Review: Goon (2011)

Directed by: Michael Dowse
Starring: Seann William Scott, Jay Baruchel, Alison Pill

Goon is a welcome rarity in the realm of the typical sports underdog story, chronicling the unlikely rise of one Doug Glatt as he makes the transition from lowly dive bar bouncer to enforcer for a minor league Canadian hockey team. Making up for his intellectual shortcomings with an instinctual desire to fight, and well at that, Doug soon establishes a name for himself as the prototypical “goon” the film’s title suggests. Beating the living piss out of anyone that gets in his way both on and off the ice, Doug’s journey to the top of his class is a surprisingly heartfelt one, coupling an ample amount of authentic emotion with gleeful vulgarity and plenty of missing teeth as Seann William Scott admirably plays against type as the dumb-but-lovable central character.

Filing Goon‘s frequently immature grabs at laughs under “gleeful” may be too mild a term to describe the nonstop profanity, unflinching violence and periodic self-medication via drugs and alcohol that litter the entire production. Off-putting as this all is at first, you can’t deny how accurate a depiction of the world of minor league hockey the film truly is, embodying the harsh reality of Doug’s role as his ailing team’s enforcer in just about the only way possible: with blood. Lots of blood. Based on a true story, it’s interesting to see the archetypal underdog framework the script possesses take the form of a rather engaging character study, focusing on Seann William Scott’s flawed but endlessly kindhearted protagonist as he finally finds his purpose in life despite his family’s disheartening disapproval.

As disparate as Goon‘s central elements are, bouncing back forth between Mr. Glatt’s violently epic endeavors on the ice and his continuing existential quandary, everything meshes together in a messy yet appealing manner that doesn’t distract one from sympathizing with someone so clueless and endlessly devoted to his lackluster team. It’s heartwarming to see how profound an effect Doug has on the lesser-known world of amateur hockey, catching the eye of the legendary “role model” Ross Rhea in the process as the film leads up to the duo’s inevitable battle royale prior to the end of the regular season. Predictable as this and a majority of Goon‘s plot trajectory are, the inherent likability of the central character almost always compensates for the film’s shortcomings, forgoing its initially and abundantly crass introductory moments by painting a (somewhat) delicate portrait of a previously aimless, lovably dimwitted individual as he experiences all sorts of personal growth thanks to a newfound sense of brotherhood among teammates and even his first true love.

Every character in Goon, major or minor, is portrayed flawlessly by its agreeably stellar ensemble cast. Seann William Scott perfectly depicts the character at the film’s core, embodying Doug’s interal emotional tug-of-war that plays out during the film’s more poignant moments believably and providing us with an inherently likable focal point. Jay Baruchel as Doug’s sole best bud and distractingly caricature-esque foul-mouthed hockey superfan is hit-or-miss to put things lightly, but the efforts of Alison Pill as the titular enforcer’s conflicted love interest and Schrieber as the sport’s fast-fading ultraviolent superstar more than compensate for Baruchel’s endless barrage of profantity and not-so-subtle sexual innuendo.

All things considered, Goon is what it is: a fun, lighthearted sports biopic and surprisingly touching character study that focuses on an outcast’s rise to amateur hockey superstardom amid his obvious flaws as an individual. Despite being as predictable as you’d expect it to be and an unflinching hot streak regarding its depiction of the brutal violence coinciding with the sport at the film’s core, Dowse’s confident direction ensures that the film’s as funny as it is a surprisingly humanistic portrayal of its protagonist, even if the over-the-top profane nature of the bulk of the proceedings may not appeal to a wider audience. It isn’t the most substantial or thought-provoking piece of cinema to grace theaters this year, but then again, it certainly doesn’t need to be as Goon is merely a form of escapism for those looking for a plain good time and a slightly different take on your traditional underdog-centric, sports-infused fairy tale. Just make sure to have a pair of earmuffs and a blindfold handy if you’re the conservative squeamish type.

Rating: 7/10

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