Theatrical Review: GOON

Brad McHargue

March 5th, 2012

Director: Michael Dowse
Writer: Jay Baruchel, Evan Goldberg
Cast: Sean William Scott, Liev Schreiber, Jay Baruchel, Alison Pill

Editor's Note: Last week, our new Vancouver Correspondent, Rachel Fox, got you up to date with GOON and the inherent struggles in the Canadian film scene. Now, another one of out new Contributor's, Brad McHargue, gives a glowing review of the film.

When most people think of hockey, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t the acrobatic skating, the impressive feat of coordinating on the fly, or the slinky-like goalies, twisting and bending to stop the puck from flying into the goal. It’s the fighting. Like it or not, it’s a major part of the game, and director Michael Dowse, with a script by Canadian born and bred Jay Baruchel and Evan Golderg, have made a movie that brings the fisticuffs front and center, and by God, they’re going to make you appreciate it.

GOON follows Doug Glatt, an incredibly nice yet hard-headed (literally) bouncer who, after beating the ever-loving Hell out of a player at a hockey game for using a not-so-nice slur for homosexuals, is recruited to play for the Orangetown Assassins as their resident bruiser. Thanks to his skills as a fighter, he quickly gets recruited to the semi-pro Halifax Highlanders to serve as enforcer and protect rising star Xavier Laflamme from Ross Rhea, a veteran enforcer who, three years prior, injured Laflamme, rendering him incapable of performing as he once did.

Much of the film rests entirely on the shoulders of its lead actor. Any notion of Sean William Scott being type-casted is gone with GOON. As Glatt, he’s naïve and aloof, always optimistic, and almost never seen without a smile on his face. But he was born to be a fighter, and despite his parents’ objections to his newly discovered calling, he perseveres. It’s sweet, really, and belies the preconceived notion that GOON is nothing more than a sports comedy about fighting. Glatt’s never been good at much, and despite butting heads (figuratively) with Laflamme, he’s an important part of a team, and has finally found his place.

As the host of a local show about hockey, Baruchel’s Pat is your prototypical hockey fan: A loud, foul-mouthed lover of fighting in hockey who hails from Beantown. His and Goldberg’s script is a swansong to the sport they love the most, and it's their version of the ultimate hockey movie. While fighting is often maligned by many who love the game, Baruchel revels in it while managing to show that it doesn’t make the game better or worse, it just belongs. This is perhaps seen best in the numerous moments wherein Doug, acting as enforcer, simply nods in agreement when challenged to a fight. The game is interrupted, but after the bloodshed, they simply congratulate each other on a job well done and get back to the game.

This carries over to Liev Schreiber’s Ross Rhea, a man who knows that fighting is important, nay, necessary for the game to succeed, despite it never being made explicitly so. At the age of 40 and nearing retirement, he’s battle-hardened and content with his lot in life and, finally faced with his presumed replacement, knows what he must do. He’s an antagonist without really being one, with his role serving more as a means to usher in the second coming of Ross Rhea. The rest of the cast, including Kim Coates as the angry coach, is admirable, though often underused, particularly in the case of Glatt’s parents and Eva, played by Baruchel’s wife Alison Pill. She’s adorable, and serves as the requisite love interest of Glatt, though it would have been nice to see more of her.

GOON is a hockey fan’s movie, but even those with a severe distaste of fighting in the sport will find it filled with enough heart and genuine sweetness to enjoy it. Baruchel’s script is smart, witty, and filled with love for the sport, while Sean William Scott puts a smile on a bloodied face that fails to subside from minute one.

Rating: 4/ 5

GOON hit VOD on February 24 and arrives in select theaters on March 30.

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