. I wasn’t aware of this gimmick going into the film, but it weighs heavily on the movie. The film has practically no real dialogue. We hear people talk on police scanners and the radio, but the characters don’t converse, and there might be 20 total audible words spoken throughout the whole film. While I enjoy people trying to tell the story a bit differently. But, in this case, the lack of dialogue takes the movie down a notch.

Silent night poster
Silent Night isn’t gun-heavy, but the guns used are authentic.

There are simply some situations where conversations are a must, but all we get is sullen glares and angry eyes. For most of the movie, our main character is alone, so it works, and it’s established early in the film he cannot speak after being shot in the throat. Honestly, having a silent protagonist who is mostly alone works better than a completely dialog-free film.

Silent Night In Action

Silent Night is a very simple story. It’s a revenge flick. The bad guys, local gang bangers in Texas, are in a running gunfight. Two cars are trading rounds like it’s Twisted Metal, and a man wearing a Rudolf sweater and a bell is pursuing them on foot like a madman. This part of the story gives us a great non-linear method of storytelling. While the man valiantly pursues the bad guys and attacks one vehicle with a rod, he doesn’t have much of a plan after that.

He does get lucky enough to cause an accident that kills two of the thugs. The surviving gang banger, a bad guy adorned with face tattoos, shoots our Rudolf-adorned man twice, including a shot to the throat. Silent Night moves slowly and decisively. It takes time to confirm what you already know. We get a fairly lengthy sequence of our hero recovering and then dealing with tragedy. The movie takes place throughout an entire year and takes its time.

But Why Christmas?

Eventually, our hero decides to eliminate the gangbangers, giving himself a date of Christmas Eve to get it done. From there, most of the Christmas theme just disappears. Sure, his goal is Christmas Eve, and the defining moment that sets the story in motion starts on Christmas. From there, Christmas gets sort of tacked on to the story and doesn’t play much of a role in the movie. Since it takes place in South Texas, we don’t even get snow.

C’mon, John Woo, blood-covered snow would be sleek and stylish. In fact, snow could be used to our hero’s advantage and would tie it to the Christmas theme, but that’s a minor complaint. Honestly, I’m not sure if the Christmas theme was just tacked on to a straight revenge flick.

Hero dual wielding
With John Woo, we know we’ll see dual-wielding.

The film isn’t a straight-action flick, either. It’s slow and adds a lot of drama and personal tragedy. It does not just gloss over the fact this guy lost a child. You feel his depression, his anger, and fear. Joel Kinnaman does a great job of just emoting through his eyes and facial movements. The action of the film is almost entirely contained in the third act.

I won’t say the film is realistic by any means, but it’s the best representation I’ve seen of an average guy taking revenge. Spoilers ahead.

Getting In Shape

The second act of the film is essentially all prep time for our character. He becomes an individual driven by the singular thought of revenge. He starts simply by throwing the booze away. He starts to prepare physically and strategically for the violent encounter that comes next.

He starts working out, slowly but surely. He begins to learn to knife fight by watching YouTube. He practices against a Century BOB target with a training knife. He goes to the gun range, gets training, buys a car, and learns how to drive like a madman.

Hero training
Our hero is an average guy who trains until he can’t train anymore.

The training itself isn’t super in-depth. We don’t see him practice tactical reloads and using cover and movement, but just showing him improve at the range is a nice touch. Movies make shooting guns look easy, but Silent Night forces him to train for months before he’s a good shot. None of the stuff an action hero does is natural or easy, so seeing months of training makes sense.

Brian training to shoot
Our hero has to learn to shoot.

He buys guns, rigs his car with bullet-proof armor, and more. He does recon against his enemies and learns the ins and outs of their organization. He’s constantly prepping and preparing. What’s great is that even with all his preparation, the first time he enacts violence, he nearly gets killed. Even with all his training, the first time he fights someone, he has a serious advantage and still nearly gets killed. We see him get scared when the shooting starts because he’s never been in a gunfight.

The Gunplay

The gunplay is fairly tame for a John Woo flick. No doves, no diving through the air while shooting. We do see one bit of dual-wielding near the end, but only once. There is some crazy stuff, like our hero being very good at shooting bad guys from inside his moving car. It’s a bit silly but still fun as he drifts and guns down bad guys at the same time. There is some very good stunt work in the film. Stunt professionals are seriously underrated and do a fantastic job in the film.

Hero with shotgun
The Mossberg 500 with a pistol grip is our hero’s long gun of choice.

The gunplay is mostly all super close-range. Lots of sweet shotgun action. Our hero carries two Berettas but only ever fires one at a time. On top of his Berettas, he packs a pistol grip only Mossberg 500. He is constantly reloading his shotgun, although, for a shotgun nut like me, it’s odd how he runs dry, loads one round through the port, and fires three more times. Still, I’ll take it.

Our hero wears a plate carrier (that clearly has no plates) and gets shot several times. When he gets hit, it looks like it hurts. He falls down a few times from taking slugs to the chest plate. The bad guys use a mix of AK-47s and AR-15s, as well as several handguns. Nothing super specific. We do see a few SMGs that are blank-firing-only designs. We do get some gratuitous micro Uzi love that should be mentioned.

What I Didn’t Like

Sometimes, the lack of dialog makes no sense. There are parts where people would talk, and they simply don’t. It hangs onto that gimmick a little too much. Additionally, near the end, as the hero fights his way through the bad guy’s layer, the bad guy dances with his girlfriend. It’s these weird surreal portions of the movie that are just silly and kill the immersion. It shows it over and over.

Another surreal and somewhat comical part of the film is our hero seeing his son’s face in the reflection of some Christmas ornaments. It’s just super weird and seems really out of place. Overall, I enjoyed the film. I liked the gimmick 90% of the time and felt it made the movie a bit better. I liked the fact that it was different, and the film challenged itself to tell a dialogue-free story.

It’s not your typical action flick, and it’s not even your typical revenge flick. It’s even tame by John Woo standards. Give it a watch, and let us know what you think below!

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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