Scott Bailey is a cop. Adrian Paul is someone who may be up to no good. Eric Close is a guy dressed as Santa with major money issues. Aaron Perilo is another guy dressed as Santa who is aiming to rob a store. Neraida Bega is a woman who may be manipulating one or two of the aforementioned guys. And Mary Margaret-Humes is a diner worker, as well as being the estranged mother of our main cop character. There are other people moving in and out of various scenes here, including a small girl who is very ill, but this selection is enough to illustrate the portmanteau style of Christmas Crime Story. Moving between them all, and shifting back in time to show different perspectives and connections between scenes, this is a decent attempt to mix the familiar with something a little bit different (in Christmas movie terms, anyway).
The easiest way to describe this would be as a Christmassy riff on something like Pulp Fiction or Go (which actually WAS set at Christmas, although that is often easy to forget), with less of a comedic streak. It's not as good as either of those movies, let's be clear about that, but the comparison being made here is regarding style and structure, not the quality.
Which isn't to say that Christmas Crime Story is a bad film. It tries to be a bit different, which is admirable, and it has some individual scenes that work surprisingly well. The screenplay by Sean Chipman, based on an idea by himself and Robert Chipman (I am going to assume they are brothers, but I could be making an ass out of u and umption), has some good lines here and there, and weaves between the usual seasonal sweetness and the slightly darker tone that you would expect from the title. The direction from Richard Friedman is also decent, although he can't do enough to hide the obvious budgetary constraints. With no offence intended to those onscreen, this could have risen above average with a bit more money to play with and a better cast.
The cast are a bit disappointing, for the most part. They're not terrible, but just seem a bit flat. Adrian Paul does quite well, as do Bega and Margaret-Humes, but Bailey, Close, and Perilo are eminently forgettable, which is a shame considering how their actions impact on the narrative.
Yet it's not the cast that really drag the film down too much. What works against it is a lack of that Christmas magic. It IS there, but it's not there in a large enough quantity, nor is there any specific, obvious trigger. No real Santa here, no lost elf, no magic snowglobe. There's nothing here to mark the specific moment in which things should change, a moment when the magic decides to push in and take over the established reality.
It's a shame that Christmas Crime Story misses the mark, mainly because it is a number of minor failings that mount up to eventually drag the whole thing down. I'd still tentatively recommend it to anyone wanting a small break from the annual deluge of overly-sweet TV holiday movies.
Available from America just now, and here is the link - https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Crime-Story-Adrian-Paul/dp/B074Z33YGG