Joel Kinnaman 'Silent Evening' Storage Exercise Kettlebell Stream

Joel Kinnaman was in the market for a challenge when John Wick producers Basil Iwanyk and Erica Lee approached him with a unique opportunity. Legendary action director John Woo was making his first movie in the U.S. in over two decades, but with a catch: Similar to A Quiet Place, there's practically no dialogue. Silent Night follows a father, named Brian Godlock (Joel Kinnaman), whose son is killed by a gang, which sets him off on a blood-soaked journey of revenge. Given the lack of speaking, the story is told through moments of emotional expression paired with a series of fight sequences that are unrelenting. Expect to add this to the list of the best action movies ever made.

“There was a thought that, because there are no lines, the prep for this movie was going to be easier than others," Joel Kinnaman tells Men's Journal. But that notion was quickly dismissed.

Kinnaman realized stepping into the sorrow of a grieving father while physically taking the character from average dad to killing machine was no small order. The physical development has a wild trajectory.

In 'Silent Night,' Joel Kinnaman plays a man recovering from a wound that cost him his voice.

Courtesy of Lionsgate

Early in the film, the audience sees a wimpy Godlock struggle through a few situps. It's the beginning of what unfolds to be an epic training montage that culminates with him crushing a kettlebell flow and ripping pullups. In real life, the scenes were filmed weeks apart, not months like we're meant to believe.

Luckily for the film, training has been a big part of Kinnaman’s life for years, and getting ready to build the physique only meant amplifying what he was already doing. We spoke with Kinnaman about his workouts and how martial arts helped him portray an unyielding vigilante in Silent Night.

Men's Journal: How did preparing for this role differ from roles you've done in the past?

It’s funny, a bunch [of people] thought I would be able to just hang out and chill because there were no lines, but the whole experience was a whole lot more intense than I expected. What I realized over the course of shooting this movie is text helps propel you into the emotion of a scene. Without it, you have to do a lot more work to find where you’re supposed to be. I can’t use words in the scenes, so the only means I had to tell the story were my eyes and my actions. The eyes have a way of telling the truth of what you're feeling, so I had to do a lot more emotional prep for this project. And that started again before every take.

In 'Silent Night,' Joel Kinnaman plays a dad turned vigilante.

Courtesy of Lionsgate

Can you share what that process looked like?

I’ll be honest, I thought this was going to be my big method-acting moment. I was prepping my fiancé saying it was going to be a tough time for us as a couple as I was going down to Mexico and I wouldn’t be able to call her. She was in disbelief that we weren’t going to talk for two months, but I explained to her that that’s what needed to be done. We made sure it wasn’t going to be this huge issue by sitting down with our relationship coach. I highly recommend everyone in a relationship have a relationship coach.

I finally got her own board. I was prepared to really do it. Then I landed in Mexico and I started to feel a little lonely. So I called her and told her I landed. She was like, “What are you doing?” I changed the rules. I woke up the first day of filming and stayed silent the whole car ride to set. I sat down in the makeup chair and everyone else in the cast was having lots of fun. My resolve [was just] to stay quiet for production and the car ride. I guess I’m not meant to be a method actor.  

The garage training montage speaks volumes. What was it like filming this sequence?

I was very excited that I got to have a montage. You’ve got to have a montage! I never had one before in my career and now I’ve been able to check that box. The shirtless scenes can be kind of silly in some movies, but in a movie like this it’s important to tell the story. I had to show the audience who this guy had become and the work he'd put into this pursuit. I enjoy training so I stay in pretty good shape.

For the scene I basically just did some of the exercises I like to do. The kettlebell is a great workout. I don’t do a ton of it in my regular program, but we used them when I was training for the role and it looks cool. We wanted to make him very realistic and gritty, because beyond the training that he’s done at home in his garage, he’s not a specialist in any way.

Doing the early scenes of Brian were more challenging because I do enjoy training, so looking like I didn’t know what I was doing was tough. I’ve been practicing martial arts and working with guns for awhile now, but Brian is supposed to be a regular guy who's just training in his garage. How much skill do you give him? And at what points? I had to check my ego, because when you're down there with a dummy or throwing a punch, there’s part of you that wants to show the audience what you can really do.

While Joel Kinnaman is no stranger to weapons training, he had to act like it for 'Silent Night.'

Courtesy of Lionsgate

How much time were you spending in the gym leading up to that scene?

I usually hit the gym two or three times a week. Going into a movie like this, I ramp it up quite a bit. I would say I’m always six weeks to two months away from being ready to do a movie like this. I started working with a bodybuilding coach from Gold’s Gym because those guys just understand how to make everything pop. Sometimes we would go the gym, but I also have a pretty nice home setup. One of my favorite pieces is from Hoist, where I can do bench presses and squats.

The grittiness comes through in the fight sequences. Because you aren't playing a trained assassin, what was the trickiest part about the choreography?

