Fear and Loathing in Alaska

Between Mel Gibson playing a misanthropic Santa and Walter Groggins as a vengeful assassin, Fatman gets it. The two share only one scene together – their eventual western-esque duel, set against winter’s snow – but watching these two head to a collision is masterfully composed dark comedy.

It’s everything else gumming up Fatman on the way. As a scornful story, lashing out and angry, those side stories too often feel like Fatman looks for targets. In this world, Santa is government funded, but kids turned so rotten, the gifts never come, and his budget is slashed. Clever, until the North Pole becomes a military contractor, using the elves to crank out jet engines in a sarcastic jab at overspending, and how the military industrial complex eventually filters into US society in total – even Christmas. A fine statement, suited to the tone, but Fatman never does anything with it; that thread dangles there, unfulfilled in the end, and the point saunters off, unmade.

Fatman sees the need to step away from the good stuff

There’s a despicable rich kid too, distressed because his awfulness led to nothing other than a lump of coal under the tree. The world became too selfish, or so goes Fatman’s motif. The kid demands toys, Groggins hates Santa after his own childhood non-gift experience, and the army never seems satisfied by their arsenal. All of that weighs on Santa’s Gibson, who appears to have little if anything other than an isolated house, a carefree wife, and nearby factory.

What’s left is a malicious movie, dragging itself along unwillingly through a world it hates. For each fun tidbit (notably the elves, their diet, and sleep routines) and fantastic Groggins moment (a pet store visit is priceless), Fatman sees the need to step away from the good stuff, too long and too often. It’s impossible to make judgment on what doesn’t exist, but it’s hard not to wonder what Fatman might be minus the soldiers at the North Pole compound. Just this focused story about an eccentric contract killer holding a grudge, heading across the border to murder the fantasy figure who wronged him as a child.

There’s no fault on the cast; to think Groggins won’t play this part again hurts. Problems starts at the script, bubbling up from a list of social grievances, plopped into a short story, and then stretching itself too wide. That’s not worth it for the few laughs.

Video

Taking on a dry appearance, the color palette stays flat, generally cool, but occasionally warmer. Either way, the dilution keeps Fatman purposefully dull, that extending into black levels. Shadows wander into grays, never pure black. Snow helps with contrast at least.

Clean and digitally lensed, not much impedes clarity. A few bouts of heavier noise (mostly in the kid’s house) cause marginal problems. Paramount’s encode handles itself, some slight banding aside. That’s brief though.

Overall fidelity pulls out facial texture, excellent in definition. North Pole scenery picks up the small details on pine trees, the same as the graying hairs on Gibson’s face. Fatman equals out at distance and in close, cinematography consistently sharp.

Audio

Not much happening in this DTS-HD realm, front-loaded at almost all times. Or, just centered. Echoes at a gun range and music jumps into the rears, at least acknowledging they exist. Some ambient cars pass through. Echoes as a shootout moves underground spread out. Fatman isn’t popping with action though, so opportunities are few.

Likewise, the bass activates few times. A car engine, a bigger gun shot, music stings here and there; range isn’t spectacular. This is more a wasteland since the story doesn’t necessitate much. For what it is, adequate.

Extras

Mel Gibson pairs with co-directors Eshom and Ian Nelms, plus producer Michelle Lang and cinematographer Johnny Derango. The directors then offer optional tracks over six deleted scenes (9:12 total) and two storyboard comparisons (10-minutes).

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Fatman
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Movie

Conceptually fantastic, Fatman can’t escape an overburdened script even as the casting works its magic.

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