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‘Silent Night’ - a Christmas wrath 

Marcus Falcão / THE GATEPOST

By Jesse Burchill

Staff Writer

“Silent Night” was released on Dec. 1, 2023. This revenge story features Joel Kinneman as an electrician named Brian, who tracks down the gangsters who murdered his son on Christmas Eve the previous year - he plans to murder them on the same day.

The film marks the comeback of legendary action director John Woo, who is famous for his history in the Hong Kong-based action genre. His most well-known films include “Hard Boiled,” “Mission: Impossible 2,” “Face/Off,” and “A Better Tomorrow.”

Overall, “Silent Night” feels much more realistic than other entries in the revenge genre. For starters, Brian is not an assassin or soldier but an electrical engineer. His first attempt at revenge results in him getting shot in the throat and rendered permanently mute.

Later, he gets soundly hurt during his first actual fight with one of the gangsters involved in his son’s death, and after his first kill he promptly vomits in shock. He gets beaten and shot repeatedly throughout the film, but never gives up on his goal of revenge.

Furthermore, we actually see Brian practice driving and using knives and guns in preparation for confronting the gang - he actually uses all these skills in fighting them. These details give the film some great depth and the story more impact.

A notable feature of “Silent Night” is its use of dialogue, as in, there is almost none. Outside of a police scanner, a radio station, and a self-defense video, there is no spoken dialogue at any point in this 104-minute film.

Woo wanted to go in a direction different from the rest of his filmography, and focus on visuals and music to tell his story. For the most part, this works. The primarily visual storytelling provides a rather unorthodox yet compelling presentation.

In the leading role is Joel Kinneman, famous for his roles in “Altered Carbon” and the two “Suicide Squad” films. In “Silent Night,” Kinneman as grieving father Brian provides a stellar performance. He has no spoken dialogue whatsoever, which restricts him to use body language, facial expressions, and his actions to communicate - this allows for a much more intense performance emotionally.

Silent flashbacks to the happy memories he had with his son, and coming back to the present where his son is now dead provide some strong emotional torque and allows the audience to sympathize with him. 

These moments not only provide a reason for Brian to go after the gang, but they also manage to humanize him despite the violent things he does throughout the film.

However, the narrative device of zero dialogue does hit some snags. 

For example, it prevents the relationship between Brian and his wife Saya from being explored as deeply as it could have been. They do share several emotional moments, but Brian is developing his revenge plan in what is essentially their basement - we never quite see how much this affects his relationship with Saya. 

She does end up leaving him, but this scene could be easily misunderstood and the film could have benefited from having her discover Brian’s plan and confront him about it.

This can also be said for the main villain Playa, the leader of the gang that killed Brian’s son. 

We see a bit of Playa’s lifestyle as a gang leader, but since he never speaks either, we don’t really get the chance to know his backstory or very much about him beyond “violent crime boss.”

In the end, “Silent Night” has some very cool action set pieces and a surprisingly emotional side, and is well worth watching during the holiday season.

Rating: A-

The 21st-century “Die Hard” 



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