After all the controversial things that Mel Gibson has been up to between the years of 2000 to 2010, ranging from that infamous 2006 anti-Semitic rant after being pulled over by a cop for a DUI to screaming at his then girlfriend back in 2010 using racist remarks and even the n-word to homophobic comments, how does this Academy Award winner still have a career after multiple falls from grace? Even after the 2017 #MeToo movement? Well, first of all, his talent is undeniable, he’s an Oscar winning director and he’s an actor that can more than exceptionally pull off any character in any genre. Secondly, he still has a deep bench of Hollywood supporters, ranging from people still in the industry such as Jodie Foster, Robert Downey, Jr. and Whoopi Goldberg. Finally, current Hollywood producers attribute his past misdeeds mostly due to alcoholism, pointing out that he has never been accused of sexual assault, alcoholism is a disease, and that he’s not the person he is made out to be in the headlines. In a 2016 and recent interview, Mel Gibson has stated that he is currently many years sober and finds it annoying that people keep bringing up his past shit, not willing to give him a second chance…or would that really be a 4th or 5th chance Mel? Anyway, Mr. Gibson is still in the movie making game, still attached to direct the big remake of The Wild Bunch, and still starring in some movies, albeit low budget ones, like Force Of Nature, Last Looks, Dragged Across Concrete, Boss Level, and a semi-budgeted one…bet you didn’t remember that he was in Daddy’s Home 2, did you? This leads us to FATMAN…one of 2020’s best little surprises of the year, where Gibson plays Santa Claus and per IMDB, “must contend with a hitman sent from a disappointed child.” Yes, I assure you that this is a real movie.
When I heard of FATMAN only several months ago, I thought it was a joke. Turns out it wasn’t, as just several days later, to my surprise, I found out that the movie had already been filmed and a trailer dropped. I watched the trailer, and was immediately intrigued. This wasn’t just a schlocky bullshit turn like his roles in The Expendables 3 and Machete Kills. This was a movie meant to be taken very seriously (even though the film has genuine and earned humor). He plays Santa Claus straight, as a very old, tired and weary man still doing his job even though the world has gotten dark around him. It turns out, every year there is less and less good kids to deliver toys to and it’s gotten so bad, to make up for lost money from the government (that’s right, the government pays him to do his thing once every year because it is a giant money maker), he accepts a military contract that has his elves make something…a little bit different than children’s toys. Currently, most of the kids in this cinematic Earth (could be argued that it’s truer to our world than you might imagine) are naughty little assholes that get their just desserts by receiving lumps of coal from him. One particular little shit (one of the movies expertly crafted jokes has this little shit listed as “Little Shit” in the hitman’s list of contacts on his iPhone), is a sociopath son of a bitch, manipulating school science contests, stealing money from his grandmother and of course, sending said hitman after Santa’s head once he gets a lump of coal for Christmas. What I love about the movie is that it tries to bring the audience a down to Earth type Santa Claus. You know how Man of Steel was supposed to be a tale of Superman but in today’s time? A more realistic Superman? Whether or not you think Zack Snyder and co. pulled it off is a different story. Basically, Fatman asks the question: what if Santa were really real? In today’s world? And I think this film pulls off that idea in spades.
And the reason it does that so successfully, in my opinion, is probably because of the low budget and what little it shows the viewers on screen. We don’t get Mel Gibson walking around in a red Santa suit and travelling the world. We don’t see the sleigh or reindeer fly. We almost don’t see any magic whatsoever where you’d have to suspend your belief for the world that the movie takes place in. It only hints at all of that stuff, which I thought was the right direction to go, and was quite fucking brilliant. The acting here is top notch, the little bastard that plays the “Little Shit” is pitch perfect by not going too over the top, just enough to make him a character you love to hate. Justified and The Unicorn’s Walton Goggins plays the hitman, with his own anger and obsession with the big red fatman. It’s also a great role that has more meat to it than you might think in a movie like this. But the movie is the Mel Gibson show, and he shows that he wants to be there. He acts HIS ASS off. He has tears in his eyes convincingly when he needs to, the chemistry between him and Mrs. Claus, played perfectly by Marianne Jean-Baptiste is undeniably great, and the silent moments where he is by himself looking at something are convincingly masterful. He is so serious, that near the final showdown with the hitman, which is one of the best Mel Gibson final 1-on-1 show downs in quite a long time, where he is shirtless and getting his guns and weapons ready to go outside, I just laughed out of pure joy to what was transpiring on screen. I am not familiar with the films writers/directors/brothers, Ian Nelms and Eshom Nelms, but they sure do know how to make a high, yet low concept movie. I hope they make more stuff in a similar vein. If I had any complaints is that I wish they would’ve shown blood and other stuff, shown more of the violence in the scenes before the final big showdown at the military compound. They cut away when a bullet fires or Goggins kills someone before that, and I think the movie would’ve had more of an impact if it didn’t cut away. But boy does that bloody showdown make up for it. Anyway, if you like demented adult Christmas movies such as Bad Santa, Better Watch Out, Gremlins, the original Black Christmas, Christmas Vacation, then you are going to LOVE Fatman.