Movie review: Outlandish ‘Fatman’ has its charms, but is not a family movie
Written and directed by Eshom Nelms and Ian Nelms
With Mel Gibson, Walton Goggins, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Chance Hurstfield
I’ve got a hunch that I’ll be getting some flak for my opinions on this one. But I knew the job was dangerous when I took it. My email address is at the bottom, so feel free to share your thoughts – but only if you’ve seen the film.
So, without further ado, here are a bit of the plot, a couple of warnings, and some praise for the decidedly peculiar (some will label it depraved) Christmas movie “Fatman.”
Sixth-grader Billy (Chance Hurstfield) lives in suburban New York with his grandma. There’s no mention of mom, and dad is too busy to be home for the holidays. Billy is smart, wealthy, lonely, angry, and has a vindictive temperament.
Chris Cringle (Mel Gibson), his pistol well-oiled, is getting in some target practice in the snowy expanse outside of his North Pole home, and next to his factory, adeptly shooting cans off a fence. Yes, he’s that Chris Cringle, and there are elves in the factory.
Back in New York, a menacing collector of toys, referred to as Skinny Man (Walton Goggins) is closing a deal on acquiring a baseball bat that has a “Made in Santa’s Workshop” metal plate on it. And he will have his way with the price.
Billy enters his elementary school science fair, which he’s won numerous times, but now loses to little Christine, and freaks out. Billy puts in a call to Skinny Man, who is also a hit man, and hires him to do something about Christine. Billy regularly steals money from Grandma for this sort of thing.
Back at the Pole, Chris is grumbling to his calm, concerned wife Ruth (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) that the Treasury check he just got was only half of what it was supposed to be. Santa, you see, is subsidized by the government to do his job. But last year, he only delivered half the usual amount of toys. That’s because, reasons frustrated Chris, kids these days behave so badly, half of them only got a lump of coal. Worse, if he loses the subsidy, he and his factory could go out of business. The government, partnering with the military, has a solution, but Chris considers it unsavory.
While all of that is going on, Skinny Man and Billy are busy telling kidnapped and terrified Christine that harm will come to her parents and dog if she doesn’t tell science fair officials that she cheated, and that Billy should win.
It gets a lot more complicated, and quite a bit darker in tone. And that’s just the beginning of my warning, one that goes way beyond the fact that downcast Chris has stopped off at a bar and has plopped an Alka-Seltzer into his whiskey.
Although the barbed central point of “Fatman” takes a serio-comic stab at the commercialization of Christmas, it’s a very violent film, and there’s a lot of cursing. Most of that comes courtesy of Goggins’ portrayal of Skinny Man who, after getting another assignment from Billy, loads up with weapons and dresses in black, kind of like John Wick. He’s neat, clean and polite, has a very short fuse, and is a cold-blooded killer. But there’s also Gibson’s Chris, a good man who knows more than when you’re sleeping and when you’re awake; he also knows your whole life story. And there are plenty of suggestions that he can be more nasty than nice.
Ahh, here’s a perfect place for an alert, in caps, just in case it hasn’t yet been made clear: THIS MOVIE IS NOT FOR KIDS!
And now that praise. It’s an unconventional Christmas story, yet it also has a sweet side to it. Chris has a constant hankering for gingerbread cookies. He has a wonderful relationship with Ruth, who lets him know, “We have each other’s backs,” then goes about trying to pull him out of his funk, helping him restore his faith in humanity.
I don’t know why “Fatman” tickled me the way it did, but I intend to make watching it – along with “Bad Santa” and “A Christmas Story” – an annual tradition.
“Fatman” is playing in select theaters, and is available on digital VOD platforms starting Nov. 17.
Ed Symkus can be reached at email@example.com.