For those of you who don’t know, I’m a Canadian boy, born and raised. Bagged milk is a staple in my fridge, I measure distance in time, and I constantly shit on the Imperial system despite using it almost as much as I do the Metric system. Even despite being a huge nerd who doesn’t go
oatside outside and hates sports, my eyes can’t help but gravitate towards any hockey game that shows up in my field of vision. I couldn’t tell you anything about hockey history or this season’s stats, but it’s instinctive for me as a Canadian to watch hockey if it’s put in front of me.
Goon is a hockey/ comedy movie about a man named Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott), a lovable oaf who doesn’t really have much going for him and constantly lives under the shadow of his prestigious and snooty family of doctors. Doug is really good at one thing, though: fighting. After defending his loudmouthed friend (Jay Baruchel) at a local hockey game, a coach sees his potential to become an enforcer, a hockey player who is only put on the ice to beat the ever loving shit out of people on the other team.
Doug begins moving up the ranks and eventually makes it to a the Halifax Highlanders, a minor league team where he’s tasked with helping defend Laflamme, a hot shot kid (Marc-André Grondin) who used to put away pucks like nobody’s business. Unfortunately, a recent on-ice incident with Ross “The Boss” Rhea (Liev Schreiber), the league’s most brutal enforcer has Laflamme paranoid and off his game. With Rhea returning to the league before retirement, Doug has to make sure Laflamme is in top shape by the time his and Rhea’s inevitable confrontation starts staining the ice red with blood.
At first, I was a little hesitant to watch Goon. I had always heard how good it is, but I’ve never really been a Seann William Scott or Jay Baruchel fan. I really only know Scott from the American Pie movies, and I figured Goon would just be more of the same crude-for-the-sake-of-being-crude comedy, only on ice this time.
Boy was I wrong.
Sure, Goon isn’t high art. This isn’t a bulletproof comedy like Hot Fuzz or In Bruges, but Goon is far more reserved than I expected it to be. It’s a character piece first (honestly), and the comedy is generated by the juxtaposition of Doug, the world’s nicest guy ever, interacting with a whole host of crazy characters. Between all his team members on the Highlanders, from his alcoholic captain whose life is in shambles, to Laflamme’s super edgy broodiness, to his conflicted and morally questionable love interest (Alison Pill), Doug has a lot of great people to bounce off of in every scene, and Scott plays Doug’s 100% genuine and polite mentality to a T every time. It’s nice to see most of the characters having vastly different and fully fleshed out personalities, because Goon really stands on its characters. The story itself is bare bones. Doug joins a hockey league as an enforcer, helps his team get to the playoffs, and eventually faces Rhea, the league’s top enforcer, the end. It’s a story we’ve seen a million times before, but not with this set of characters.
There are a few scenes that are crude humor for the sake of being crude, but they mostly revolve around Jay Baruchel’s character who just shouts obscenities constantly. It’s funny every once in a while, but since every one of his lines is like this, it gets a little stale after a while. Other than Baruchel’s character, Goon actually takes itself pretty seriously. It’s legitimately a solid sports movie and plays a lot of it’s scenes totally straight. You might be thrown off by how serious the film can get at times, but it’s balanced really well with all the comedy in there.
There’s also not much glorification of violence in Goon, which surprised me because it’s literally a movie about a guy who can beat people to a pulp better than other anyone else. While in the first act, a lot of the hockey fights are played for comedy, they slowly start escalating into more visceral experiences. You can see how brutal and vicious these fights can be and how even if Doug wins, he still skates away bleeding from the face. The final game between the Halifax Highlanders and the St. John’s Shamrocks which sees Glatt and Rhea share the ice for the first time is super tense. The build up to their inevitable fight is handled pretty well throughout the match, and it never feels like Rhea is the bad guy in the film, which is refreshing. Rhea isn’t playing dirty or flaunting himself as the antagonist in Goon, he’s just a dude who likes fighting people while wearing skates. You can see the respect that he has for Glatt both on and off the ice, as even before their match they share a pretty heartfelt scene in a coffee shop.
Finally, the two things I want to bring up in Goon but don’t really know how to work them into this write-up so I’m just going to say it:
- Liev Schreiber’s Canadian accent is so fucking spot on. Kudos to him for nailing the real Canadian pronunciation of the word “out”. (Hint: it’s not “OOT“)
- I love how Canadian movies always have to shit a little bit on Quebec. It’s okay Quebec, you may be the weird, grungy, metalhead province of our country, but we love you anyways.
So, yeah. Goon is kind of amazing. Visually it’s nothing fantastic to write home about (the games are sometimes shot with some cool POV shots, but that’s about it), but Goon really stands on its own on the strength of it’s characters and the near perfect balance of drama and comedy. Seann William Scott totally surprised me with his performance, and Liev Schreiber is awesome as always. Whether or not you like hockey, I would still recommend checking out this movie. You could easily translate it to almost any other sport, but the creators of Goon clearly love hockey, and it shows.