Starring – Seann William Scott, Jay Baruchel, Liev Schrieber and Alison Pill.
Written by Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg
Directed by Micheal Dowse
Editor’s note: Just a quick bit of information. Since the publication of this review, we have heard from Alliance and they confirmed that there was in fact no Q&A after the screening. Sorry for any confusion.
Sports movies are a tricky thing, but when someone gets it right they can become some of our most cherished classics. Movies like Slapshot, Rudy, Raging Bull, Major League, Field of Dreams, Hoosiers, and the recent Moneyball have all succeeded in crossing over from mere film to part cultural phenomenon. Phrases like “just a bit outside” and “putting on the foil coach” are immediately recognizable to sports and movie fans alike. Standing in a crowd of strangers and starting a slow chant of “Rudy, Rudy, Rudy” may not help convince people of your sanity, but I can almost guarantee over 50% of the people in that group will know what the chant means. This recognition is also what leads to the downfall of most sports film out there. They are either rehashes of the same premises or they focus too much on trying to do everything about the sport “right on film” that they lack in story and character. The reason the most successful of sports films become a success is because they don’t try to focus on the sport as a whole, rather a strong story within the context of the sport. This is why Goon works. It doesn’t try to explain hockey for what it is and why it is, it just wants to tell the story of a guy who loves to fight and stand up for his teammates.
Doug Glatt (Scott) is a simpleminded bouncer who just simply wants to belong to something. His parents and brother are successful in their careers and even his best friend Pat (Baruchel) has his own call in a T.V. show about hockey, “Hot Ice”. Doug’s life changes when he goes to a local game with Pat. When a hockey player climbs into the stands after Doug, he knocks him unconscious. Doug is quickly given the moniker “the thug” and recruited by the local coach to play for the team. He is taught the fundamentals in the familiar “training montage” after he beats up over half his own team in one of the funnier moments of the film. It’s not long before he is moving up from the local team to a “national league just one step from the pros”, the films equivalent of the AHL, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He’s there to protect the team’s star, Xavier LaFlamme (Marc-Andre Grondin), who is skittish about everything on the ice after getting knocked out and concussed by the league’s veteran tough guy, Ross “the boss” Rhea (Schrieber). During the course of his time in Halifax he also finds love with self professed “slut and bad girlfriend” Eva (Pill). It all leads up to the inevitable showdown for the last playoff spot and the big fight everyone is waiting for.
It may sound too much like your typical sports themes, but writers Baruchel and Goldberg get creative within the conventions of a story like this and resolve the “issues” of the film in creative ways. Scott is clearly the focus of the film and he truly does bring a likeable charm to a role somewhat unlike anything else he has done. You find yourself drawn to cheer and root for Doug throughout the film. Alison Pill steals almost every scene she’s in and is absolutely stunning throughout. She is still one of my favorite parts of Scott Pilgrim (forget Ramona, I’d take Kim P, ……or Knives!) and at this point has me buying into whatever her next project is…blind. Schrieber as the grizzled veteran is an inspired choice and shines, especially during the “Heat” inspired diner scene between Doug and Ross. Director Micheal Dowse does a solid job rustling all the big personalities into solid performances. We were also told during the film’s introduction that he had the creative ingenuity to configure a dolly rig on skates to get closer to the action.
We were lucky enough to have the Director and three of the main cast, Baruchel, Schrieber and Scott there to present the film. Alas, I was in the wrong theater from a Q&A standpoint as the other theater got that (I could be wrong but it was put forward that the other theater was mainly Industry/Media and the other theater was for contest winners like me, thus the lack of Q&A). This wasn’t too much of an upset as my friend, TO filmmaker Justin McConnell, and I both enjoyed the film regardless. Justin, along with making his own films, curates a short film program in Toronto that I will be discussing in a couple of weeks.
Overall, Goon is just a good hockey movie, which is all the filmmakers wanted to do. It may not be the funniest or most heartfelt or even the best sports movie we see all year, but it’s earned a spot on my shelf when it hits Blu-Ray. A truly fun night out at the cinema.
Opens Friday Feb 24th in theaters across Canada and on VOD in the US.
Til Next Time
Kirk “Movie Junkie TO” Haviland
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