Writing-directing brothers Ian and Eshom Nelms have delivered something special with Fatman. The film’s central coup of casting a bushy-bearded Mel Gibson as an ass-kicking Father Christmas is a masterstroke and the Lethal Weapon star delivers in a big, big way. However, there’s a lot more to the film than that premise and it turns out that Fatman is the present you didn’t know you needed this Christmas.
Gibson is a delight as the gruff Santa frustrated by the changing Christmas landscape who strikes a deal with the US military to use his workshop during the post-Christmas quiet period. Little does he know, but Walton Goggins‘ hit-man has been hired to kill him by an angry by a brat angered with getting a lump of coal on Christmas morning.
Fatman isn’t as comedic as its trailer would have you suggest, but that’s no bad thing. Gibson’s Chris (as in Kris Kringle,) is essentially a small businessman who is suffering from a slump in business and struggling to keep his factory going with his employees (The Elves) working. Gibson gives a commanding performance and his Santa feels like a fully rounded character. There’s a hint of the supernatural, but he’s a flawed man who keeps going because of quiet encouragement (and cookies) from his wife Ruth (Marianne Jean-Baptiste). It’s these moments when Fatman is at its best and when it feels like a family drama in its own right. Gibson has always been one of the all-time great movie stars but he’s also a a fantastic actor and he ensures that his Chris isn’t a caricature or a cartoon.
Walton Goggins is good as the calculating killer with a long-standing grudge against Chris. When he finally arrives at Santa’s workshop, things get nasty and the violence is brutal.
Fatman is much more than a gimmick which sees a berated Mel Gibson playing a gun-totting Santa Claus. Sure, that’s an element of this festive thriller but there’s so much more to unpack in this hugely entertaining Christmas cracker.