The trailers for Goon made it seem like a silly hockey comedy. I don’t know a lot about hockey. And I don’t like silly comedies. So, Goon isn’t a movie I would have normally wanted to go see. I got the chance to see it recently, though, when it turned up at the area RedBox and it was one of those times when pickings seemed slim – seen that, seen that, don’t want to see that, etc. So, I took a chance and rented it, not expecting very much – in fact, prepared not to watch the whole movie if any. Some of the best movies are found this way. As it turned out, Goon was great fun and I enjoyed it thoroughly. How can a movie about a sport you don’t care about be interesting? When it’s really about more than just the “sport.”
Jay Baruchel, one of the lead actors, also co-wrote the screenplay. Seann William Scott, whose roles to date have been hit-and-miss, plays the lead, Doug Glatt. Doug is a bouncer at a local “Beantown” bar. He is also a major embarrassment to his more accomplished family. Overall he isn’t content with his life. One day when he goes to a minor league hockey game and he gets into a fist fight with one of the players from the away team. Doug easily wins. The coach of the Halifax Highlanders sees potential in him, so he offers him a spot on the team. All he needs to do is learn how to skate. Everything takes from there.
The screenplay was expertly written, except for one criticism. Let me just get that criticism out of the way first. The “dirty” dialog written for Jay Baruchel’s character seems excessive and pointless. Some of that kind of language is to be expected in a “man’s” sport movie, but in this case, and for this character, it just didn’t seem like it fit. Thankfully, Baruchel’s time on screen isn’t long enough for this flaw to detract too much from the overall movie experience.
So, my one criticism aside, it’s hard to fault the script in any other way. It was really a rare gem and there were many elements of the script that I just loved. The comedy felt natural and never forced; I genuinely laughed. I laughed a lot. The script added unexpected depth, in just the right amount, to seemingly ordinary situations. The writing is smart and nuanced throughout. As unlikely as this may seem, one exchange of dialog in Goon reminded me of a classic scene in Heat (1995) where Al Pacino and Robert De Niro have a “talk.” You’ll know what I mean when you see the film. All this combined to create a depth of character development that was the film’s strongest point.
Not a single character is one-dimensional. The main character, Doug, is so likable that you find yourself rooting for him in every situation. Sure, he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed and his life has no sense of purpose and he does some questionable things, but I alternately empathized and sympathized with him so much that his character became more and more compelling as the movie progressed. Doug’s romantic interest, Eva, didn’t turn out to just be “the girl” – just a sideshow with no real importance in the story. In fact, she’s a very important part of the story. Her relationship with Doug goes in a surprising direction. Instead of Doug learning from Eva, as you might have suspected at the onset of their relationship, it’s Eva that learns from Doug. Their dynamic and chemistry has such an infectious charm that I found it hard to stop smiling. Another interesting character is LaFlamme. He has a bigger than life personality. As in Eva’s case, it’s LaFlamme that learns from Doug in surprising ways that I wouldn’t have suspected.
The hockey scenes are staged and filmed extremely well, or better put, the fights, and the hockey games that break out between fights, were filmed extremely well! It made hockey exciting; I wanted to watch a real hockey game afterward! I did, actually, although I didn’t come close to finishing it. Although I still don’t enjoy watching hockey, for a brief period, this movie had me wanting to enjoy a game… had me convinced that I would.
The performances are outstanding all around. Jay Baruchel does the best job he can do with his “over the top” use of vulgar language. His performance seems the weakest to me because I never saw the “motivation” behind his foul mouth (once again, my one and only criticism of the script). Seann William Scott gives the best performance of his career, in my opinion. I’ve always liked him, but he hasn’t had the kind of roles in the past that gave him this kind of opportunity to shine. He takes full advantage of it here. This is really “his” film. His performance is masterful and effective because he makes it seem so effortless and natural. His understated performance really struck just the right balance needed to pull off the part. I can’t imagine any other actor doing a better job. Alison Pill (who you might know from Scott Pilgrim vs the World) gives her best performance to date, as well. I think the reason she shines is because she arguably gets some of the best lines of dialog. Marc-Andre Grondin, whom I’ve never heard of, does a fine job showing us the many sides of his character. And finally, another excellent actor who I wouldn’t have expected to see in a supporting role, was Liev Schreiber. He plays Ross Rhea, a star whose always been Doug’s hero. He’s excellent. The actors deserve as much credit as the script for fleshing out their characters and truly making this film and engrossing and fun watch.
Goon is a smart comedy with just the right amount of insightful drama and compelling characters mixed in. It was a somewhat odd movie. At times it seemed headed down the path of a kind of raunchy, yet appealing, comedy, but it consistently managed to inject real heart into the story and to avoid the predictable plot devices I was expecting to see. Doug is easily one of the best main characters in a comedy in a while. Goon was directed by Micheal Dowse. For the most part, he’s a new director. He did an outstanding job with this film, for sure. This is a new director for the most part and he does a great job with the material. If it wasn’t for some of the excessive foul language given to Buruchel, that didn’t seem to fit his character, I would have given this film my highest rating. Although it had this one flaw, it was NEAR FLAWLESS. Go see it. You’ll enjoy it.