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Plot Overview

Merry Christmas

making a listtombstoneA nuclear family in L.A. has their Christmas eve disrupted by a spill­over from inner city gang violence killing their seven-year-old son. The father Godlock (Joel Kinnaman) gives chase and makes the ring­leader Playa (Harold Torres) who shoots him good. He's months in recovery and his voice box is ruined. After a year of grief he takes it upon him­self to do some­thing about it (“Kill them all.”)

David and Goliath

poolside familyHe'd always been close to his son coming down to his level to play with him and providing him with age-appropriate toys. Now he comes up to the gang's level through training and equip­ping him­self. On Christmas eve after two years of preparation, financed from his son's college fund, and with a tip to Det. Dennis Vassell (Kid Cudi,) he strikes a blow for justice.


card playersThis vengeful action lends itself to comparison with one of Kenny Rogers's songs concerning a chance encounter with “The Gambler” on a train bound for nowhere. He offered his fellow passenger the advice that “the secret to surviving is knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep.” The refrain of the song goes:

You've got to know when to hold 'em, Know when to fold 'em, Know when to walk away, Know when to run. You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table. There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.

This wisdom of the gambling man's repertoire is old as the hills and was passed on by a raconteur, Agur in Proverbs 30:1, whose four meta­phors offered the same life advice as did Rogers's Gambler. That we find in, (Prov. 30:29-31) “There be three things which go well, yea, four are comely in going: A lion which is strongest among beasts, and turneth not away for any; A greyhound; an he goat also; and a king, against whom there is no rising up.”

We have Agur's “lion which is strongest among beasts, and turneth not away for any,” and we have Rogers's “know[ing] when to hold 'em.” In our movie when the big night finally arrives, our protagonist scrawls, “This ends now” on his calendar and proceeds to start a gang war and eliminate who­ever remains.

We have Agur's “king, against whom there is no rising up,” and we have Rogers's “Know[ing] when to fold 'em.” A king who knows when to give in to his subjects doesn't experience any uprising. When Mr. Godlock chances upon villain Playa in a parking lot, grooming children for drugs, he fingers his knife but leaves him alone for now; the time isn't right and he's too vulnerable.

crucifieddwarf goatWe have Agur's “he goat also” and we have Rogers's “Know[ing] when to walk away.” Det. Vassell visits patient Godlock in the hospital while he's intubated and in no condition to talk. So he leaves him his card and walks away figuring he'll get in touch when he's ready.

We have Agur's “greyhound” and Rogers's “Know[ing] when to run.” When the gang­bangers whose cross fire killed his son continue their bullet-ridden dispute on the fly, Godlock chases after them to do some damage or at least see who it was.

The gambler gave the advice:

You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.

pencilGodlock leaves a letter for his wife Saya (Catalina Sandino Moreno) in case he doesn't survive the action. In it he takes res­ponsi­bility for their separation—it's not a divorce—realizing he drove her to it. Part of the problem was they couldn't talk it out before­hand because he's mute. It's as author Frederick Forsyth has penned in his short story, “Duty”: “Those who have ever had to spend time waiting for some­thing unknown to happen, in the presence of some­one with whom not a word can be exchanged, will know what it is like” (193–4).

Production Values

winking Santa” (2023) was directed by John Woo. It was written by Robert Archer Lynn. It stars Joel Kinnaman, Catalina Sandino Moreno and Kid Cudi. Kinnaman carried it quite well. It's an artistic triumph sans any spoken dialogue.

MPAA rated it R for strong bloody violence, drug use and some language. The title is a double entendre from a Christmas hymn. The latter's German author had com­mem­orated the bated breath anticipation of the arrival of the Christ child. The movie has to do with a mute avenger on Christmas eve. Runtime is 1¾ hours.

Review Conclusion w/a Christian's Recommendation

Jesus in the cloudsThe opening song is cut off at, “Christ the savior is born,” which lingers in the audience's ear. A human revenge story would capture the heart­break of a father who loses a beloved son more than would a more pious story. As long as one keeps a proper perspective, this one would make its own valid contribution to a broader Christmas tale.

It's heartbreak and action aplenty but not much gore and only a few text messages for dialogue. I must leave it to the viewer to make up his own mind if it would suit him. The supportive woman in it has to sit by and let the man do his thing. That might not resonate well with some modern women.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Edge of your seat action-packed. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall movie rating: Five stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Forsyth, Frederick. No Comebacks. © Frederick Forsyth 1982. London: Hutchinson Pub, 1982. Print.

Rogers, Kenny. Songwriter Don Schlitz. “The Gambler.” Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Pub. LLC. Web.