Fatman is Like a Long Lost Coen Bros Holiday Special – an Inevitable Cult Classic (Review)

by | Nov 23, 2020

Fatman is a gritty and realistic take on the Santa Claus mythology from directors Eshom NelmsIan Nelms and distributed by Saban Capital Group. Starring Mel Gibson, Walton Goggins, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Chance Hurstfield, Eric Woolfe and Robert Bockstael, the film will be available on VOD starting November 24th. Here is my review:

To save his declining business, Chris Cringle, also known as Santa Claus, is forced into a partnership with the U.S. military. Making matters worse, Chris gets locked into a deadly battle of wits against a highly skilled assassin, hired by a precocious 12-year-old, after receiving a lump of coal in his stocking.

I was not prepared for the Fatman. Not in the slightest was I anticipating a  Christmas film that felt like a long lost Coen Brothers holiday special. Directors Ian and Eshom Nelms have created an inevitable cult classic with Fatman, which also kinda feels like the Old Man Logan of Santa movies. I don’t know what I was expecting here, but it wasn’t this. What “this” was exactly, was NOT an over the top B-movie loaded with gratuitously over the top gore and cheesy one liners. Fatman, in spite of its silly name, is a dead serious affair because the Nelms bros are damn good filmmakers and they knew that the film they were making, was actually pretty damn spectacular. Holy shit guys – this movie is wild and superbly made.

There’s an incredibly well thought build to the ‘Santa’ reveals here too. You want to see some magic shit? You’ll get it in all the right places. This is a low budget flick, but the Nelms bros managed to squeeze every bit of that money and make it count. If you find yourself scratching your head as to how Mel Gibson’s Santa is able to operate as he does, you’ll get to find out in due time. I was kind of blown away by how intrigued I was during these quiet little moments where some of the mythology is peeled back and we see how Chris Cringle and his wife Ruth, run their operation. The less I reveal, the better, because you’ll have a blast watching it all unfold.

Fatman looks like an A-List thriller too and it absolutely deserved a solid theatrical run, but these are the times we live in now so unfortunately you’ll have to settle for renting this glorious little Gem on Demand. Don’t skip past it. Say what you will about Gibson, but his performance here is one of the best of 2020. There’s a moment where Cringle is looking through some photographs in his reindeer stable and if you don’t get emotional with him during this sequence…

As much as this is a “Santa Claus” flick, it’s also equally dedicated to hating the holiday in that Walton Goggins’ character has so much disdain for “The Fatman” that you can’t help but wind up engrossed in all of his eccentricities and unending thirst for bloodshed. I don’t know how the Nelms brothers managed to cover so much character growth between the two lead characters in a movie that barely runs over an hour and a half, but they paced Fatman to perfection and managed to build enough of a new mythology that they could turn this into a franchise if there was enough demand. I’m here to add my name to that list.

The Christmas Chronicles may have two surprisingly fun flicks with Kurt Russell kicking some ass as the Jolly Man in the sky, but Fatman is the new King of Action Santa Cinema. Marianne Jean-Baptiste also gets the award for best Mrs. Claus OF ALL TIME. Her performance as Ruth was magical and I really hope that we see more of her in a sequel some day. I applaud the Nelms for casting an African American woman as Mrs. Claus too – it was a nice change of pace and although I wasn’t initially sure what her chemistry with Gibson would look like onscreen, they both killed it. I believed every heart-warming moment the two shared and if I hadn’t, the movie probably wouldn’t have worked at all without the audience getting behind them.

Fatman has to be the best surprise of 2020: A shining gem in a shit soaked year of chaos and uncertainty. From the slow and unsettling build-up with just enough “Santa” reveals to keep you hooked and intrigued, to the explosive and thrilling conclusion, this is a film destined to become a holiday favorite for years to come.

Rating: 5/5