Doug Glatt of Orange, Massachusetts is floundering in life, he having no real sense of where he fits - having a "thing" as he calls it. He doesn't have the book smarts to become a doctor like his adoptive father or his gay adoptive brother Ira. And he doesn't have the passion that his best friend Pat has for his self-appointed work, hosting a hockey based cable call-in show, Hot Ice. Because his fists and skull are figuratively like steel, Doug is good at the enforcement part of his job as a bouncer despite he having a naturally friendly childlike approach to dealing with people and situations. An incident involving Doug in the stands of an Orangetown Assassins minor league hockey game leads to its coach, Rollie Hortense, offering Doug a tryout with the team as its enforcer, the tryout regardless of the fact that Rollie has no idea if Doug even knows how to play ice hockey (which he doesn't). Learning just enough hockey skills, Doug makes the team. Rollie, however, quickly believes ...Written by
The Golden Age of Equality
Written by Lee Brooks
Performed by Lee Brooks
Published by Jingle Punks Music, ASCAP See more »
A lot of fun when you embrace the ridiculousness of it all
I plead ignorance: I have never seen Slap Shot, the holy grail of non- Mighty Ducks hockey films. When I ventured into the world premiere of Michael Dowse's Goon over a month ago at the Toronto International Film Festival, I felt like I missed out on required reading. But while it may be deeply indebted to the Paul Newman classic, I think Goon still manages to be unique enough that it works pretty well on its own.
Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott) is a loser. His father and brother are doctors, yet he is stuck as a bouncer in a seedy Orangetown bar. A rather heinous act of self-defense at a local hockey game gets him noticed and brought in to play in the minors as a goon, someone who fights with others and protects his smaller teammates. He does so incredibly well that he is quickly drafted to a semi-professional team in Canada, where his main goal is to protect star player Xavier LaFlamme (Marc-Andre Grondin), who has not played the same since a brutal hit from the legendary Ross 'The Boss' Rhea (Live Schreiber).
Goon is the type of movie that begs not to be taken seriously. If the synopsis was not enough, then the key opening shot, a bloody tooth falling in slow motion over classical music, is an obvious suggestion of the borderline ludicrous film that follows. There is nothing subtle that occurs at all, everything is incredibly blatant and wildly over-the-top (and frequently incredibly gritty and disgusting). The film wears its pride for the sport on its sleeve, and sometimes goes to ridiculous lengths to make sure you always know that. While hockey seems to be an oddly frequent theme in Canadian pictures in the past year or so, this was the first one I saw that had the sport front and centre – not simply existing as an underlying theme or plot device.
But what sets it apart from the other Canadian hockey films is its glorification of violence and carnage on ice. Glatt's main objective is to destroy and take out the other players, and everyone around him is constantly stressing that. While we get to witness the struggle he has trying to understand if there will ever be anything more for him, the film still paints him in the corner of always needing to fight, which leads to some horrifically bloody battles. Dowse does not shy away from how violent the sport can be; instead he makes it incredibly gratuitous and takes it dangerously close to the limits of decency. I laughed at how silly the violence became, but I was surprised at just how gory it was in many instances. It will no doubt cause a minor controversy, and I would not be surprised if a lot of people ignore the fact that the film is one of the few to actually deal with the topic head-on.
Goon is also set apart through its rather colourful use of profanity, specifically at the hands of Jay Baruchel's Pat Houlihan. He adapted and co-wrote the script with Seth Rogen's usual writing partner Evan Goldberg , and spices up almost every line with a unique expletive. Some are too overdone for their own good, but others are near perfect. They lead to some rather hysterical one-liners more often than not, and help shape the film around the hockey. I found it particularly amusing that Baruchel gets to be the most vulgar of anyone in the script, allowing him to provide the most laughs and steal scenes from everyone. It also makes the film, at least in my mind, a bit more authentic to the sport itself. It can be family orientated as some films have tried to suggest, but it is much more at ease when it is adult.
If I hold anything against the film (outside of the ending I wanted so much more from), it is that no one is really developed at all. We get to see a few different shades of Scott's Glatt, but no one else in the film changes. They are one-dimensional all around, with some minor throwaway moments that could have been used to better characterize them. It feels like a missed opportunity, even with the short running time, and nearly puts the talented cast to waste. Even Scott himself seems to be having trouble trying to really make something of his character. They all make the most of what they are given, but it seems like the acting must have come a close third to the sensationalizing of hockey and the glorifying of violence.
That said, Scott does a lot better in the role than I want to give him credit for. He is very meek throughout, and is always downplaying the character. He is the complete opposite of Stifler, and shows that he has some range. Schreiber is great as Ross, but he leaves the film for far too many interludes. Same goes for Kim Coates as the head coach of Glatt's team, who never appears on screen for nearly long enough. Sadly, Grondin and Alison Pill, as Glatt's love interest, seem to fare the worst of anyone. They get so very little to do, despite their importance in the film. They just end up looking awkward and out of place more often than not, almost like they do not belong at all.
In the end, there is a lot of fun to be had watching Goon, especially if you really embrace the ridiculousness of it all. It is a really silly film, but manages to be enjoyable even with the massive flaws that plague it. With a little more work, it could have been one of the best sports movies ever. Instead, it will have to contend with being the best among a long string of Canadian hockey movies that will hopefully end sooner rather than later.
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