Fatman is a concept in search of a movie. A dried-out Mel Gibson stars as Chris Kringle. Once the hero of the season, the toymaker is now resigned to fulfill contracts for the military. When a repugnant young boy (Chance Hurstfield) receives coal for Christmas, there’s only one thing to do: call in a hitman (Walton Goggins), and take out ol’ Santa Claus. The premise is that of a lame right-wing blog: Christmas used to be good, and for whatever reason, it isn’t anymore.
Present right-wing ideologies have not produced any worthwhile movies. Fatman continues that trend. Blustering between two threads, the military-industrial complex and the War on Christmas, neither land with any impact or sense of purpose. The script never finds its center. When the premise is as wafer-thin as a prerequisite seasonal Fox News rant, it can seem like there was never any center to find.
Neither naughty nor nice, Fatman does not strike any tone at all. Mel Gibson is basically capable within this role. It’s the same kind of role that he made his career playing. There is little to differentiate it from his early work. Nothing quite develops around his character, or any character. We can watch Walton Goggins do just about anything, he certainly carries an amusing energy to match his body of work. But nothing new is found between this potentially fruitful match-up. It’s a shame, there’s almost a glimmer of hope they would spark something in each other.
The precarious thing about Fatman is that it panders to a market segment that does not exist. Where are the movies with White Santa, where Christmas is like the good old days, and the format is a celebration of society’s capitalist potential? Literally almost every Christmas movie that has come before it. With nothing new to say and a feigned anger in the way it goes about not saying anything, we’re left without any thoughtful reason for Fatman to exist.
Is a comeback tour possible for Mel Gibson? And has it not already happened? Hacksaw Ridge (2016) proved the possibility while Dragged Across Concrete (2018) showed there was talent left to exploit from the problematic acting veteran. What does it mean to make a Badder Santa? Is it inoffensive or really sad that Gibson is still playing his Lethal Weapon character a few decades later?
What it’s not is an evolution. Fatman plays out its right-wing fantasy, and after the fact, it feels as though we’ve watched nothing at all. A right wing Christmas film (but also an anti-military one???) with an underwhelming Redbox future, it’s unclear who the movie is for. The most offensive thing about it is how little it has to say.