Bad Santa (2003), a Christmas movie with attitude, sees Billy Bob Thornton and Tony Cox as Willie and Marcus, a rogue Santa and elf. Conmen, safe-breakers and havoc-causers. Marcus is obviously the brains behind the scam. Willie is as jaded as they come; he’s gross and uncouth, obnoxious, and useless. Yet he is also sort of loveable. His unlikely friendship with a hapless child (the inexplicably named Thurman Merman) is where the heart- and cockle-warming spirit of Christmas can be found. If you look hard enough.
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10. The Opening Credits
Willie props up a bar, dressed in his red and white finery, and makes it abundantly clear he is furious at the world. Within seconds the audience is completely clear about Willie as a character. He doesn’t look the part, and certainly doesn’t act the part. He is as miserable as he is scrawny. Within a few minutes we are subjected to a drunken St Nick puking orange onto freshly fallen snow as the words Bad Santa appear on screen next to him. It sets the tone perfectly. Does a more fitting opening in cinematic history exist?
9. Willie Beats Up the Bullies
Willie is nearly always in his Santa suit during the film, even if it has dropped around his ankles. So, when he attacks Thurman’s tormentors he is indeed dressed as Santa Claus. It’s not big and it’s not clever but the image of Kris Kringle attacking children is certainly striking. Willie’s heart is in the right place, but this misguided move is almost too much to stomach. Even if these kids definitely belong on the naughty list. The vigorous arm swinging is such a stark contrast to the previous scene – Willie in a car, suicidal and alone. The need to protect Thurman revives him but even when doing something good, he’s doing something terribly terribly bad.