The “one last job” cliché has permeated thrillers since the inception of cinema. Will Thorne’s Silent Night fails to bring much novelty to the staple plot of a bad guy trying to be good but having no choice to be bad in order to maybe, just maybe, be good again. Combined with the Cockney accents and the frequent injections of dark humor, comparisons to Guy Ritchie’s early fare are inevitable. A young Ritchie could write this stuff in his sleep. That said, the writer-director reigns in the excess eccentrics and stylistic flourishes, focusing instead on telling a straightforward, old-fashioned story matter-of-factly. That lack of flair oddly both hinders the film and works in its favor.
Fresh out of prison, hitman Mark (Bradley Taylor) just wants to reconnect with his wife and daughter, live a simple life, and be a decent gentleman. This proves to be increasingly difficult after he bumps into his borderline-deranged former cellmate, Alan (Cary Crankson). He instantly lures Mark back into the dark side, under the “one last job” pretense. “Just think about it. We deserve it,” Alan urges. (Do they, though?) Mark is in denial at first – “I’m not back,” he resolutely tells himself – but then he reconnects with old acquaintances, including mate Seamus (Joel Fry) and boss Caddy (Frank Harper). The latter gives or rather forces an offer upon Mark that he literally can’t refuse. Of course, things go terribly wrong.
“…lures Mark back into the dark side, under the pretense of one last job…”
An innocent witness gets shot in the woods. A suspicious cop is thrown into the back of a van. Hand-in-hand with tooth-pulling comes heavy-handed symbolism that involves dead birds and waxing poetic about the loathsomeness of the “f*****g one percent”. Silent Night is not without its moments of dry, cheeky wit, most evident in the rapport between its leads. Crankson is unhinged, playing off the straight-edge Taylor with fervor; his hat with ear-flaps is a great little touch. Taylor is the film’s anchor, holding it all together, committing as if he were in a meditative/existential Scorsese classic. Frank Harper, who incidentally appeared in Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, provides reliable support in his 300th mob boss role.
Everything unfolds as it should, and if Thorne added any crazy visual embellishments, like jump-cuts or split-screens, it would’ve sunk the project deeper into the murky swamps of banality. As it stands, the film is alright – nothing more, nothing less. As unoriginal as its title, Silent Night gets lost in the sea of its British gangster counterparts.
"…Taylor is the film's anchor..."