Funny, sweary and exceptionally acted by Billy Bob Thornton, Bad Santa is the rudest Christmas movie you will ever see. It's a one-joke flick, really, but a rib-cracking one at that. Criminal cad Willie Soke (Thornton) hires himself out as Santa in order to crack shopping centre safes. He undertakes this annual exercise with Marcus (Tony Cox), an angry dwarf dressed as an Elf. But this year it's complicated when a chubby child (Brett Kelly) wants to be his friend. Will Willie discover a Christmas spirit other than vodka?
Thornton is one of the best actors in the world. And one of the least vain. How else could he deliver such a deadpan performance, with no "just kidding" winks to camera as his cussin' Claus proves truly obnoxious. There is little, if anything, endearing about Soke. He wets himself, swears at children and indulges in noisy, unseemly sex in the ladies' changing room. Marcus isn't any better: a bitter thug whose insults are colourful, inventive and utterly unprintable here. Bad Santa isn't for the easily offended.
"AN AMUSING ANTIDOTE TO SEASONAL SENTIMENT"
The profanity is eventually wearing, while the final act shows signs of a reported wrangle between studio and director, with the latter's downbeat dive into darkness undercut by what's clearly a re-shot final scene. But the film still resists soppiness, while the underplayed theme of redemption ("I beat the **** out of some kids today, but it was for a purpose.") and Thorton's priceless presence make it an amusing antitode to seasonal sentiment.