Goon (2011) Review

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Goon is the most masterful sports movie of the past decade.  At its core, Goon transcends the sports movie genre, there is a warmth and honesty that few movies can accomplish but Goon does it exceedingly well all while wrapped up in deep fried corn dog batter that are the comical shenanigans of a minor league hockey team.  It is evident that the filmmakers were very passionate about this movie and all that passion translates onto the screen.  Don’t worry though, Goon delivers where most people want it to – some pretty sweet hardcore hockey fighting action.

Seann William Scott plays Doug Glatt, the gentle giant who was built to fight.  While Scott’s talents usually end up on the side of the ‘ridiculously stupid’ spectrum he is almost tasked to play the straightman in Goon.  His character is filled with compassion and courtesy, Glatt is almost a white knight, a goon that is willing to protect his teammates whether they want to be on the team or not.  He is a simple guy that knows he has been put onto earth to fight and does it all because his belief never wavers that loyalty to teammates is paramount.  He is too endearing and goofily charming for the audience not to root for him and the filmmakers make sure to not overplay their hand with his quirks.

In fact the filmmakers expertly utilize Glatt’s personality, and in fact every other aspect of the film, to mine comedy, sympathy, and intensity.  Aside from the Ryan character (Jay Baruchel, who also produced and wrote) who is a 200% foul mouthed hockey fan – serving the purpose of brevity and annoyance – there is never a moment that feels like it goes on for too long or a joke that feels like it is played out.  The director, Michael Dowse, had his finger on the pulse of every scene in this movie making sure that the movie never became too serious or sappy while also making sure that Glatt never became to unbelievable.  Every plot point and character trait was utilized to perfection making sure the movie never became stale or too focused on any one specific theme or story.

The story is much more than a guy becoming a hockey goon and earning his rite of passage by beating the goon of the previous generation.  It isn’t just one hockey game to the next, seeing Glatt improve little by little.  It isn’t even about Glatt wanting more than goon-hood, even though he insists he is a hockey player.  It’s about Glatt finally fitting into something, finally becoming something greater than what he thought he could without compromising himself.  Glatt finds himself through both hockey goonery and a girlfriend Eva (Allison Pill) and enjoying who he is for the first time in his life.

Don’t worry, Goon is at its heart a comedy movie.  It might not be the uproarious slapstick many have come to associate with Seann William Scott but there are some good comical moments in it (especially about an “official” highlander doll) but this is not a sophomoric comedy.  The humor is more subtle but effectively done, much like the other aspect of the film – the fights.  The fighting scenes are good, most are fairly funny and the fighting looks pretty real.  Unlike in many boxing movies where things can have a very fake feel to them, the fights in Goon feels pretty realistic despite the often comic overtones of them. 

Goon does not shy away from making its voice heard in the hot debate raging in hockey at the moment which is specifically about fighting and players whose only job is to fight.  The movie clearly errs on the side of fighting is necessary and give goons a sympathetic character, showing everyone that some people are just meant to do this and aren’t really goons at all.

Yes, I am waxing poetic about a movie that most people only want to see because they think it is Seann William Scott gooning it up for a couple hours and while it mostly fulfills on that promise, Goon is much more than that.  It is more than a sports movie and more than a romantic comedy (in fact it doesn’t even deserve to be labeled as such schlock).  Goon is a great movie, however, and definitely deserves at least one viewing.