|Image: Entertainment One|
The first we heard of Goon was when it was announced that star Seann William Scott had left Kevin Smith’s hockey comedy Hit Somebody for this, written by hockey fanatic co-star Jay Baruchel and Superbad co-writer Evan Goldberg and directed by Michael Dowse (Take Me Home Tonight), based on a non-fiction book. Of course, we can’t judge until Hit Somebody is released, but we can see why he’d want to be a part of Goon.
Doug (Seann William Scott) is a nice, not too bright, guy who hasn’t found his purpose in life. When he’s seen knocking out an ice hockey player he’s called up to join the local team as a goon: the enforcer who protects the other players and throws down the gloves when necessary. He’s quickly transferred to Nova Scotia, where his fists earn him the respect of his team and of rival goon Ross “The Boss” Rhea (Liev Schreiber) who’s on the brink of retirement and looking for one last showdown.
First off, Doug’s a great character for Scott. He made a name for himself playing obnoxious jackasses (he’s American Pie’s Stifler), but this role allows him to stretch himself a bit. Doug isn’t quick with comebacks, he doesn’t take drugs (“Beer and soup...that’s me”) and he can’t skate for toffee but he’s invaluable to his team. He’s a nice guy who’s aware of his limitations and overjoyed at the chance to be a part of something. He’s contrasted with Schreiber’s Rhea, who’s become disillusioned and bitter after a long career of not being there to play hockey, and Marc-André Grondin’s (C.R.A.Z.Y.) bad boy goal-scorer, who’s lost interest due to being in the lower leagues.
There is a thin line between showing why the bloody, bruising punch-ups are such an integral part of the sport and glorifying violence for violence’ sake. It’s impossible to ignore the crowd’s demands for the bloodshed, personified by Doug’s foul-mouthed best friend Ryan (Baruchel), but Doug (mostly) fights for his team, not for himself. “If they need me to bleed, then I’ll bleed.” While it could be argued that it glorifies the fighting itself, it’s more concerned with glorifying the players who are willing to stand up for their teammates.
We should also mention that Goon is very funny and the hockey itself is surprisingly exciting. The film is foul-mouthed, pretty brutally violent, but there’s a definite sweetness to it. Scott’s relatively low-key performance allows the rest of the cast to go big, including Alison Pill (Midnight in Paris) as the conflicted/bemused object of Doug’s affections, Kim Coates (Sons of Anarchy) as Doug’s foul-mouthed coach, Eugene Levy (American Pie) as Doug’s disapproving dad, and Schreiber (Wolverine), having great fun breaking type as the aging goon looking to break a few faces before he goes out, not to mention Doug’s nicely characterised team of misfits. This is an excellent comedy that has more to it than the tagline may suggest.
Verdict: For a film so full of brutal punch-ups and foul-mouthed humour, it’s surprisingly heartfelt. It’s also hilarious.