With Seann William Scott, Liev Shreiber, Jay Baruchel, Marc-André Grondin, Alison Pill
Directed by Michael Dowse
“The way I sum up our movie: Heart with teeth!”
– Jay Baruchel
Goon is made of blood, spit, beer, locker room politics and four-letter words. It’s violent but very well done, and because it bears Montreal boy Jay Baruchel‘s unique, trademark signature, it is very funny.
Goon is not, however, for the meek at heart, to say the least. With lots and lots of spattering blood and high-density testosterone-driven bravado, what is coined as a “violent comedy” or “comedic violence” (whichever comes first), Goon is a Rocky style good-guy-gets-the-girl-AND-wins-over-the-bad-guys-even-with-a-swollen-eye kind of movie that actually makes you laugh, while cringing in your seat (especially if you’re a mom* – see video interview with director below).
Nonetheless, you gotta love this guy, Jay Baruchel. He co-produced the film and wrote the scenario, with Evan Goldberg. So I laughed all the way through the film because it’s sooooo gritty, and because Baruchel plays a rambunctious, profanity spewing character for which he wrote the part himself. As an actor, Baruchel is to his over-the-top raunchy Pat what Johnny Depp is to Captain Jack Sparrow. No one else can do what Jay does with a character.
Goon is about the sleazy underside of hockey, told in a very humourous four-letter-word ridden story about a nice Jewish boy, Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott) who is just not smart enough to be a doctor like his father, or a teacher, as it is expected of him by his high achieving family. He is called in to the minor league to “play” hockey as an enforcer, a goon, more precisely to punch the crap out of any guy who sideboard checks Xavier Laflamme (played by Marc-André Grondin) rendered fragile after a concussion inflicted by the enforcer of a rival team, Ross Rhea (the perfectly intimidating Liev Schreiber).
Glatt is caught in a nasty place from which he can’t back out anymore. He is a genuinely nice guy, albeit a bit slow, and really naïve. References to childhood hero E.T. give away his thought processes, as does his useless politeness in the locker room and chivalrous outlook on his job. “If they want me to bleed, I’ll bleed for my team.” In a crucial scene where Doug kindly introduces himself to Ross in a coffeeshop — the hockey world expecting a bloody confrontation between the two before Ross retires — the latter spells out the ultimate truth for the kid:
“Everybody loves theirs soldiers until they come home and stop fighting. … You’re just a goon. Don’t go trying to be a hockey player. You’ll get your heart ripped out…”
So the premise is heartbreaking but the bad ass humour makes it all good. Here’s a taster:
“You’ve been touched by the fist of God!” — “Glatt is Hebrew for Fuck You” — “Where’s Laflamme? Probably giving a single mother herpes in the parking lot.” — ” I don’t care which one of yas is ovulating, but I want to start seein’ some action! This is not baseball!” And a few others that will not be repeated here.
I say proceed to the movie theatre at your own risk, and preferably not with the children.
The violence is graphic. Did I mention there’s lots of blood on the ice and the sound of bones breaking? But because you want your Rocky Balboa to win and get the girl, you end up rooting for the goon because he’s so loveable. And in the end, whether it aims to or not, the movie shines a light on the seedy backroom negotiations that justify the role of enforcers on the ice.
In this light, hockey is no more or less than a gladiator sport. And it is absolutely heart wrenching to witness the dead-end dilemma of a kid who doesn’t have the smarts to do anything else and whose job entails throwing off the gloves and risking brain injury (or worse) to deliver punches to members of the opposing team, to thunderous applause from the audience — “The fans are out for blood tonight!” — and lauding by the coach.
Here, frankly, you can’t help but think about the Chara hit on Max Pacioretti last year, or the Pronger, Crosby, and Giroux absences due to concussions, not to mention the questionable deaths of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak. Despite the fact that the script was written before all of this came to a head, it is this writer’s belief that the weight of reality may have a public relations impact on Goon’s success, although probably not at the box office.
Whereas producers will be banking on audiences to look for the “human element” in the story, as George Laraque said it himself in an interview at the Montreal premiere February 20th, “Let’s say the timing is a bit off….”
Goon is based on the book Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey Into a Minor Hockey League, about real-life hockey player Doug “The Hammer” Smith.
* def. Mom. Female, usually worried, cautious. Not cool, not rowdy. Doesn’t watch hockey, missed Slapshot. Usually more inclined to break up a fight than applaud one.
Red Carpet Excerpts
Jay Baruchel, on the end of the “douche bag, frat boy, alpha meal” good guy market. Precious, no?
In true Montreal fashion, Jay amorce sa réponse en français, et la termine en anglais. Tell me what’s not funny about that!
Pis, le film est-il pour ou contre la violence au hockey?
Director Michael Dowse thinks “cringing” at the end is good.
Shooting on the ice has its good sides.