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film review
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Mel Gibson plays Santa Claus in Fatman (2020).Courtesy of VVS

  • Fatman
  • Written and directed by Eshom Nelms and Ian Nelms
  • Starring Mel Gibson, Walton Goggins and Marianne Jean-Baptiste
  • Classification R; 110 minutes


1.5 out of 4 stars

For a movie about an assassin charged with killing Santa Claus (!) on the orders of a Richie Rich-like brat (!!), and starring Mel Gibson (!!!) as Kris Kringle himself, Fatman is astoundingly boring.

Admittedly, I’ve had a sick fascination with Fatman ever since I heard the production was in the works. It takes a truly backward kind of cinematic vision to cast Gibson – still somehow not a complete industry pariah despite a history of homophobia, misogyny and anti-Semitism – as jolly ol’ Saint Nick. Finally, Gibson has secured the one role where he can play a character who legitimately avoids Jewish people all year long! Mazel tov.

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Chance Hurstfield, Ellison Grier Butler and Walton Goggins in Fatman.Courtesy of VVS

It’s also not as if filmmaking brothers Eshom Nelms and Ian Nelms are asking Gibson to play it cute and twinkly. Fatman’s vision of Father Christmas is of the rough-and-tumble variety. While he still enjoys downing milk and cookies, this Santa is also a fan of swearing, guns, and – judging by the way he embraces Marianne Jean-Baptiste’s Mrs. Claus – getting frisky more than one night of the year.

So, sure, I’ll bite, if only to see how the Nelms fare on the stunt-casting front. I.e., would Fatman lean into Gibson’s infamy by crafting something deliberately nasty and vile, like S. Craig Zahler’s twisty, problematic but ultimately compelling 2019 thriller Dragged Across Concrete? Unfortunately, Fatman is more like this past summer’s limp Gibson vehicle Force of Nature. It’s not interestingly bad – it’s just bad.

Somehow, the Nelms flatten everything remotely intriguing about Fatman. It’s a surreal set-up drained of colour, with everyone playing the absurd premise deadly straight. Even Gibson, who can typically grab your attention just long enough to make you forget just who it is you’re watching cash a paycheque, seems half-asleep.

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The movie follows Santa Claus (Mel Gibson), who must contend with a hitman sent by a disappointed child.Courtesy of VVS

The only person involved who is engaged with the material is Walton Goggins, the best American character actor working today. As the slick and sick Skinny Man, a contract killer who has been nursing a grudge against Santa ever since he was put on the Naughty List, Goggins brings a wicked charm that belongs to a better, more self-aware production playing only in his imagination. Merry Christmas to him, and him alone.

Fatman is available digitally on-demand starting Nov. 24

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