A topical, if not so tasty holiday fruitcake from the Nelms Bros. (check out their Neo-noir thriller from 2017 Small town Crime starring John Hawkes) has the controversial, if talented Mel Gibson (director of Hacksaw Ridge, star of Blood Father in recent years) in the eponymous role as a grizzled, snarly Chris Cringle, aka Santa Clause.
Fatman also has Marianane Jean-Baptiste. Chance Hurstfield, and Walton Goggins (of The Hateful Eight and back in the day in a bit part opposite Gibson in Forever Young) in its ensemble in going the unconventional Yuletide route.
A sentimental fable is decorated in a rather dark action comedy that has a couple of narrative strands. One considers the crestfallen Chris with loving wife Ruth (epitomized by calm from a very welcome Jean-Baptiste) with struggles from a recession putting the Claus business in the red.
There’ve been more naughty children than nice ones of late and a federal subsidy for these folks with elves in Northers Canada (not the North Pole) for a needed windfall hinges on a contract. Whereby their business actively includes control panel manufacturing for fighter jets.
Also, in the directors’ schematic is a nasty, ‘Riche Rich’ type. Hurstfield’s Billy whose dismay with a sooty present (like Chris’ beard) leads him to recruiting Goggins’ campy, hired gun who goes by ‘Skinny Man’. This long, disgruntled figure was also snubbed by the un-jolly guy so the gestation of hate is prevalent.
Obviously, all of this is a pretty strange brew, likely most enjoyed as late-night viewing. Gibson can exude a bit of warmth especially when in Jean-Baptiste’s dignified presence as a stern justice emerges from being down-on-his-luck. You think the casting is spot-on when he delivers the line “you think I cot this job because I’m fat and jolly”. As predictable as Fatman unfolds some might be ticked by its snarky edge through it’s not of the anarchic, deadpan satirical spirit of Terry Zwigoff’s Bad Santa starring a charmingly crude Billy Bob.