Goon is a hockey movie that aims to glorify the old school hockey spirit that many fans feel is being squashed from the league. Fists, fights, blood and brawn are the tools of the goon trade, and Jay Baruchel (writer and co-star) has helped create an opus to the glory of goon hockey.
Co-written with Evan Goldberg (Superbad, Pineapple Express), these Canadians present a well-written and fairly snappy script, considering it’s a movie about hockey fights.
I have a feeling that some of the jokes go unappreciated, hence the movie’s lukewarm reception in theatres (in Canada especially, where you’d expect this to be a huge hit!) But with the onset of the last round of the Stanley Cup, and my beloved Toronto Marlies in the Calder Cup finals, Goon is a perfect movie to set the mood – read on if you want to know why (some spoilers).
Starring Seann William Scott (Stiffler) and Alison Pill (Kim from Scott Pilgrim) this is a hockey-lover’s love story, and a poetic nod to the fights and fighters that (in the past) made hockey so AWESOME to watch.
Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott) is a security guard / meat head with no real direction in life; until he joins his friend for a hockey game and ends up beating the shit out of a member of the rival team. If you don’t remember the time when hockey players used to get in fights with fans in the stands, well… neither do I. The NHL has cracked down hard on violence and player behaviour; but I’m sure at farm games it still happens. Ryan (Jay Baruchel) films the fight for his cable access show, and it lands Doug a try out with the local minor team.
Though skating is a challenge, Doug takes to hockey fights like a natural and is soon the local brawl hero. The attention lands him an offer to play with the Halifax Highlanders, and their newly signed ex-NHL star player Xavier LaFlamme (Marc Andre Grondin).
In a movie that could have easily foregone the characterization of the goon players, Goon focuses on their emotional state of mind to add some realism to the film. Having been brutally injured by one of the league’s star bullies, Ross Rhea (Live Schreiber), LaFamme was unable to cut it and got sent down to the Highlanders team. Doug is given the task of keeping an eye on LaFlamme and protecting him from any savage hits. As a result, their tense relationship helps to develop depth in the ‘goon’ character.
But don’t worry; the feature of the movie is still the fighting. Snappy camera shots, wicked one liners and well-timed fisticuffs help to drive the blood-soaked “biff bam pop” factor through the roof; I can’t imagine not being caught up in the electric savagery as the players face off on ice… as it turns out, I’m a really big fan of goon hockey! I also enjoy seeing people get theirs, and there is plenty of beautiful levelling on the ice as the Highlanders draw closer to a playoff spot.
But it’s Doug’s duality that is incredibly endearing; smashing faces and then apologizing politely… this movie is so CANADIAN. Despite his underlying kindness and general ‘good guy’ attitude, Doug starts to fear that he is just a goon and not a true hockey player. He is rejected by his parents, who can’t stomach his brutality, and LaFlamme has no respect for his skills; but Doug is inspired by one girl who helps give him a reason to fight.
Eva (Alison Pill) is an adorable addition to the movie, and her conversations with Doug are definitely designed to melt the goon heart in all of us. One of my favourite moments in the film involves accepting the difficulties in your life; sometimes garbage blows in your face. Glatt’s heartfelt efforts to win over Eva will also keep the girls in the audience happy, without ruining the violent energy of the film. In fact, “love” only strengthens Doug’s resolve to smash faces.
His resolve is again challenged when he meets Ross Rhea. The former great was suspended after the hit to LaFamme and returns to play out his final games before retirement. He tells Doug that they are just goons, and will never be real hockey players.
Of course, he’s proven wrong at the operatic moment when Glatt is being crushed at the net, trying to keep the puck out at a crucial moment in the final qualifier game. I’m fairly certain that Goon is intentionally drawing some parallel to an actual opera or perhaps just the operatic style; this also helps explain some of the classical interludes. If anyone can tell me which exact opera is being referenced, kudos to you; but I’m certain this movie is intended to be a true opus to the dying, and soon to be dead, ‘art’ of goon hockey.
I especially like the way the movie ends – or rather, the point at which they decide to halt the story. Rather than give anything else away, I’ll finish by promising that this will ABSOLUTELY put you in the mood for finals hockey action. If any part of you is a fan of old school, hard hitting, knock your teeth out of your head hockey, you have to give Goon a look… a hockey movie that inspires a love for violence in sports.