GOON Review


Film Pulse Score

Release Date: March 30, 2012
MPAA Rating: R
Directors:  Michael Dowse
Film Pulse Score: 6/10

Based on a book by real-life hockey Enforcer Doug Smith, Goon doesn’t try to break any new ground, nor does it try to answer any of life’s tougher questions. This film’s ambitions are simply to entertain, and in that it succeeds…to a point.

Co-written by Superbad scribe Evan Goldberg and Jay Baruchel (who also has a supporting role in the film), Goon is the story of Doug Glatt, a well-meaning but less than bright Massachusetts bouncer who, through luck and circumstances, finds himself playing for the local hockey team as their “go to” enforcer.

From the beginning, it’s clear that Doug (a well-cast Seann William Scott) simply wants to “matter.” His father and brother are both doctors cut from the Ivy League cloth, while Doug, in his own words “doesn’t have a ‘thing’” of his own.

It’s a classic underdog story, filled with every story beat you’d expect in a tale like this. There’s almost nothing surprising about it, and yet there is a strange charm to it even when the blood starts to flow.

And flow it does. Goon is a pretty gory film. It doesn’t play down or glamourize the role of fighting in hockey (though whether it celebrates it or not is up for debate). When the punches fly, the camera doesn’t flinch away. Director Michael Dowse is not shy about letting the shot linger on a post-punch laceration or on a stream of blood as it slowly drips to the ice. In a way, the blood is almost as much a character here as it was in Tim Burton’s 2007 adaptation of Sweeney Todd.

Intercut with the violence is a decent comic film with characters that are, despite being typical, somewhat easy to root for.

Doug’s team, The Halifax Highlanders, is full of hard-luck cases and scrubs wanting that shot at glory, and despite the impossibility of developing them all as full-fledged characters, you end up caring for their plight perhaps more than you originally expect.

There’s no doubt, however, that hockey fans will get much more out of Goon than the casual movie-goer. The film is very Canadian in feel, and blatant and over-the-top crassness of the sports locker room, while accurate, may turn off more conservative viewers.

The supporting cast is hit-and-miss. Liev Schreiber is stellar as Ross Rhea, an aging, past his prime ‘goon’ who sees a lot of himself in Doug, and the best scene in the film has Doug lucking into a meeting with Ross at a late-night diner, where the veteran imparts some sobering wisdom to the young protégé.

Alison Pill (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) is cute as Eva, a hockey-obsessed bookworm who falls for Doug despite (or perhaps because of) his simple nature, but Eugene Levy is completely wasted as Doug’s father.

Worse yet is Jay Baruchel, whose performance as Doug’s friend Ryan is so overly grating he almost sabotages the film before it can get started. After the first ten minutes or so, the focus wisely switches to Doug and the film improves almost immediately.

In the end, Goon is a decent little film and nothing more. Its part Bad News Bears and part Slap Shot, and although its story is really nothing new, it gets marks for telling it in an off-the-wall manner.

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