Christmas Crime Story

Christmas time is here. Had enough of the never-ending goodwill? Got your fill of Hallmark home-just-in-time flicks and unlikely mistletoe victims? Have you cycled through all of the Rankin-Bass specials yet? I have what you need. A nice tragic chaser to take the edge off your holiday cheer. Christmas Crime Story, a tragic Christmas tale that lays its melodrama on thick, confuses its audience and features incredibly bad acting.

“…a half a dozen characters, whose lives intersect and ends in a festival of tragedy.”

Richard Friedman’s Christmas Crime Story follows a half a dozen characters, whose lives intersect and ends in a festival of tragedy. The story is told through a series of vignettes overlapping over the same timeline from the perspective of each character. Not only that, the vignettes are laid out in backward order revealing each characters’ true motive. This device actually works and is the best part of the film, and that’s saying a lot.

Let’s quickly go over the sad cast. Chris DeJesus (Scott Bailey) is a newly promoted city detective trying to reconnect with his estranged mother, Maggie (Mary-Margaret Humes). Chris is about to make Maggie a grandmother, if not for a fateful traffic stop. David (Adrian Paul) is a jealous photographer, who is being played by his girlfriend, Sasha (Neraida Bega). Sasha is about to double-cross David over a scheme with a local mobster called “The Guy.” Oh yeah, Sasha has a secret lover, Jason (Aaron Perilo), who works a corner Santa. Then there’s another Santa, Randall (Eric Close), who can’t find any Santa work and desperately a job to support his family.

A Christmas Crime Story is a melodramatic tale of emotional torture, and it’s laid on thick. People die, lives are forever ruined, and a little girl has cancer. There is an attempt to redeem the events of the film as its pendulum swing from tragedy to hope, but by then sadness had turned to sarcastic laughter, and there’s no turning back.

“…laid out in backward order revealing each characters’ true motive.”

I don’t want to completely trash Christmas Crime Story. I get the relentless tragedy of the film was intentional to contrast the inevitable Hallmark good-feeling marathon on television now. But the individual stories are at times confusing. Case in point, midway through the film, Sasha and “The Guy” are negotiating a deal of some sort. I watched this scene a dozen times, and still, I can’t tell you what this sordid deal is, why it’s illegal and who dies or makes money.

Let’s go for the trifecta, acting. Again, I find no joy in tearing this film apart, but the acting is not good. Dialogue should feel natural, like how you and I speak in real life at a minimum. In order to pull off an incredibly sad emotional story, you need good actors to pull it off. The acting feels like characters reciting lines from a script. It lacks emotion and a basic understanding of the actual lines being said.

OK, I feel like Santa who just delivered a lump of coal. I appreciate the filmmakers’ attempt to make a Christmas anti-film, and there should be more films like this during the holidays. I also appreciate the attempt to redeem the overall story in the end. As they say, it’s the thought that counts.

Christmas Crime Story (2017) Directed by Richard Friedman. Written by Robert Chipman and Sean Chipman. Starring Eric Close, Adrian Paul, Mary-Margaret Humes, and Scott Bailey.

1.5 out of 5 stars

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