Life for suicidally depressed Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) is as bad as it can get. His one job each year is to play a bad and mean and grumpy department store Santa, in a joint scam with Marcus (Tony Cox), a dwarf who dresses like one of the elves and whose tall Asian girlfriend has a permanent shopping list. But that's the sideline: Willy and Marcus specialise in safe-cracking their client stores around the country, after the kiddies have all gone home. Willy's drunken Santa, who often pees in his pants, is confronted by one overweight kid (Brett Kelly), who is so stoic he seems freaky. But what this kid manages to do is jolt Willie into one moment of redemption – just when it's too late. But then that's typical bad luck and bad timing for a bad Santa like Willie.

Bad Santa is a unique equal opportunity offender, bound to insult anyone and everyone.

In any other Christmas film a bad Santa might simply neglect his reindeer, deliver toys late or not answer letters addressed to the North Pole. But this is no ordinary Christmas flick. Tailored strictly for adults, Bad Santa is one bad mother. He drinks, he swears, he sleeps around and on top of that, he's a career-grade safecracker. Sounds more like a character Charles Bukowski might've dreamed up than the hero of a holiday pic? And who else in Hollywood would be allowed to unleash his fear and loathing over Christmas other than the uncompromising misanthrope who is filmmaker Terry Zwigoff, the director of the equally dark and wonderful documentary Crumb (1998), and last year's excellent comic book adaptation, Ghost World.

Billy Bob Thornton (Slingblade) makes the perfect corrupt Santa, aka Willie T., a jaded department store Kris Kringle in cahoots with badass elf sidekick Marcus (Tony Cox). This particular Christmas Eve their heist plans to rip off their department store employer go way awry and so Willie finds himself taking refuge in an unlikely place. That is, with his greatest fan, an eight year-old boy, played by Brett Kelly, known only as, The Kid. Here's the thing. Bad Santa has no off switch; the profanity just doesn't let up. It is a unique equal opportunity offender, bound to insult anyone and everyone, from family values groups and Christians to the PC brigade and everyone in between. That's not to say our bad boy Santa doesn't redeem himself. Thornton's Harry Hardcore character eventually reveals chinks in his armour, showing some well-needed compassion when the time is right. However, if you're over dud Christmas films check out the car accident that is Surviving Christmas for this year's worst example and, if you have ever had even the slightest animosity towards what Christmas has become. Like me, you might think Bad Santa is one of the best films of the year. Bring it on.


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1 hour 38 min