Review: ‘Goon’ Is the Best Knock-Your-Teeth-Out Hockey Movie Since ‘Slap Shot’

I make no effort to hide my love and appreciation for Seann William Scott. I’ve always thought he was hilarious and on top of that, he broke my journalism cherry. My first ever interview/junket experience was for Role Models where I was seated, along with two other journalists, and Seann William Scott. To put the sweet love icing on the cake, Scott complimented me while I sat there quietly, in a bit of audio I’ve kept ever since. Why am I telling you this? Just so you know, because I’m about to gush all over Goon.

You can make your own judgement call whether or not my view is too tainted, but when you weigh this review against other reviews, you’ll find that in all likelihood, this is just a good movie. Goon currently has a 76% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Now that the unpleasant awkwardness of my manlove is out of the way, Goon is the story of very talented ass-kicker and mediocre hockey player Doug Glatt as he makes a bloody splash on the ice. Early in the story, Glatt moves from fan to fan who kicks a hockey player’s ass to low level hockey star to semi-pro star enforcer.

It’s always dangerous going into low budget, limited release movies like this, at least for me. Hopes are high, expectations are middling. You never know what to expect in terms of tone or quality. I didn’t know much about this movie heading into it and wasn’t sure what I was in for. Within the first ten minutes, you know what you’re in for, and that is pain and laughter. Goon is, surprisingly, an early front runner for best action or at least best fights. Doug Glatt is an animal on the ice, one who can bang relentlessly, spilling blood and sending teeth flying. The first violence we see is almost unsettling. I thought this was a comedy?

Fighting has a long tradition in hockey, at least here in North America (they do play a little hockey in Europe). Goons, or enforcers, are a vital part of the game because of this. They’re generally not strong skaters, good puck handlers, or even decent hockey players – but they can bang. They can hurt. They can move fast. For every Wayne Gretzky dancing nimbly across the ice making people look like fools, there is a Dave Semenko or Marty McSorely hovering nearby, ready to do violence to any player who would dare disrupt the scoring attempt.

Among these players, there has always been a gentleman’s agreement. Fighting is such an integral part of the NHL, that fights are allowed. Fights are agreed upon. If a player starts whipping the ass of someone unprovoked, that holds a higher penalty. However, when two enforcers know its time to bang, they give each other the nod and the referees let it happen. Goon knows this and introduces you to it, written by long time hockey fans Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg.

During his rise to semi-pro prominence, the affable Glatt, portrayed with honest, Forrest Gumpian intelligence by Scott, falls in love with a slut (Alison Pill), emotionally tangles with his drug addled French center and roommate Xavier Laflamme (Marc-André Grondin), and tries to win the affections of his disappointed Jewish parents, who always expected him to be a doctor, not a ruffian. The film slowly circles two enforcers, the rising Glatt and the sunsetting Ross Rhea (Liev Schrieber), towards an eventual showdown, pitting Doug against his hero and inspiration. When fists finally connect with face, you are not disappointed.

Goon is at times relentless in its portrayal of violence – I’m a hardened horror veteran and even I squirmed in my seat a few times. When it’s not pounding your face in, it pounds your sides in with laughter. Glatt’s best friend Ryan (Jay Baruchel) is an immature “wigger”  type who you’ll love or hate, but he delivers some hilarious lines involving phrases like “boner genocide” and “gay porn hard.”

It’s not all ass whoopings and dick jokes though, as Goon manages to pull off a few emotional moments, mostly when the lovable yet simple Glatt is trying to woo Eva (Pill) despite all of her flaws, or when he bluntly confronts his parents about his chosen career path. Glatt, despite his simplistic nature, is a man who knows himself which elevates him above those around him who would assume they’re his better because they’re more intelligent.

Glatt’s code of honor is admirable, at least to me and probably to a lot of people who long for the simple days of kicking ass. The enforcer, and this movie, know that when you deserve a beating, you take it. When you do something wrong, you accept the punishment for your actions. It’s a warped sense of honor, but one that is  ultimately keeping in-line with the character and one I found relatable. In many ways, Goon is a bastion of manliness, with Glatt knowing himself and how he wants to live – and he sticks to it. The film isn’t about a change in Glatt, but rather in how one man, by being himself, can create a more stable world around him.

Thanks to a charming performance from Scott and great supporting characters, alongside brutal violence, hilarious and often immature humor, coupled with great music cues and a excellent hockey scenes, Goon is an impressive film that cemented by adoration of Scott and rekindled my love for ice fighting, aka hockey. Check this one out. Goon, directed by Michael Dowse, is available on VOD now, in limited theatrical release beginning March 30th, and is available on DVD and Blu-ray on May 29th.

The Upside: The fast-paced action, brutal hockey violence, and lovable Scott make this a film both charming and entertainingly bloody. Plus, this song!

The Downside: Baruchel’s Ryan is over the top in many ways, which may put some people off, and there is some conflict with the parents that could be considered unresolved.

On the Side: Seann William Scott was originally cast to star as an enforcer in Kevin Smith‘s upcoming hockey-comedy Hit Somebody. Nicholas Braun has since been recast in that role, while Goon skated to an early finish to theaters and VOD first.

Robert Fure is many things: horror expert, ruggedly handsome man of the world, witty prose composer, and writer of his own biography page. Beneath the bravado is a scared little boy, ready to grow into an awesome man and make lies about a scared little boy inside of him. Wait a minute...

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