Project 52: 'Goon'

Posted Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 11:00 PM Central
Last updated Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 11:02 PM Central

by John Couture

There isn't a hockey movie out there that I won't watch. Yes, even Senseless.

For the longest time, I never thought anything would approach the greatness of Slap Shot. Then, the news broke that Kevin Smith was making a hockey movie about a fighter who aspires to score one goal in the NHL.

Seann William Scott was slotted to play the lead and then things got delayed. Seann William Scott moved on and decided to take this film written by Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg that tackled similar territory to Smith's Hit Somebody.

Fast forward a couple of years and Hit Somebody has gone through a myriad of development detours while Goon went the indie route and came out last year to little fanfare.

While it only scored $4 million at the box office, it really made its mark on DVD and Bluray. So much so, that a sequel is on its way.

Goon

The reason that Goon works is that it really hits it out of the park on so many levels. Is it ridiculous and unbelievable? Absolutely, but it's also allegedly based on a true story.

And that could be true. The art of the enforcer in hockey is a dying breed, but back in the heyday of hockey thuggery (the 1970s and 1980s), it wouldn't be uncommon for a fighter to come out of nowhere and become a fan favorite in no time.

But the sport of hockey, especially the NHL, has gone through a metamorphosis in the last 20 years and fighting is slowly being weeded out of the game. So Goon is a throwback to a simpler time when the biggest attraction was to see how much blood was spilled on the ice each night.

And if it's blood you're looking for, then Goon will satiate your desire as there are enough slow-mo blood splatter shots that would make most horror flicks envious. Speaking of blood, I think the biggest reason that this film is a hit is that they didn't cut any corners at the behest of the MPAA.

This is an R-rated film from the get-go and it doesn't apologize for being one. There's a ton of swearing, plenty of nasty locker room talk and enough bloody fights to make even the fans of MMA want to take a look.

"Gay-porn hard!"

But, where Goon really knocks it out of the park is the treatment of the game of hockey itself. I play hockey and I'm a goalie and we are all crazy. Not since Keanu Reeves in Youngblood has there been a more accurate portrayal of a loony goalie.

"No glory holes tonight."

Speaking of the goalie, there's great banter between him and the Russian brothers. As my friends like to point out, goalies don't matter until the red light comes on. Sadly, that's true to a point. Usually if a goalie is doing his job and the team wins, no one notices. But if a goalie gives up weak goals than the entire momentum is altered.

One recurring scene in particular is how the players respect the team logo in the locker room. When Doug gets to Halifax, most of the players have no respect for the logo, but Doug's positive influence brings the players around and they all eventually come to respect the Highlanders logo.

"You know why we're losing? Because you're fucking shit."

I love the coach in the film because he reminds me of so many coaches that I had growing up. There was probably a wee bit less swearing than in the movie, but the tone was dead on.

Beyond all the hockey action, there's a really sweet romance between Seann William Scott's Doug Glatt character and Alison Pill's Eva. Alison is Jay Baruchel's real-life girlfriend, so it's not surprising that he wrote a great spin on the traditional puck bunny.

But, the real star of the film is hockey and fighting. What most people who don't follow hockey might not realize is that there's a real unwritten book of mutual respect between fighters. The chit chat between fighters as seen in the movie is as real as it gets. Sometimes, fighters make a pact before a faceoff that they are going to drop the gloves.

Liev Schreiber's portrayal of a veteran fighter making his last tour of the league is probably the biggest standout performance from the cast. I love that he knows exactly what he is and sees himself in the younger Glatt. Yet, at the same time, he has evolved beyond the role of an enforcer and represents what Glatt can become.

In the climatic game, Rhea continues the education when he baits Glatt into a penalty when he refuses to drop his gloves. While the savvy play is rewarded with a goal, the main event is the eventual battle between Rhea and Glatt. And boy is it worth it.

What amazes me most about Goon is that it simply wants to be a silly hockey movie, but it constantly elevates into something so much more. The film works on many levels and whether that's intentional or not, it really makes me curious to see where the sequel takes the story.

There are some pretty easy stories that they could opt for, but my money is that the boys will continue to surprise, perhaps even themselves.