Because we wanted Brian to be untested and unspecialized, we decided to choreograph the fights with these anchor points instead of having every little move planned. That meant we knew where we were going in certain moments, but how we got there was improvised between me and the stunt guy I’m fighting. The challenge for me is that stunt guys are so used to taking it super easy on actors—that’s how they’ve been trained—but I wanted them to be hard on me. I wanted it to look real. I didn't want this wide-open space between their fist and my face, so I ended up putting in a lot of work to make the stunt guys comfortable with really pushing it.

And how did you go about that?

It was easier because the stunt coordinator we were working with was Jeremy Marinas, who worked on the John Wick movies. I’ve worked with Jeremy for awhile, so it started with him telling his guys they could be rough with me. The other method was to train jiu-jitsu with them. Getting in the mix with them, taking and giving some punishment, was a great way to loosen them up. For example, one of the guys I was working with is a great boxer but I’m better at jiu-jitsu than him. Once you tap a guy out, they’re going to take off the kid gloves.

Joel Kinnaman took a basic bodybuilding approach for his 'Silent Night' transformation.

Courtesy of Lionsgate

It’s clear jiu-jitsu has brought a lot to your life. How would you describe your draw to it?

I started training in 2018 and it’s one of my main tools for keeping my mind in a peaceful place, along with surfing, journaling, and meditation. It’s a ritual that starts with going to a place in the morning where people are very friendly, but in moments you're thrown into a situation where you feel like you're drowning. There's this person on top of you trying to make it worse, and to make it stop all you have to do is [tap out] on the arm or hand. But that’s not an option because I’ll be so disappointed in myself if I give up just because I was uncomfortable or thought I was too tired. My morning starts with fighting through the feeling of drowning and controlling my mind. Getting my mind into the place where I'm okay with suffering. That process is so valuable. And when you’ve started your day off with that process, the rest of the day feels so easy.

I also love the camaraderie and jiu-jitsu seems to attract a lot of cerebral people. I'm sure there are gyms where that meathead mentality exists. But none of the places I've trained have been like that. I would say there’s more of a nerd vibe. I love the martial arts mentality of always trying to make each other better. You go to war with each other, and it starts as a real battle, but whether you win or lose, it feels great. If you lost, you're cursing them, but then you want to know how they did it. It also lends itself into my work. I get to sprinkle a little jiu-jitsu into my work when I have an action picture like Silent Night.

The Kettlebell Flow That Turns Joel Kinnaman Into an Unstoppable Vigilante in ‘Silent Night’


Do 3 sets of 4 reps of this flow with 2 minutes of rest in between sets. Start with low weight and increase as you become more comfortable using kettlebells. Ideally the weight is challenging, somewhere around 75 to 80 percent max capacity for the clean. As a finisher, do pullups to failure.

How to Do It

Joel Kinnaman in transition from kettlebell clean to bottoms-up press.

Courtesy of Lionsgate


  1. Start standing with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and a kettlebell between your feet with the handle positioned parallel to your body.  
  2. Hinge at your waist, keeping your back flat, and grab the kettlebell with an overhand grip using your right hand (your thumb should be pointing behind you and through your legs). 
  3. Inhale, then drive through your hips and pull the bell up, swiveling the handle around your fingers into the locked position, with the kettlebell directly over the elbow, bottom-up. 
  4. te: The kettlebell should take a vertical path, not an arc, and it should be pulled up to shoulder-height. At the top of the movement, your shoulder should be pressed down (squeeze your armpit), triceps against your ribcage, and the kettlebell resting between your forearm and biceps (nearly in the crook of your elbow). Keep your abs and glutes engaged during the entire exercise. Be careful not to curl the kettlebell or flip it so it crashes on your forearm (you shouldn’t have bruises from doing this exercise). 

Joel Kinnaman performing kettlebell bottoms-up press.

Courtesy of Lionsgate


  1. Next, brace your core and exhale as you press the kettlebell in a bottoms-up press until your arm is extended above you.
  2. Lower the kettlebell back down to your shoulder with control.

Courtesy of Lionsgate

Sprawl to Offset Pushup

  1. Immediately rotate through your shoulder and elbow to re-position the bell so the handle is pointing up and the base of the bell is pointing down. 
  2. Drop it down to the floor (shown) and kick your legs behind you at shoulder-width in a sprawl, keeping your right hand on the handle of the kettlebell. 
  3. Drop down into an offset pushup with your left hand on the ground. 
  4. Explode out of the bottom of the pushup so your hands briefly leave the ground and the kettlebell. Keep your feet planted as you float your torso toward the right so your left hand lands on top of the kettlebell and your right hand is on the ground. Perform another pushup.
  5. Kick your feet in toward your hands and stand. That's 1 rep. Perform all reps on one side, then switch. Perform reps as quickly as possible without compromising form.

Courtesy of Lionsgate

Finisher: Pullups to Failure

  1. Grasp a pullup bar with an overhand grip with hands just wider than shoulder width, to start. 
  2. Hang from the bar with legs straight or crossed at the ankles. 
  3. Pull your lats down to set your shoulders, then pull your body up until your chin is above the bar and your biceps are fully contracted at the top. Think about separating the bar with your hands. 
  4. Lower under control. 
  5. That's 1 rep. Repeat until you physically can't do any more.

Silent Night is now playing in theaters.

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