I know a lot of sports movies seem to have some sort of uplifting theme to them, when even in defeat, everyone feels like they’ve accomplished something great. I’m not sure that was the case in the new hockey film Goon, but its lack of an inspirational message actually seemed refreshing to me in a way.
The film is about Doug (played by Seann William Scott [Stifler]), a bouncer at a dive bar whose life doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. He’s a world-class nice guy, but he’s also kind of a simpleton. One day he’s at a hockey game with his loud mouth friend (Jay Baruchel), who taunts a hockey player so much that he comes into the stands and Doug defends his friend and lays out the hockey player in a brutal way. The coach sees this and hires him after the game to be on the team as a “goon”, a player whose only role is to get in fights. The film is mostly about his rise to fame as the hockey league’s best fighter, while protecting the team’s $5 million dollar French prodigy as well. With an odd romance plot thrown in there for some reason.
While the hockey scenes were definitely the most entertaining parts of the movie, I can see why the extra side plots were necessary. I don’t think the story of Doug’s hockey playing alone could have sustained the film. So the slightly forced romance was OK to me in the end. The forced romance here served as the protagonist’s character development much better than in typical forced romances as well. It was also fun to have Doug’s story be told parallel to Liev Schreiber’s character’s story, who played the film’s “villain”, a goon in his 40s during his final season getting in hockey fights. A nice touch having Doug interact with the person he will basically become if he keeps being a goon his entire career. Of course they fight in the end, and it’s glorious, but I thought all the pieces of this movie, whether unconventional or slightly cliche, worked in the final product.
Seann William Scott has never been better (unless Stifler is like the funniest character in cinematic history to you or something [I hope not]). It’s rare to see him so completely likable. Other than the fact that he’s stupid and fights on command, there really isn’t a bad bone in Doug’s body. Schreiber is really fun as the elder goon, it seemed like he was having fun with the role. Baruchel’s character was painfully annoying, and unnecessary. But Baruchel wrote and produced the film, so I guess let him have a side role if he really wants it. And it was nice to see Eugene Levy play a role that isn’t Jim’s Dad in a direct-to-video American Pie sequel.
I thought the direction was good throughout the film. There are little stylistic touches there and there, showing that it’s not just an assembly line studio comedy. The cinematography and editing are quality for a small film like this. The pacing moves at a satisfactory speed for the subject matter. I actually thought the movie wasn’t nearly as dumb as the trailer probably makes you think it is. And while the whole thing isn’t exactly an uplifting story (well, I guess it could be, depending on how you look at it), it does a nice job of telling a tale about a nobody just trying to find a place in this world. ANY place.
All of the hockey fights do good justice in earning an R-rating, they are all very graphic and brutal. Fake blood flying everywhere. This will likely finish first this year in films utilizing awesome fake punching sounds. They are cartoonish in nature, but the realism tends to kick in soon after the fights end. I’m more of a football guy than a hockey guy, and I was really into this film. I think anyone who actually *enjoys* the sport of hockey would absolutely love Goon. It’s the closest a modern film will probably ever get to the comic glory of Slapshot.
My two glaring criticisms… 1) Jay Baruchel’s character was unnecessary (or at least could have been toned down drastically), and 2) the music choice for the end credits didn’t fit in with the rest of the film.
Since Wrath of the Titans and Mirror Mirror looked like complete train wrecks, my girlfriend and I decided to head to downtown Chicago to see Goon in limited release in one of the two theaters it was playing at in all of Illinois. So we went deep downtown to the AMC a couple blocks from Navy Pier, and plopped down $10.50 each on matinee tickets (yikes!), and had to park in a $14 parking garage. Not to mention the hassle of driving to the theater, as our GPS lost reception nonstop and we were slightly lost getting there. So a lot of time and money spent to see Goon over the weekend, only to discover *afterwards* that it’s also available on Comcast On-Demand for $7.99… (steam blows out of ears). So we may have wasted extra money to see this film, when we could have just watched it on our couch while eating macaroni and cheese, but neither of us were that upset because we thought the movie was worth it. We both really liked it a lot. Still, knowledge is power… (unless you’re on Game of Thrones, because this past week we learned that power is power)
8 out of 10