Thursday, July 12, 2012

Movie Review: "Goon" by Alex Schopp

Release: 2012
Director: Michael Dowse
Writers: Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg
Actors: Seann William Scott, Jay Baruchel, Liev Schreiber, Alison Pill, Eugene Levy, Marc-André Grondin, Kim Coates
Rated: R
Run Time: 92 min

This review started off as a Quick-Cut, but as I started writing about it, it turned into much more of a full-length version, so I just went with it. I know this film isn't in theaters anymore (if it ever made its way there around you in the first place), but it recently made its way to Netfilx instant and I was able to finally check it out.

As is pretty obvious by now, I really enjoy sports-themed movies. Generally, if it's about sports - any sport at all - I'll give it a watch. Our own Nathan Hinds saw the film a few months back with its initial release and gave it rave reviews. The film was easy to watch and definitely provided a unique take on the genre, and overall, I really enjoyed it. In fact, if it had not been for a very few notable complaints, this could have been one of the best sports movies I've ever seen.

"Goon" is a hockey comedy centered around the fictional Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott), who feels disconnected from his life and lacks success achieved by all other members of his family. Early on we see Glatt as a bouncer at a small town bar, but it isn't until an unexpected fight breaks out at a minor league hockey game with an opposing team's player that he warrants attention from his hometown team. After witnessing the beatdown, the local hockey team offers him a chance to audition for them and protect one of their stars. Even though he doesn't know how to skate, he can fight, and with the help of his best friend (Jay Baruchel), Glatt develops into one of the premiere enforcers of the minor league hockey circuit. The film hits its apex in the league's final game when Glatt faces-off against the soon-to-retire Ross "The Boss" Rhea (Lieve Schreiber) who has been the authority in minor league hockey brutality for years. Oh yeah, and Glatt is also trying to get what is presumably his first ever actual girlfriend throughout the film too - we couldn't have a hockey movie without a love story, could we?

First off, I loved the story. I've never been much of a hockey fan in general, but I love how passionate its fans get - especially in the minor league world. The characters are so vulgar and insane at times, but it really adds a lot of fun to the craziness of this culture. The fights are plentiful, and never lacking in the brutality or gratuitousness, but what's more interesting about them might be the brief moments of normalcy that they show between fights amongst these players. Hearing guys politely telling others that they're going to have to fight them now, and congratulating each other after total slugfests really added a nice touch for me; it turned these brutes into actual humans who were really just doing their jobs. I don't think any of the goons on these teams were actually mean people, they just knew they had to protect their players. And Schreiber, as the top dog in the league, is probably the best character in the whole film. For as little screen time as he gets, his character is very refined and layered. I love his views on his job and the world of the goon in general.

Most of the other characters work for me too, though generally in small sample sizes. Baruchel, who also wrote the film, stars as Glatt's best friend and hockey fanatic. His crudeness is laughable, as he turns into much more of a caricature of an obsessed hockey fan than anything. But I know that Baruchel loves hockey in real life, and I could tell he was just letting go and having a fun time with this one. His character was so over the top that he made me laugh pretty regularly. Expect nothing less than a sex and violence driven shell of a man in this role, but it's entertaining to watch. But other than Glatt's teammates - who by the way all pretty much fit into your traditional sports movie team roles, albeit a little more crude than usual - the only other real character of note is his love interest Eva, played by Alison Pill. Pill displays a unique character, who's obsessions, which lean more towards fetishes, with violence make her a great match for Glatt. However, she's a little more seasoned than Glatt, and though she likes him, tries her hardest to stay away. This all unfolds pretty regularly, but again, it's the excessive nature of the characters and scenarios that make it all just different enough to feel unique.

Really my only complaint was the direction they took Scott's character in the film. I loved that he was just a small town guy who's instantly thrown into a world of what is more celebrity and fame than he probably could have ever imagined. The stakes are still pretty low, as we're still dealing with minor league hockey, but for him, this is a world unknown. His morals and values are a fun contrast to the vulgar hockey world surrounding him, where swearing, drinking, sex, and drugs are a daily occurrence. My problem though was the intelligence level of his character. I had no problem with the timidness and reservedness of his character, but the fact that he came off as somewhat stupid (are we still allowed to use that word?) really hurt it for me. I found little connection with his mindset and thought that his interactions with other characters in the movie were awkward. Maybe that was the point, but I think that if Scott's character was a little more competent and he was just awe-struck more so than unintelligent it would have played much better. I hate having complaints with his character because acting-wise I do feel like he did a great job and that this was probably one of the more unique roles he's ever taken on. But it just missed for me, and unfortunately it was the main aspect of the film. That isn't to say that it was terrible or anything - Scott's character was still sweet and inspired, and you can't help but root for a guy just trying to live his dream. Like I said, this aspect just made the film really good instead of one of the best sports movies ever.

So overall, I think this movie has a lot of great components to offer. I think the story is very inspired, and provides something a little different from your tradition sports film. I'm not incredibly fluent with a lot of hockey films out there, but surely this has to represent this community better than most. There's a great balance between raunchiness and heart here, that's pretty easily achieved. I think the film has more to do with honor and loyalty than anything though, and even though the film is more violent and graphic than you might expect, these values comes through pretty clearly. The film is written well and provides plenty of humor throughout. It embraces the flaws that go along with the sport and this culture and never tries to take itself too seriously. Whether you're a sports/hockey fan or not, I definitely recommend checking this one out, as it actually adds something fresh to the other films already out there in the genre. It doesn't get too involved with the sport to tire non-hockey fans, but it provides enough of the nuances to entertain those who are.

I almost want to rank this film a little higher than I have it, but with at least 7's across the board, that seems solid to me. If I would have gotten something just a little bit different from Scott's character, I could easily have seen this film getting a few 9's. It's very good as it is though, just not the best.