Picture of Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

John Woo cuts the dialogue to deliver the action in Silent Night

Following a two-decade hiatus from Hollywood, the iconic action director John Woo makes his return teaming up with the producers of the John Wick franchise for Silent Night from Lionsgate. Robert Archer pens the screenplay for the film, which features limited spoken dialogue.

It’s Christmas Eve 2021 in the Lone Star state, and Brian Godlock (Joel Kinnaman) is celebrating with his wife Saya (Catalina Sandino Moreno), and young son Taylor Michael. In the blink of an eye, the family is caught in the crossfire of a drive-by shooting in the middle of a gang war, and Taylor is killed.

As any father would, Brian gives chase to the killers only to wind up on the wrong of the bullet of gang leader Playa (Harold Torres), who shoots him in the neck and leaves him for dead, damaging his vocal cords in the process Over the next year while grieving the death of their Brian and Saya’s marriage falls apart.

Leading up to the anniversary of Taylor’s death, Brian begins to engage in bodybuilding, familiarizing himself with deadly weaponry and self-defense training to take out Playa and his gang. As Brian’s vengeance quest gets underway, Detective Dennis Vassel (Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi), who initially investigated Taylor’s murder, is trying to find the man responsible for taking out Playa’s gang and is hot on Brian’s trail.

I was first introduced to John Woo at age 12 when I rented his American directorial debut, Hard Target, and the video store clerk recommended two of Woo’s earlier films, The Killer and A Better Tomorrow, to me. I instantly became a fan of Woo’s style, particularly his usage of gun fu during action sequences. Following the lukewarm response to Windtalkers and Paycheck, Woo left Hollywood behind.

As a fan of his previous efforts and work outside Hollywood over the last decade, I was anxious to check out Woo’s latest. Crafting a film without dialogue is a vast undertaking for any director. Thankfully, Woo has a strong lead in Kinnaman, who fully taps into a grieving father displaying emotion with just his eyes. In that regard, Kinnaman is the reason to see the film as the supporting cast all fall into caricatures you would find in any action flick using revenge as the backdrop.

Nevertheless, I will credit Scott Mescudi, who brings a natural swag to his role as a cop. The rapper-turned-actor has some great moments where he engages in gun battles, so much so that I wouldn’t mind seeing him do another action flick. I will inform potential viewers that the film is a slow burn, so you have to wait for the action.

Certain purists may have reservations about the excessive utilization of subpar CGI and acknowledge that with a more robust screenplay, this film had the potential to be extraordinary. Regardless, when portraying intense gunfight sequences, John Woo remains unparalleled in his ability to captivate audiences.

In a departure from conventional shoot-em-up action films, Silent Night aligns itself more closely with Greek tragedies’ emotional weight and dramatic arcs. All things considered, this movie serves as a noteworthy reentry into the Hollywood landscape for John Woo.

Final Grade: C+

Silent Night is in theaters now and on VOD and digital platforms.

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John Woo cuts the dialogue to deliver the action in Silent Night