22 November 2011
When it comes to hockey movies, there is really only Slap Shot, Miracle, and The Mighty Ducks trilogy. Sure, there is also Youngblood, The Tooth Fairy and two direct-to-video Slap Shot sequels. Who wants to remember those? Who wants to remember the two Mighty Ducks sequels either? Hockey is not baseball, football, or basketball; it’s a fast paced sport without a ball. The rules are as hard to explain to a layman as soccer’s. Yet, hockey has one thing the other sports don’t: FIGHTING.
Goon celebrates the unsung enforcer: the guy on the team whose job is to protect his teammates. To fight for this team. To bleed for his team. The St. Louis Blues had Tony Twist back in the mid-to-late nineties in that role. I was disappointed that I didn’t see Twist at the St. Louis International Film Festival screening of Goon.
Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott, American Pie) is a simple minded bouncer at a local pub. His brother (David Paetkau, AVP: Requiem) and father (Eugene Levy, American Pie) are both respected surgeons, making Doug the black sheep of the family. Doug and his best friend Ryan (Jay Baruchel, Knocked Up) go watch the local amateur hockey team do what they do best: suck. While an opposing player is in the penalty box, Ryan makes rude gestures and yells vulgar things at him. The player climbs over the penalty box walls and makes his way to the scrawny and still taunting Ryan. Doug steps in and beats the living Hell out of the player. The coach notices and calls into Ryan’s hockey talk show the next day and he offers Doug a spot on the team.
Through the use of my favorite film device, a montage, Doug learns to skate and to fight while on skates. He is then unleashed on the ice to do what he does best: fight. And that he does. He becomes known for that. The coach’s brother coaches a minor league hockey team and Doug is offered a spot on that team. Doug accepts and is sent to play for the Halifax Highlanders. Coach Ronnie Hortense (Kim Coates, Sons of Anarchy) tells Doug that he is to protect the team protégé, Xavier Laflamme (Marc-Andre Grondin). Laflamme took a hit from the infamous enforcer Ross “The Boss” Rhea (Liev Schreiber, Wolverine) three years ago, and has not been the same since. So, Doug and his new team of misfits learn to play as a team, trust each other, and make a run at the playoffs.
In the meantime, Ross Rhea has been suspended and sent back down to finish his contract and career in the minor league. This pits the two most fearsome enforcers against each other. Along the way, Doug meets Eva (Alison Pill, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World). She is a very complicated, messed up woman and Doug can’t help but to fall in love with her. The movie then poses two questions: Will Doug beat Rhea in the inevitable showdown fight? Will Doug get the girl?
Jay Baruchel, who is a huge hockey fan, wrote the script with Evan Goldberg (Superbad). It is based on the exploits of Doug Smith which inspired a book titled Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey into Minor League Hockey by Adam Frattasio and Doug Smith. I tried to find the book, but it is out of print. The script is solid, but according to the director Michael Dowse, in a Q & A following the screening at SLIFF, a lot of the lines became ad-libbed. Dowse is also a huge hockey fan and he wanted to make a movie about hockey for hockey fans. I believe he achieved this goal. He put the camera in the middle of the action. Heed that warning if you get sick from camera movement. I did have the pleasure of viewing this film at the St. Louis International Film Festival on Saturday, November 12. Magnet Releasing has Goon slated for a Video-On-Demand release in late February and a theatrical release in late March. This is one I’m looking forward to catching a second time – you shouldn’t miss it either.