John Woo’s Hollywood Return Is Messy, Responsible Enjoyable


  • Regardless of its flaws, Silent Evening is an pleasant style movie that should not be taken too significantly.
  • The film’s type, notably its visible storytelling and Kinnaman’s efficiency, retains it partaking.
  • The shortage of depth in supporting characters and the movie’s simplistic view on revenge could also be off-putting, however it finally would not take away from the enjoyable and leisure of the movie.



I do not usually just like the time period “responsible pleasure,” particularly in relation to style films. No matter we predict is nice or fascinating belongs in the identical class of thought and dialogue, no matter its packaging. However, I’ve to confess, I really feel somewhat responsible about liking Silent Evening. I’ve typically discovered it rewarding to assume “too exhausting” about movies that do not actively invite it, however some that felt stable can crumble underneath the additional strain looking back, one thing I normally bear in mind in a assessment. On this case, for no matter motive, no quantity of readability about its hollowness has put a dent in my enjoyment. So, all I can provide in the way in which of criticism is a glimpse into my cognitive dissonance: an accounting of all the explanations I should not suggest Silent Evening, and why I do anyway.

The premise of this motion film from director John Woo, his first Hollywood movie in twenty years, is straightforward – twice. Narratively, it tracks Brian’s (Joel Kinnaman) path to violent revenge on the native gang whose reckless gunfire killed his younger son on Christmas. Brian can be shot within the throat by the gang’s chief (Harold Torres), leaving him unvoiced and organising the film’s just about dialogue-free storytelling machine. The promise of it is a straight-forward, no-nonsense style train, from certainly one of motion’s most celebrated filmmakers. However Silent Evening begins in medias res, as Brian, in a blood-splattered Christmas sweater, chases down the rival gangs as they spray gunfire from transferring vehicles. We then spend time with him and his spouse Saya (Catalina Sandino Moreno) as he recovers on the hospital, and solely once they return dwelling days later can we revisit the inciting incident and find out about their son’s demise. It is the emotional equal of flashing again to John Wick’s pet dying after he is again within the recreation. Not so straight-forward, in any case.

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Joel Kinnaman in Silent Evening

Equally, a lot time is devoted to Brian’s preparation, as we’re led to imagine that, not like Mr. Wick, he is no skilled killer. He has to construct himself into an motion hero from the bottom up. Woo will get so much out of this concept and, central to my enjoyment of the film, issues are always going flawed for Brian. Kinnaman is bodily imposing and might ragefully scowl with one of the best of them, and his character typically curates his picture to look as textbook-cool as doable, however he repeatedly screws up in ways in which make the stream of every combat tough to foretell. An motion hero that appears the half however is not all that good at it’s a enjoyable character to observe in a brutal revenge thriller. However, if that is to be so, why open the film on Brian in full badass mode, pre-training? Fashion overrides substance in these early storytelling choices, simply as it can in later ones.

On the identical time, the type is certainly one of two issues holding Silent Evening collectively for me. Woo is a director with imaginative and prescient, and he takes properly to this visual-forward method to storytelling. The film performs with lighting in an evocative approach: Early on, after life has resumed for Brian and Saya, their rising divide is depicted by putting Brian in a darkish storage illuminated by a single skylight, whereas his spouse appears to be like in from their brightly lit kitchen. He’s additionally susceptible to the occasional reverie, and our cue that he is slipped right into a flashback is a sudden shift to heat, yellow lighting. “Silent Evening” describes not solely his Christmas Eve rampage to return, however his new state of being, as if grief and harm have plunged him right into a unvoiced, sunless place. Touches like this stored me invested, even because the story ought to’ve misplaced me. Kinnaman is the opposite pillar – his bodily, expressive efficiency type supplies beneficial emotional readability, and he is nice at promoting the ache of his fights, each of which hold the motion scenes compelling.

Kid Cudi in Silent Night
Child Cudi in Silent Evening

I may also envision being pissed off by making an attempt to take this story significantly at a dramatic stage, which sure selections, particularly originally, appear to encourage. However how significantly does the movie actually take itself?

My reward for Woo and Kinnaman’s selections should not create the impression that this dialogue-less experiment is profitable, nonetheless. Brian is the one one on display who could be fairly known as a personality; everybody else is at greatest a sketch, at worst offensively empty. Silent Evening‘s Madonna-whore advanced can be extra distracting if its feminine characters had been extra vital, and Child Cudi’s Detective Vassel is so missing in display presence that it appears intentional till his function goes past passive observer. The motion set items are clear, however the emotional throughline is in no way sustaining. Brian is overcome by the reminiscence of his son advert nauseum, typically mid-fight, and it performs as extra absurd than grounding – the filmmakers attempt to extract an excessive amount of from what is barely meant to be an engine for the story. The connection between Brian and his child is totally undeveloped past the apparent, so how invested in it could we actually be?

Then, there’s the query of the film’s outlook – maybe the true supply of my inside battle. I will not argue there’s any nuance in Silent Evening‘s stance on revenge. No matter conflictedness I interpreted in Brian’s failings is just about cleared up by the ending, and there is little doubt these gangbangers are framed as completely deserving of a violent demise. I may also envision being pissed off by making an attempt to take this story significantly at a dramatic stage, which sure selections, particularly originally, appear to encourage. However how significantly does the movie actually take itself? When he settles on violence as the reply, Brian flips forward on his calendar and scribbles “Kill Them All” on December 24, like he is scheduling an appointment. In a single scene, whereas choking a man, he has a imaginative and prescient of his son, and cliché would possibly dictate this as a second of wavering or ethical awakening – a he-wouldn’t-have-wanted-this epiphany. As an alternative, he chokes tougher. Silent Evening winks at us as typically because it tries for real drama, and I went alongside for the trip. Whichever tone you select to just accept will seemingly decide whether or not you might have as a lot enjoyable with it as I did.

Silent Evening releases in US theaters December 1. The movie is 104 minutes lengthy and is rated R for robust bloody violence, drug use and a few language.

  • Silent Night 2023 John Woo Movie Poster

    Silent Evening

    Launch Date:

    John Woo

    Joel Kinnaman, Scott Mescudi, Harold Torres, Catalina Sandino Moreno


    149 Minutes

    Motion, Thriller

    Robert Archer Lynn

    Thunder Street Movies, Capstone Studios, A Higher Tomorrow Movies


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