Directed by Terry Zwigoff, starring Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Brett Kelly, Lauren Graham, John Ritter and Bernie Mac.

There's certainly nothing sentimental about eccentric director Terry Zwigoff's idea of a Christmas film. A superb Billy Bob Thornton stars in 'Bad Santa' as Willie, the kind of misanthropic Santa that would have (pre-reform) Scrooge clapping his hands in glee. He's a disgusting, miserable, self-hating git who swears, drinks, smokes and has loud, lewd sex in the ladies' changing room. Not only that, but he and his angry dwarf buddy Marcus (Cox) are actually conmen in Christmas disguise.

Every year the duo - Santa and his Elf - arrive at a new shopping mall to work, case the joint from the inside and crack the safe on Christmas Eve. And every year the alcoholic Willie, soaked in Christmas spirit, becomes more and more unreliable as his bad habits affect his work. He turns up drunk for work, wets himself while in Santa's throne and his chats with children are mainly confined to a slurred "whadya want?" and "next!"

His increasingly bad behaviour forces the anxious store manager Bob Chipeska (Ritter) to ask orange-munching security guard Gin (Mac) to investigate, so Willie has to lie low for a while. Fortunately he's been befriended by a chubby loner kid (Kelly) who's home alone, but for a doddery grandmother, so Willie promptly moves in.

Don't make the mistake of bringing children to see 'Bad Santa' or it will end in tears - this is adult comedy only. If Santa's not trying to top himself, he's beating kids up or having his wicked way in the hot-pool with a lusty barmaid (an appealing performance from Graham). It's wildly un-PC and spares no one, with some of the funniest (and most profane) exchanges happening between Willie and the aggravated Marcus.

There are several laugh-out-loud moments but the profanity becomes wearing over the length of the film and the audience may wonder exactly where eccentric filmmaker Terry Zwigoff is going with 'Bad Santa'. While clichéd sentiment is eschewed, a faint theme of redemption does emerge towards the end of the film but it's not enough to derail Zwigoff's boldly acrimonious vision of Christmas. This is one film for the naughty list - a true antidote to the normal Hollywood-ised version of Christmas.

Caroline Hennessy