Bad Santa (2003)


Bad Santa is a 2003 American Christmas crime comedy film written and directed by Terry Zwigoff, and also written and produced by the Coen brothers, starring Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Bernie Mac, John Ritter, Lauren Graham, Lauren Tom, Ethan Phillips, Brett Kelly and Cloris Leachman. This was John Ritter's final film appearance, before his death on September 11, 2003. The unrated version of the film was released on DVD on March 5, 2004 and on high-definition Blu-ray Disc (November 20, 2007) as Bad(der) Santa. A director's cut DVD was released in November 2006. It features Zwigoff's cut of the film (including an audio commentary with him and the film's editor), but is three minutes shorter than the theatrical cut and ten minutes shorter than the unrated version. The film was screened out of competition at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.


Willie T. Stokes works the holiday seasons as a mall Santa with his dwarf friend, Marcus, who works as Santa's elf. Every Christmas Eve they disable the security alarm after hours and rob the mall; afterwards, Marcus returns to living with his wife, Lois, while Willie goes to Miami and spends all his money on alcohol and other hedonistic, self-destructive and usually illegal pursuits. The next year at a new mall, Willie's alcoholic rants arouse the suspicions of mall Manager Bob Chipeska, who asks Security Chief Gin Slagel to investigate. Willie meets bartender Sue, and they begin a relationship. He also meets a pudgy, preteen boy, whom he nicknames the Kid, during their visit in the mall. When he leaves a bar a hostile man confronts Willie, but the Kid stops the man from beating Willie. A lonely, unpopular boy, the Kid lives with his senile grandmother; his mother is dead and his father is in prison for embezzlement. Willie takes the Kid home and breaks into the safe, taking the money and his father's BMW. Irritated by Willie's reckless behavior, Marcus berates him for his new car, his alcoholism and his flirtatiousness with customers. When Gin breaks into Willie's motel room posing as a police officer, Willie moves in with the Kid. During his time spent with the Kid, Willie starts to show small signs of kindness, offering the Kid advice on fighting and playing checkers. Willie causes more trouble at the mall but continues to spend time with Sue and the Kid. Marcus is continually disgusted by how unreliable Willie has become. Gin, meanwhile, discovers the history of the criminals and he demands half of the loot, creating further friction between Willie and Marcus. Willie goes to the mall drunk and destroys a nativity display. Marcus and Gin try to cover it up, but get into an argument. The next day, Willie tries to commit suicide, giving the Kid a letter explaining the mall robbery. He changes his mind when he sees how the bullies have blackened the Kid's eye; Willie beats up the lead bully. Willie feels that he did something good for the first time in his life. To make sure the Kid can defend himself, Willie and Marcus try to teach him how to box. The Kid gives Willie a Christmas present in advance: a wooden pickle he bloodied when he cut himself carving it. He gives Willie a low-grade report card, hoping to make him happy. Willie learns the Kid's name is Thurman Merman. Thurman asks for a pink stuffed elephant this year, since he has not received any presents for the past two years. That night, Marcus and Lois murder Gin with their van when he refuses to take less than half the money. On Christmas Eve, Sue helps Willie and Thurman decorate their house for Christmas. Willie leaves to rob the mall with Marcus. After cracking the safe, Willie takes a stuffed elephant for Thurman. However, Marcus produces a gun and plans to kill Willie because he is too unreliable. Willie, in tears, asks Marcus and Lois if they really need everything they steal. Fortunately for Willie, the police arrive, having been tipped off by Willie's letter that Thurman gave them. Willie flees and speeds (to the sound of Chopin's Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2 in the background) to Thurman's house to give him his present; he arrives at the house but the police shoot him eight times in front of the neighborhood. Willie survives and avoids prison time because of the letter and the fact that an unarmed man dressed in a Santa suit getting shot eight times in front of screaming children "is more fucked up than Rodney King", as Willie puts it. The police arrest Marcus and Lois. Sue is legally given guardianship of Thurman and Willie receives a sensitivity trainer job for the police department. The movie closes with Thurman walking outside to fix his new bike. The bully from earlier in the movie is waiting outside his house and confronts him, but Thurman kicks him in the testicles and rides away with a carefree attitude.