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Fatman (MA) - 100 minutes

Santa having a Wild West style shoot out isn’t exactly the first thing I think about when contemplating the Fat Man.

And yet that is exactly what you have to look forward to if you watch this movie.

Mind you, this version of Father Christmas isn’t all that rotund.

Santa, here known as Chris Kringle (Mel Gibson), is out of sorts due to the rising number of naughty, which has adversely affected his government subsidy.

He is crotchety and facing financial ruin alongside his dutiful and stoic wife Ruth (Marianne Jean-Baptiste).

More’s the point, he is full of loathing and bemoans the fact that altruism is gone.

The only way Chris can try to rescue the business, which employs a workforce of diligent elves (known by their numbers, not names), is to enter a short-term contact with the military.

And then the factory has to switch from making toys to producing control panels for fighter jets.

Given the invidious position he is in – unpalatable though that is – he really has no choice.

But worse is to follow, as a spoilt rich kid, 12-year-old Billy Wenan (Chance Hurstfield), used to getting his own way, hires a hit man, known as Skinny Man (Walter Goggins), to bump off the big fella.

That, of course, has a back story to it – two, in fact ... one for each party – involving abandonment, entitlement, disappointment and anger.

First things first – I never expected to see Santa practicing his sharp shooting skills.

Secondly, lots of people end up shot to death with heavy weapons, so this isn’t your traditional Yuletide feature. In fact, far from it.

The contention is out there, to say the least.

Mind you, it’s not as if we haven’t seen these left of centre depictions of the Fat Man before, most notably with Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa.

I appreciated the irreverence crafted by co-writers and co-directors Eshom and Ian Nelms.

Gibson fleshes out his character well, ably supported by Jean-Baptiste as his no nonsense wife.

Goggins, too, does a fine job invoking menace as the hit man, whose only soft spot is toward his pet hamster.

I was always concerned just how the threads would be pulled together.

Because, of course, setting the parameters is one thing, but bringing the premise home quite another.

And, to an extent, so it proved.

A showdown was inevitable, but the treatment of the kid who had instigated proceedings appeared relatively weak, given the extent of his dastardly deeds.

Still, if you have a subversive bent, there is plenty to appreciate along the way.

Rated MA, Fatman scores a 6½ to 7 out of 10.

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