alex gibney, alison pill, bad boys, bob probert, bull durham, con air, derek boogaard, doug glatt, focus features, georges laraque, goon, happy gilmore, howto train your dragon, jay baruchel, jerry bruckheimer, liev schreiber, marc-andre grondin, marty mcsorley, michael dowse, midnight in paris, might ducks, miracle, mystery alaska, patrick swayzw, playoffs, rocket, ross rhea, scott pilgrim, seann william scott, slap shot, stanley cup, taxi to the dark side, the chiefs, the last gladiators, the swayz, tiger williams, time domi, wade belak, wayne gretzky, younglbood
I had heard good things about Goon for quite some time so I finally decided to give it a whirl. Slap Shot being my favorite movie of all-time usually turns me off of any hockey related movies. Youngblood has The Swayz going for it, but that’s really about it. Mystery, Alaska was a cutesy Disney-ized representation of hockey. Don’t get me started on the damn Mighty Ducks franchise or the fucking ill-advised sequels to Slap Shot. The documentary The Chiefs is pretty solid. I’ve yet to see Miracle or Rocket, but will get to them at some point. Needless to say, I didn’t have high hopes going into Goon.
A goon, for those who aren’t privy to hockey parlance, is a person whose sole role on the team is to mix it up, fight, provide one’s team with a spark of emotion when they are down and to protect a team’s scorer. Wayne Gretzky had his own personal goon who even traveled with him when he was traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings in Marty McSorley (who has appeared in two Jerry Bruckheimer productions – Bad Boys and Con Air). A goon’s presence on ice will allow a scorer to work more freely instead of having to worry about cheap shots coming from the other team. They know that if they cheap shot the scorer, the goon will punch their teeth through their heads.
Enough of the hockey history lesson. Goon is a simple story: Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott) is an outcast in his family who are all doctors. He is a bouncer at a bar, isn’t particularly bright and has no direction to his life. He and his dipshit hockey enthusiast friend Pat (Jay Baruchel, who co-wrote the script) are at the local team’s game when they heckle a thug from the opposing team enough to draw him out of the penalty box and into the crowd. Doug confronts the thug and beats him down in a matter of seconds, catching the eye of the team’s coach, who predictably invites him to try out for the team. He doesn’t know how to skate and when he steps onto the ice, his new teammates start making fun of him. So he takes matters into his own hands, literally, and beats half of them down. After plenty of work on his skating, the coach calls him into his office and tells him that his brother coaches a real minor league hockey team In Halifax who has a former #2 overall draft pick, Xavier Laflamme (Marc-André Grondin), who is trying to find his mojo after getting drilled and concussed by goon extraordinaire Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber), Doug and Pat’s idol. So, he gets sent to Halifax to try and help Laflamme recapture his talent and make a name for himself as a heavy. When Rhea gets sent down to the same league as Doug and Xavier, we anticipate two things – how will Laflamme react to being on the ice again with Rhea and the inevitable showdown between Doug and Rhea. How do you think those turned out?
So this film is basically an inverted version of Bull Durham, with a touch of Happy Gilmore. There are some funny parts to it, but the abnormally subdued Seann William Scott made me want to see a more Stifler-esque approach. The clumsy, gentle giant/badass fighter guy characterization seemed off to me. It just didn’t ring true. I’m sure guys like Bob Probert and Tie Domi, among the most feared brawlers ever to skate, weren’t teddy bears off the ice. Jay Baruchel is one of the absolute most annoying people in Hollywood. I literally hate looking at him. Hearing him talk grates me to the bone and he honestly ruined How to Train Your Dragon for me. I think he is a talentless hack and that he gets paid to be on screen amazes me. His cliched character (which he wrote, by the way) is so over the top, I literally cringed every time he appeared on screen. But that’s just me. He may be the nicest person in the world. What do I know? I will say this – my heart weeps that he is portraying an Irish kid in this movie.
Doug’s love interest, Eva (played by Alison Pill), was a bright spot, although the slutty/nerdy girl who falls for the athlete over her safe boyfriend angle is tired. That’s the screenwriters’ fault, though. She’s fantastic in everything I’ve seen her in, especially Scott Pilgrim and Midnight in Paris as Zelda Fitzgerald.
Ross Rhea is where they got it right. He is a very good representation of the guy no one wants to play against, a guy who is crafty and willing to drop the gloves with anyone. Liev Schreiber absolutely nails it. He looks so much the part, he’s actually kind of scary. The conversation between him and Glatt in the restaurant is the best part of the whole movie. He delivers an extremely poignant monologue here, which is probably correct about the goon/enforcer:
“Kid, you got this thing. The stuff. The shit. The fuckin’ grit, you got it, like me. But like me, that’s all you fuckin’ got. And like me, you’re no good to anyone doing anything else. All I’m saying is don’t go trying to be a hockey player. You’ll get your fuckin’ heart ripped out.”
When these guys finally fight, it’s pretty good albeit predictable. Here’s the clip:
All in all, this is an average film. Scott, Pill and Schreiber are the high points. Being an enforcer is a lonely place, and I think to some extent, director Michael Dowse portrays that well. These guys take a beating night in and night out, frequently ending up with brain injuries that affect the rest of their lives. Former hockey enforcer Georges Laraque said this: “The worst part is not the fighting itself,…because the adrenaline kicks in and you don’t feel the blows. Instead, what weighs heaviest is the constant pressure of knowing you will have to fight another enforcer such as [Derek] Boogaard or [Wade] Belak, game after game.” Tough thing is, both Boogaard and Belak died this past year. Focus Features just picked up the rights to Boogaard‘s story, so be on the lookout for that.
Tonight, time permitting (as I help prepare my family for our first trip to Disney), I plan on watching The Last Gladiators, a new documentary by Alex Gibney (Oscar winner for Taxi to the Dark Side) about hockey enforcers. This is a time honored tradition that many have called for the abolition of. Goon does some to perpetuate this coolness of the role and its importance to some teams. Ultimately, this is just another story where someone is looking to find their place in this world. A fair effort in the hockey movie subgenre. Give it a whirl as well as the others mentioned. After all, it is Stanley Cup Playoff time.
Here’s the trailer: