Review: Goon (TIFF 2011)
PLOT: Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott) works as a bouncer in a seedy dive bar, where his reputation for being good with his fists runs in stark contrast with his friendly, low-key demeanour. One night, at a hockey game, Doug is caught on video saving his best friend (Jay Baruchel) from a pummelling at the hands of an irate hockey player. Needing a new goon for his team, a coach (Nicholas Campbell) enlists Doug, and soon- his numerous beatings make him a local hero. He's drafted to the NHL by a coach (Kim Coates) who needs someone to protect his star player Xavier Laflamme (Marc-Andre Grodin). He quickly becomes the most feared goon in the league, and soon, goes head-to-head with his childhood idol, Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber)- a goon who's looking for a last hurrah before retiring.
REVIEW: GOON is the best raucous hockey comedy to come along since the all-time hockey movie champ, SLAP SHOT. Appropriately, it's Canadian, with hockey here (I'm a Montrealer) being akin to Soccer (I mean, football) in Europe. Heck, we even have our own hooligans, and GOON is the first film, in my opinion, to get the wild, often obscene world of hockey in this country, right.
Of course, everyone loves a goon, which- for the uninitiated, is the burliest, toughest guy on the team, who's job is protect the star players, and hand out the occasional beating. Taking a page from the story of famous goon Doug Smith, GOON is a hilarious look at the crazy, ultra-violent world of hockey, not to mention the hysteria of fandom.
Seann William Scott makes a lovable hero as Doug Glatt (it means “fuck you” in Hebrew, or at least, that's what a fan insists at one point in the movie), who's the outcast of his brainy, doctor family (with none other than his AMERICAN PIE co-star Eugene Levy playing his father). While he can barely skate, and seems much too nice to be a goon, he quickly becomes a star on his team, leading to a romance with a foul-mouthed local girl (Alison Pill), who loves watching a good beat-down. Scott exudes good-nature as Glatt- his best starring role since ROLE MODELS, and Pill makes an appealing love interest. Between this, and her sterling work on THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH, and MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, Pill's rapidly establishing herself as extremely versatile.
However, the film is all but stolen by Liev Schreiber, as the half-crazed, goon-legend Ross Rhea, sporting a bad-ass handle-bar moustache, and a Newfoundland accent. You haven't really learned to appreciate Schreiber until you've seen him smash a hockey-stick on the head of an unwitting opponent, and then offer a hilariously forced apology afterwards. This is one of the best comedic performances on the year, and a climactic scene where him and Scott have a HEAT-inspired tete-a-tete in a coffee shop is particularly inspired.
It helps that GOON is the product of some incredible local talent, with the hilariously foul screenplay coming to us via Jay Baruchel (also co-starring) and Evan Goldberg, who along with Seth Rogan, co-wrote GREEN HORNET, and PINEAPPLE EXPRESS. They also have the ideal director in Michael Dowse, with this having way more in common with his cult-classic FUBAR films, than his recent Hollywood-outing TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT (which is better than a lot of people say). His technique oozes style, and gives this a punk-rock, ultra-violent (hard-R) approach that would make Paul Newman, and the rest of the goons from SLAP SHOT proud.
Heck, even if you're not a hockey fan, GOON is totally worth checking out, as, at the very least, it's a remarkably funny, and foul comedy. It's one of the few films I've seen lately to honestly have me doubled over in laughter throughout. Compared to the more high-brow, serious fare I saw at TIFF, it was downright medicinal, and in my opinion, it's a cult classic waiting to happen.