Review: Goon

Hockey is reduced to a sport in which team play and goals are mere diversions from main-event fist fights in Goon.

Photo: Magnet Releasing

Hockey is reduced to a sport in which team play and goals are mere diversions from main-event fist fights in Goon, a second-rate dude comedy in which an untalented knucklehead becomes a star through brute violence. Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott) is a simpleton whose career as a bar bouncer greatly embarrasses his doctor parents (Eugene Levy and Ellen David), whose Judaism is trotted out as some sort of pseudo-joke that never quite materializes, too busy is director Michael Dowse making cracks about the gayness of Doug’s brother Ira (David Paetkau) and then mitigating them by having Doug stand up against homophobia. After one such incident at a hockey game, Doug’s punching prowess catches the eye of a local hockey team, which makes him an enforcer and, after a successful stretch of pulverizing others, sends him to Nova Scotia, where a minor league squad asks him to spend his time on the ice protecting Xavier Laflamme (Marc-André Grondin), a former wunderkind now consumed by drugs, sex, and indifference after having been viciously knocked out years earlier by legendary brute Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber). Love and triumph of a pedestrian sort follow, though if there’s a silver lining to this plot development, it’s that at least Doug’s time in Canada keeps him away from best friend Johnny (Jay Baruchel), whose sole purpose is to grate with Bahstan-accented profanity.

Depicting hockey as merely boxing on skates, Goon honestly owns up to the fact that brutality is one of the sport’s main selling points. Alas, it never does anything with this point, since the film only cares about underdog-makes-good pap, and is clueless about how to generate humor from its stock scenario except via torturous frat-guy bodily fluid jokes and gay sex-themed one-liners. Director Dowse’s grainy, low-budget, faux-indie aesthetic feigns character-drama empathy and clashes with the surrounding coarseness, even during Doug’s attempted romancing of self-described local “slut” Eva (Alison Pill). Doug is presented as a thug with a heart of gold, but even during a finale in which his self-sacrifice for the team leads to redemption and unity for others, the film barely has the energy to earnestly make an argument for his fighting as a worthwhile or redeemable quality. Still, that’s far less important than its inability to make such hostility amusing, since Goon is unwilling to truly push itself into over-the-top absurdity. Instead, it just mires itself in a mirthless purgatory between outrageousness and realism, where Scott, left adrift by directionless material, is given the impossible task of making Doug’s one-note stupidity charming, hilarious, and heartwarming.

 Cast: Seann William Scott, Jay Baruchel, Alison Pill, Kim Coates, David Paetkau, Marc-André Grondin, Eugene Levy, Liev Schreiber  Director: Michael Dowse  Screenwriter: Jay Baruchel, Evan Goldberg  Distributor: Magnet Releasing  Running Time: 92 min  Rating: R  Year: 2011  Buy: Video

Nick Schager

Nick Schager is the entertainment critic for The Daily Beast. His work has also appeared in Variety, Esquire, The Village Voice, and other publications.

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