At first glance Goon may as well be starring Homer Simpson. Seann William Scott (American Pie) stars as Doug “The Thug” Glatt, a big bear and dim-witted oaf. A black sheep in the family, he had been resigned to working menial jobs (usually ones that had uniforms labeled with the word, “Security”). But then he discovers ice hockey and outside of the game he proves to be a big teddy bear with a heart of gold.
Goon is loosely based on the life of Doug “The Hammer” Smith, an “enforcer” from minor league hockey. These players are more commonly known by the name of “goon” as their role typically involves blocking opponents by any means necessary. At times this includes engaging in punching matches with other aggressive players.
Glatt lands this role after he jumps to the aid of his annoying friend, Ryan (Jay Baruchel who doubles as the film’s co-writer along with Evan Goldberg (Superbad)). The hockey player would’ve otherwise beaten up the latter because a verbal stoush saw the sportsman climb over the penalty box, ready to fight Ryan in the stands.
But “The Thug” pulverises the bloke and the coach of the Halifax Highlanders sees potential and asks Glatt to join his team. This doesn’t appear to be the brightest move because Glatt can’t skate and has never played hockey. Instead, he’s there to fight and protect the star player.
Glatt becomes a rising star in this colourful team. This “Nicest guy you’ll ever fight” is so charming, sincere and loyal he is very easy to like and empathise with. Plus, he’s loyal to a tee, doing precisely what the team needs, when it needs it (even bleeding). He is a goon and he’s proud of it.
Along the way Glatt’s big heart shines through the most when he falls in love with serial sports groupie, Eva (Alison Pill). For the first time in his life he is happy doing what he’s doing. And while he’s not fulfilling the family’s expectations of becoming a doctor, he is doing something he excels at. Along the way he also meets fellow enforcer, Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber) who wants to put in one good fight for his final season.
In Goon the ride is actually an unexpectedly, enjoyable one. Although it is at times filled with over-the-top and gritty violence, the energy is kept high and the pacing is flash to match the nature of the sport. There are some jokes peppering the high-octane proceedings and these are most commonly found in the form of swearing, cutting one-liners and sledging (think: “Stevie Wonder on steroids”). It’s a real case of blood, sweat and jeers.
Goon is ultimately a light sports comedy that is not for everyone. Better suited to jocks, some viewers may be put off by the sensational hockey playing (read: brutally violent scenes and fist-to-fist combat). But if you can look beyond this you’ll discover an offbeat, underdog story that is simple fun and filled with solid enough performances to match the punches pulled.
Review score: 3.5 stars
Originally published on 12 August 2012 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/film-review-canadian-film-festival-sydney-2012-goon-ctc
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