Goon (92 min, 2011)
By The BK Basement
There is almost no other genre that is more contrived, played out, unoriginal or just plain boring as the sports genre. Almost every sports movie made in the past 40 years is either ripping off Rocky or Hoosiers. Story and character arcs are all the same, underdog team wins despite the odds. The good natured players always inspire the rest of the team, even the moody talented players, to give it their all and win as a team! Yay sportsmanship! I hate these movies. They’re tacky, boring and predictable down to a T.
Goon stays put in the cookie cutter sports film mold, following the rise of bouncer turned semi-pro Hockey goon Doug Glatt (a terrifically restrained Sean William-Scott). The film concentrates more on the personal progression of Glatt than on the struggling team. I don’t know if it’s because of the NHL lockout and I’m just desperate for some on the ice action, or the nostalgia and heartwarming portrayal of Western Massachusetts and Eastern Canada the film provides, but Goon managed to keep me entertained throughout. Even if I did have to sit through a dinner with Glatt and his conservative family who frown upon his career choice, or watch Glatt awkwardly court the cute awkward girl, hell I even put up with the spoiled star player learning the true meaning of Christmas …or Hockey…or whatever.
Goon never attempts to be Slapshot, yes it’s full of all the sex, drugs and violence that accompany the rock star lifestyle that D-league hockey players enjoy, but it doesn’t try and parody the sport. Instead Goon embraces the role of the enforcer (or goon) in hockey and shows how a good natured guy reacts to being thrown into the ring with people who fight for a living. Liev Schreiber shows up as Glatt’s rival, adding another vast layer of complexity to the life of a Goon. He also participates in one of the more brutal fights I’ve seen in cinema in a while.
Goon works because it stays close to Glatt, when the film wanders into the subplots and sports movie subplots it doesn’t get in the way of the meat of the film. It avoids most sports stereotypes, and features a unique cast that liven things up (Sports would be one hundred times better if more broadcasters were like former Winnipeg Jets announcer Curt Keilback in Goon, who makes some of the most incredible and obscene sports analogies). Goon is like its players, it has just enough pride and honor in what it’s doing to not take any cheap shots. It respects what it’s doing too much to throw in bad jokes or hinge on lame emotional subplots with characters that don’t matter. Goon doesn’t end on a high or low note; instead it ends on a satisfying one. It’s simple and some people may be looking for more of the traditional high energy, inspiring finish, but that would betray what the rest of the film is about. There is far more to what Goon doesn’t say at the end than what 100 other sports films cheer about before the credits role.