CHRISTMAS CROSSFIRE Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Alexander Wallace spends Christmas in a forest. Yippie Ki Yay?

When I was first exposed to Christmas Crossfire on Netflix (those algorithms, again!) I thought it might be the streaming service attempting to make its own Die Hard. It’s not that, per se; first of all, the movie is German, and the vast majority of the dialogue is in German. Indeed, Christmas Crossfire tries to juggle being several things, and ultimately ends up somewhat confused.

The plot kicks off with a young woman and man meeting in a bar and deciding to go to her rural hometown for Christmas. Through a strange series of events, they end up getting involved in a rather bloody family feud that ends up creating several corpses and bringing grievous harm to both of them. It’s a story of love: familial, romantic, and dysfunctional variations on both of those. It’s a story of belonging: in terms of place, of family, and of social groups.

That’s where the movie stumbles. It can’t quite figure out whether it wants to be a drama about its characters and their relationships, or to be an action movie; it can’t decide whether to be Die Hard or something more akin to an arthouse film, and in terms of tone it can veer widely in each direction. Frankly, I think it needed to either go full Tarantino or become something like a holiday-themed John Wick (which, for all its bloodshed, has always had a strong sense of its characters). Pacing-wise, Christmas Crossifre also stumbles; there’s a confrontation about two-thirds through the movie where the plotlines that exist up until that point come to a head; everything else after that well-done climax just feels like the end is being dragged on for far too long.

But enough about the bad; there are good things to this movie, no matter how negative that last paragraph was. The main characters, Samuel and Edda, are both well-acted and have a real chemistry with one another, as do the villainous characters who are properly loathsome. The music is often quite well-chosen, with one particularly clever usage of Joy to the World during a dinner. The action scenes aren’t the stylized spectacles of most traditional action film, but rather something understated, gritty, and compelling in its own way. The settings are used well, particularly the forest that surrounds the little town in which most of the film is set.

As I previously remarked, the thematic core of Christmas Crossfire revolves around belonging. There’s the tension of whether Edda still belongs in her hometown, and if Samuel, a Berliner, ever belonged there to belong with. There are the tensions between Edda and her family, and within the particular criminal organization that harasses the protagonists, and between that group and the family. There are also the tensions between urban and rural Germany; to my dismay, the fact that the two urbanites seemed the most decent people in the movie, compared to the less than sterling inhabitants of this little town, made it seem somewhat classist, if only unintentionally.

In terms of this being a Christmas movie; more or less all of the plot could have been set any other time of the year; I suspect that, like Billy Wilder’s The Apartment, the holiday setting is designed to emphasize how alienated everyone is from each other in one way or another at a time of year that celebrates togetherness. There are some beautiful shots of Christmas decorations, but they’re just that: decorations.

Ultimately, I can’t help but wonder if Netflix marketed Christmas Crossfire poorly. It’s not Die Hard so much as it is a German holiday-themed version of In Bruges, with a wry sense of humor and a core about human beings and their interrelationships. It’s a strange movie, and I’m not entirely sure what its audience was intended to be, but I found it to have its merits.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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