Having missed Goon in theatre, I obviously was in no rush to watch (what I assumed to be) a tw0-hour dick joke that takes place in a hockey rink. Just recalling memories of Seann “Double N” Scott from American Pie and Dude, Where’s My Car? already had me in a semi-depression. Surprisingly, I got much what I expected: a two-hour dick joke on ice. Yet, it’s a very funny, well crafted, and incredibly satisfying dick joke. Michael Dowse, from Fubar fame, utilizes Scott in a way that doesn’t clash with the film’s wonderful writing and strong performances by downplaying his frat-boy persona. Thus, Scott’s restraint allows the film’s production values to shine, bringing Hollywood-esque, big-market visuals and ‘citment to the small-ish screen while showcasing the potential of the hockey sub-genre to our pals south of the border.
Written by Evan Goldberg (Superbad, Pineapple Express) and Jay Baruchel (silent pause), Goon knows exactly what is has to do: jump over the boards, stir up shit, be loud and obnoxious, and then drop the F-Bomb before heading to the penalty box. It’s exactly this straight-forward, no bullshit approach that makes the film a success. There is little time spent on Doug Glatt’s (Scott) back story, but what little exposition is needed is concisely achieved through stylish montage and a little gem of a scene involving Glatt’s rather unusual Jewish family outside of church (synagogue? Temple?).
Much of the initial shit disturbing comes way of Ryan (Baruchel), Doug’s friend and the personality of a local TV hockey show, “Hot Ice.” Basically, Doug is depressed because he feels that he has no calling in life, so Ryan tries to cheer him up by taking him to a minor hockey league game. With video camera in hand, Ryan taunts the opposing team to the extent that a penalized player jumps out of the box and tries to attack Ryan. Enter Doug (and his fists). Ryan captures Dougie-boy beating the ever-loving shit out of the poor, penalized bastard and a new star is born: Doug “The Thug” Glatt.
It’s important to note that during Doug’s journey, Ryan’s character takes a backseat for the majority of the movie. Baruchel’s character is, basically, Stiffler or some other jack-off-type played by Scott in other films. In a sense, Ryan is the type of character that you’d expect Scott to play, so it’s a damn good thing that Ryan is seen (and heard) in small doses because, although incredibly funny at times, he’s slightly antithetical to the humour that plays out with Doug and his teammates. In a sense, each member of Doug’s team, the Halifax Highlanders, is a certain amount of crazy, equally contributing to the “crazy pie” – a pie that Ryan would make up twice over. Thus, with Ryan sidelined, Doug’s dim, kindhearted, knucklehead character is then the normal one in the locker-room, and it’s to this point where the film really excels.
The standout performance amongst Doug’s teammates is Johnathan Cherry as the French goaltender, and percocet addict, Marco Belchier. His impact is immediate and unforgettable, easily delivering the film’s funniest line upon Doug’s arrival in the Highlanders’ locker-room. Further, he’s an unwilling part of a comedic trio of characters that includes two sexually aggressive Europeans and Belchier’s goalie mask (clad with pictures of his poor revered mother).
Doug’s reaction to Belchier, and the rest of his team, is one of longing to belong but, at the same time, not really knowing what he belongs to. Doug’s attempt to understand his clusterfuckery of teammates, and subsequent facial expressions showing his lack of understanding, reveals the degree to which he’s invested in this team – right down to losing teeth and having the face of an exploded asshole.
Team captain Gord Ogilvey’s (Richard Clarkin) inspirational locker-room speeches about being a divorced, middle-aged man still playing hockey leave Doug nodding his head in agreement; but, then again, he nods at just about anything, kind of like a cat watching a string. This is the (dare I say) brilliance of Scott’s performance: he acts as a sponge, soaking in all the quirks of those around him and then… nothing. His restraint makes everyone else look that much more batshit crazy. He’s method, for sure.
Amidst the laughs stands (alone, mind you) the dark, looming figure of Ross “The Boss” Rhea played with machismo to spare by Liev Schreiber. He’s the old-school hockey enforcer. He’s the heavyweight champ. He’s waiting for Doug, and he’s gettin’ too old for this shit. The relationship between Doug and Ross is one of apprentice and master. In a weird re-staging of the coffee shop scene in Heat (1995), “The Boss” reveals his respect for Glatt before making his intentions clear: ‘I. Will. Lay. You. Out.’
All signs point toward an epic confrontation between Rhea and Glatt and Goon delivers in cringe-worthy fashion (see smashed asshole face above). With a gal by his side and Ross laying bloodied at centre ice, Doug skates off into, well, the dressing room most likely (I wish I had something more profound). Point being: Goon wraps up nicely with no aftertaste.
Leaving the love story aside (which is well done, but so cliché you already know what happens), the characters of Belchier, Ogilvey, and Rhea are, I can’t help but feel, a throwback to “the King” of hockey movies in Mystery Alaska (aaahhhh, fuckin’ with ya). Slap Shot (1977). I’m not going to lie, I don’t like Slap Shot – never have. Compared to George Roy Hill’s The Sting (1973) or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), Slap Shot is a boring attempt to capitalize on the Philadelphia Flyers’ Broad Street Bullies of the early 70s. Herein lies the irony: Goon does the same with the present day violence in hockey. However, Goon’s comedic chops are tender like pork and just as delicious! It’s a gem of a flick that creates its own distinct identity out of the very bland hockey sub-genre of sports films.