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Review: ‘Silent Night’

Joel Kinnaman stars in a scene from the movie “Silent Night.” The OSV News classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent o r adult guardian. (OSV News photo/Carlos Latapi, Lionsgate)

NEW YORK (OSV News) – Nothing is calm and little is bright in the grisly revenge thriller “Silent Night” (Lionsgate). Though artistically interesting, the film is ethically repellent since it flies directly in the face of the divine avowal, “Vengeance is mine.”

Screenwriter Robert Archer Lynn tells the story of Los Angeles electrician Brian Godlock (Joel Kinnaman). As seen in flashbacks, Brian shares a happy middle class existence with his caring wife Saya (Catalina Sandino Moreno) and their unnamed young son (Anthony Giulietti) until tragedy suddenly strikes.

During a Christmas Day gang shootout, the boy is killed by a stray bullet and Brian suffers a throat wound that renders him permanently mute. Having despaired of help from the police, represented by Det. Dennis Vassel (Scott Mescudi), Brian vows to exact his own brand of justice on those responsible for ruining his life.

He obsessively trains to kill and also becomes ever more secretive and isolated. As a result, his relationship with Saya begins to crater.

Director John Woo sets himself a challenge by centering the action on a voiceless protagonist and, in keeping with its title, the movie is virtually dialogue-free. Relying almost entirely on expressions and gestures, Kinnaman does succeed in conveying a sense of overwhelming grief.

But if the aesthetic bar is high, the morals are low. Woo and his collaborators implicitly encourage the audience to revel in Brian’s bloodsoaked rampage as he not only shoots his enemies but tortures and even crushes them.

The film contains benignly viewed vigilantism, excessive gory violence, drug use, a scene of sensuality and a few rough terms. The OSV News classification is O – morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
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John Mulderig is media reviewer for OSV News. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter) @JohnMulderig1.

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