Goon, the latest film to hit the VOD market 5 weeks before its limited theatrical run via Magnet Releasing, is so much more than any of the trailers would lead you to believe. A hard edged, violent hockey comedy, it turns out to be one of Seann William Scott‘s better roles. Sure, he plays a hard headed Massachusetts bouncer turned semi-pro hockey player who gets his shot at minor league fame, but he does so completely outside his usual oeuvre, showing that he’s not full of only completely moronic characters. Not to say that Doug “The Thug” Glatt (Scott) is a traditionally smart fellow, but he has his talents and his principals.
Director Michael Dowse (the much delayed Take Me Home Tonight) films from a screenplay by Jay Baruchel (who also co-stars as Scott’s buddy) and Evan Goldberg (Pineapple Express, Superbad) and they knock it out of the park. While many of the plot devices and story elements were lifted from other films (Slapshot, Mighty Ducks, every sports movie focusing on an underdog team) it has the unique element of being focused on the most violent aspect of the game, the bare knuckle fights and the tough enforcers that engage in these fights.
When we first meet Doug Glatt, he is serving as a bouncer at a dive bar, helping out, punching people out when he has to, and just trying to get through the day. When he goes to a hockey game with his buddy (Baruchel), a loud mouthed wimp, Doug steps in and pounds the sense out of the hockey player that tries to threaten them. When the home team’s coach sees what Doug can do, he approaches him about playing. We are treated to the fish-out-of-water elements such as Doug learning to skate, and the star playing hating him out of pure jealousy. Of course, since it’s built on cliches, these are all overcome. However, this film is about the fights, and as I said, they’re all incredibly detailed and violent, shedding light on part of hockey that is left out of a lot of hockey films.
Yes, it glorifies violence a bit, but at the same time, it’s the story of a man that can’t do anything else well, just punch faces and take punches. Ross “The Boss” Rhea (Liev Schreiber), the NHL’s baddest player, is coming off a 20 game suspension for a vicious stick to the back, and as part of his punishment, he must work his way back up through the ranks of the minors, where he has landed directly opposite Doug, who unfortunately is suspended a game for a previous violent outburst.
However, Doug proves to be the different, leading his team to the game that will determine who goes to the playoffs, and despite every odd, Doug and his team are able to keep pace with their biggest obstacle. Finally, beaten and partially broken, Doug The Thug squares off with Ross The Boss in the fight everyone had been waiting for. This is the final bloody showdown in a film full of bloody fist fights. And it pays off. The tone of the film is overall very violent, with detailed slow motion fights, but at the same time it remains a very funny movie, often with the shocking violence providing the laughs.
The on-ice photography is unique and in-your-face, it provides plenty of great hockey action that benefits the story, without wasting too much on individual games. In the end, it’s very much in the vein of Major League, but the acting of Seann William Scott, Liev Schreiber, and the bloody hockey fights is enough to separate it into its own entity. I’d be surprised to see a funnier, more violent hockey movie in the near future.