Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Goon

Directed by Michael Dowse.

2011. Rated R, 92 minutes.

Cast:
Alison Pill
Jay Baruchel
Marc-Andre Grondin
David Paetkau
Jonathan Cherry
Ellen David


Fighting is woven into the fabric of hockey. It is also the only thing Doug Glatt (Scott) does well. He does it so well, it seems inevitable that he’ll wind up busting chops on the rink. While a spectator at a minor league game, he beats up a player in order to protect his obnoxious buddy Pat (Baruchel). This catches the eye of the home team’s coach who immediately recognizes that Doug’s talent for fisticuffs would be an asset and wants him on the roster. After a few quick lessons to sorta learn how to skate, Glatt is on his way to becoming known as Doug “The Thug”. Like an attack dog, he goes after whatever player his coach instructs him to. In hockey circles, he is what’s known as a goon, hence the title. The irony is that, away from the game, Doug is an incredibly nice and genuine guy. He’s not the sharpest blade on the ice, either, if you know what I mean. Still, as dumb luck would have it, he meets a girl. Her name is Eva (Pill) and she’s quite a bit less na├»ve than he. They have this Forrest and Jenny thing going, albeit a tamer version. Hockey fights and Doug’s awkward attempts to woo Eva ensue.

We also get to see the other side of Doug’s coin. His ascent coincides with the fall of Ross “The Boss” Rhea (Schrieber). He’s at the end of a long and illustrious career of doing just what Doug is doing. In fact, when Doug starts to get a little media attention he’s compared directly to, and even called, the next Ross. Rhea is definitely a more mean spirited sort, though. He’s just been served a lengthy suspension by the NHL for an illegal and damaging hit. He winds up playing in the same league as our hero.

Despite the obvious sports drama and the realistic gore of the fights, Goon is not some serious meditation on the triumph of the human spirit. Instead, it approaches the subject through humor. Indeed, this is a foul-mouthed and bloody comedy that somehow manages sweetness without detracting from the movie’s edgier portions. Many of the funniest moment spring from Doug’s naivete, which some might call his stupidity. Thankfully, he’s cognizant enough to have examined himself and learned his limitations. He’s no genius, but he’s far from the annoying fool played by Paul Rudd in Our Idiot Brother. Doug is an endearing character. We root for him. I’m hardly a Seann William Scott fan. I liked him as Stifler in the very first American Pie, but he’s been playing the same role ever since. Here, he’s broken free of that type-casting and given us a fine piece of acting.



The world around Doug is constructed almost perfectly to allow us to love him. The girl he’s after is cute, but not the unattainable, high maintenance supermodel type comedies usually insist on thrusting into leading lady roles. Ross Rhea’s villainy comes from a place of pride and pain. He’s no maniacal caricature, but a guy protective of his own legacy. We dislike him, but understand him. Doug’s parents don’t understand any of this. Mom (David) and Dad (Levy) are academic types lost in a world that celebrates Neanderthal like behavior.

The one guy who might understand the most is also the single biggest drawback to our viewing experience: Doug’s pal Pat. Everything about him feels forced to generate laughter, except he’s not funny. He’s obnoxious in a way that we hate him, which is problematic because he’s positioned as one of the good guys, someone who is always in our hero’s corner.

Thankfully, Goon overcomes that and a few other flaws, mainly predictability and not enough screen time for Schrieber, to give us a very fun, testosterone laced experience. How else to describe a comedy that begins and ends with copious amounts of bloodshed? Along the way, we laugh often enough, wince more often and still get a “feel good” picture when it’s all said and done. It’s just that the characters don’t look like it feels good.

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