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Review Silent Night (2023): A different kind of Woo!

genre: action, thriller, crime

Silent Night is a play on Christmas and points out the gimmick. There is no dialogue in the entire film.

Let me be the first one to call out this gimmick. I get that in a film focused on action, dialogue might not always be important. And if there is one guy who can extract the most out of this concept, it's John Woo, who has the knack to speak through motion. Especially, slow motion. See what I did there? It does make sense to a certain extent for our main character, Brian Godlock (Joel Kinnaman) to be silent. They explain this early on. But they don't explain why everybody else is. One could argue that they are talking, but that Brian is not really open to what they say. He is numb because of the pain he is feeling. His son is dead, and now he wants revenge. No matter what anybody says. I wished the film had addressed this in some way. Instead, you are supposed to accept the gimmick and not be too critical about it. And I wasn't.

I had hoped to see John Woo do his thing one more time and sorry to say, it's here where I was let down. The choreography and style of the action was nothing like John Woo has made me before. So what gives? Did John Woo deliberately forsake his style to craft something different? If so, why? This revenge was begging for some old school heroic bloodshed. And, for whatever the reason, the bloodshed is everything but heroic. It's brutal and violent, for sure. But it's not a dance. John Woo has stated that he shot his action sequences like dance scenes. And yes, if you look at his classics, most of the action sequences do flow like big choreographed dance segments. In an article, he explains why he dialled back on his signature style of action. He wanted to let the emotion speak instead of the action. Perhaps John Woo is not remembering the films the way I do, but his best films oozed emotion through the bloodshed. Mark (played by Chow Yun-Fat) expressed so much when he fought the bad guys in A Better Tomorrow. Both Tequila and Alan had to struggle with loyalty and the law when the lines were crossed in Hard Boiled. In A Better Tomorrow II, Lung Si (Dean Shek) came back to his senses after Ken (Chow Yun-Fat) almost gets killed by a couple of mobsters. The melodrama was huge in his films and made the bloodshed have purpose. Yes, it was violent, over the top but beautiful. Realistic action is just nasty and far too overrated. So I certainly don't agree with this path.

That being said, I did like Silent Night. I was all in for Kinnaman's revenge. He himself states that he had to do it. He would not be able to forgive and forget and let the murderers of his son get away. It's as basic as you can get. And once you are in that mindset, nothing is going to put you off. So you better be with him or step out of the way. 

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