Billy Bob Thornton puts the red suit and hat back on for one last con in this uncalled for, but undeniably amusing sequel. It’s time to embrace the dark side of the holidays once again. In Bad Santa 2 we catch up with Willie Soke, The Kid and his occasionally backstabbing partner-in-crime, Marcus. We also head to a new city for a new con and meet an unexpected addition to the crew, Willie’s mom, played with IDGAF swagger by Kathy Bates.
This caper picks up years after the very complete story that was Bad Santa. The opening leans on some voiceover from Willie to tie up some loose strings and confirm that he’s still the crusty, self-loathing wreck we got to know last time. We get some shots that are pure fan service to harken back to the aesthetic of the original and things get rolling and raunchy quite quickly.
As Willie fails miserably even at suicide (in the film’s most darkly comic moment), he’s interrupted by a delighted Thurman. The kid is now working at a sandwich shop (because of course he is) and still sticking by his pal Willie, against vast evidence that he should leave “his Santa” to wallow in his rock bottom. Thurman comes bearing a package of money and a train ticket from (who else?) Marcus. Willie takes the money, the ticket and the opportunity to tell Marcus what he thinks about everything that’s transgressed. Of course, the promise of a major payday finds Willie unable to resist. And so, a charity (with a crooked, skimming owner) peopled by bell-ringing Santas becomes the new target.
No sooner do the dynamic duo get undercover than they meet the one person Willie wants to work with less than Marcus — his mother. Of course, Willie is the pure image of his mother and from there on in it’s a filthy, dirty family affair that hits on all the beats you expect, but still manages to have fun while filling in the obligatory blanks.
Billy Bob Thornton is still an effective hangdog loser and his eyes still flood with occasional grudging emotion. The barbs between the players are still sharp and the depravity still delivers some devilish delight. Nothing here is as unexpected as it was when Bad Santa hit the scene, frankly, it’s status quo. But this crew still does the whole “can you even believe this guy?” bit quite effectively. This outing gives in a bit more to sentiment, which might leave some fans shaking their heads, but does ultimately serve to lighten the film sufficiently for it not to leave a depressing aftertaste.
If the holiday season has you seeking a bit of a dark escape, you could do worse than to catch-up with Willie’s whisky-fueled antics.