Movie Review – Fatman
Review by Ray Schillaci
After being sorely disappointed with both Dragged Across Concrete and Force of Nature as Mel Gibson star vehicles, I finally get a slight reprieve with his latest, Fatman. Now, whatever you do, do not judge this film by its trailer. I did, and it prepared me for the worst. But, lo and behold, something strange happened during my viewing. This ill-conceived idea of a real life Chris Kringle disenchanted with the world, falling on hard times, getting subsidized by the military all the while having a disgruntled evil kid sending out a hitman after him actually is amusing at times and has Mel returning to his charming self which almost redeems the film.
Writer/director brothers Eshom and Ian Nelm get the chance to springboard from their independent roots with a high concept dark comedy with two perfect stars, Mel Gibson and Walton Goggins. The material doesn’t always match the talents of these two actors, but some of the lines they are given will elicit chuckles now and then. The Nelm brothers try a high wire act and some of the alleged dark comedy does cross the line of unfunny.
Billy, a neglected 12 year-old bad seed, is prepared to win the science fair as he has in the past, taking top prize. He’s obnoxious from the very beginning, treating everyone as if they are beneath him unless he can get something from them. His invalid grandmother is one he takes advantage of, secretly stealing money out of her account and the other is a hitman that will do his bidding for the right amount.
Yes, already this sounds like the movie is going off the rails. But, Walton Goggins as the “Skinny Man”, the bizarre hired killer with an obsession for authentic toys from Santa’s workshop, makes the antics watchable. When Billy does enough bad, he eventually gets a lump of coal for Christmas. This sets him off and he literally wants Santa’s head.
In the meantime, Chris Kringle is having a rough go. More kids are being bad than good, that means less toy production and that puts the pinch on Santa’s business making him not so jolly. His government checks have been cut in half and he’s been urged to work a part time gig for the military. Of course, if you have not suspended belief by now you will probably chalk this exercise up to a demented adult fantasy replete with all the things Santa does not approve of – naughty words and bloodshed.
But, as I said, Gibson and Goggins nearly save the day. Mel as Kringle is a perfect curmudgeon with a glint of mischief in his heart. His interaction with the residents of the small town he lives in is so much fun along with his loving interaction with his wife, Ruth, played with plenty of moxie and charm by Marianne Jean-Baptiste. Walton Goggins could be the next Jack Nicholson with his weird nearly out-of-bounds performance. One scene in particular with a little girl is creepy as hell and is barely pulled off without innuendo.
All in all, the brothers Nelms will most likely end up on the naughty list for this piece of coal passing off as Christmas spirit. On the other hand, who knows if over the years viewing audiences, having been hardened by pandemic, unemployment, and food lines, may look at this movie in a different light and put it up as a Christmas classic alongside Bill Murray’s Scrooged which was also maligned upon its opening eventually becoming endearing to many. Even though Fatman is being flayed by the critics, audiences are overlooking the mean spiritedness of it all and enjoying Mel as Santa giving them a jolly ho ho.
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Directed by: Eshom and Ian Nelm
Release Date: November 24, 2020
Run Time: 100 min.
Distributor: Saban Films