Goon (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Goon (2012)

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It's best that you go into Goon knowing little to nothing about hockey.  In fact, if you know anything about hockey just go ahead and try to forget it as soon as the opening credits roll.  Goon is one of those exercises in frustration for those who want a story to hem as close as possible to tradition.  You know, the kind of people who went into a Civil War drama and were upset there weren't the proper number of buttons on the Confederate uniforms.

Those aren't the kind of people who would enjoy Goon anyway.  It's a strangely progressive, exhilarating violent, sweet and funny film I wasn't expecting at all.  The rules and regulations around hockey are tossed around to allow a specific kind of personality to flourish within the system.  This someone happens to be good at dishing out the violence without reveling in it, the kind of natural talent for destruction we sometimes see in kids that they don't grow out of as they get older.  In this case, that talent is wrapped around a damn good guy, and more surprising is that guy is played by Seann William Scott.

Yes, The Stifler finally managed to play a character I could give a damn about beyond whatever the screenwriters threw at him.  His natural penchant for smarmy white middle-class dickishness is completely pushed aside for a character we might have expected Channing Tatum to play a year or two ago.  These days Tatum has shown his strengths playing to broader comedy and romantic dramas while Scott finds himself an excellent talent at the understated kind of sweetness that always seemed too silly in Tatum's hands.

Who knows, maybe if each had the other's career we would remark on the last year as a misstep and the remaining time as a stretch of genius.  But such is the way of film, and I'm glad I have this to watch.

Goon had me giggling from start to finish and more than a few moments I was so caught up in my laughter I had a hard time taking notes, because there's a great core in this film.  Doug (Scott) is a bouncer who has a really mundane life, nicely portrayed in a montage showcasing just how violent and boring the average night must be for the security of a lower to middle-class bar.  With that quick insight in, we get a bit of what he likes to do on the side, watching and participating in his friend Pat's (Jay Baruchel, sharing a screenwriting credit) hockey show highlighting the low end of hockey with the fights and scandals.

This leads to the surprising progressive streak in the film.  Doug gets into his first fight because a member of the opposing team is using gay as a pejorative and Doug, whose brother is homosexual, doesn't like that in the slightest.  My first thought was, how cool is that?  After all this faux-masculinity we haul onto sports, ass slapping and all, here's someone willing to stand up for his family and what they are.

The great thing is the rest of the film does the exact same thing.  There's a love interest played by Alison Pill (of Scott Pilgrim) who could have been the sort of shallow-written woman we see in a lot of comedy.  Instead we get to see her breathe, realize that she likes things that are a little off beat, and instead form a character that exists with odd tastes in a fairly routine situation instead of the kind of quirky flower we're all too used to in comedies.  All in all, it's damned refreshing to see a screenplay try to flesh out these people as individuals in what could have been a too broad comedy.

The broadness works to the films favor but that's just because Scott is able to anchor the whole thing.  His direct sweetness makes him the Lloyd Dobler of blood and blades.  There's not a hint of insincerity in his performance, and the only other time I saw this kind of potential in him was in the not so loved Bulletproof Monk in 2003.  In that film he played someone humble and throughout the years it stuck with me, despite the many obvious bland elements of the film.  Here he shows he could play a Paul Giamatti-type character very nicely, ragged naturalism and all, with the same kind of sympathetic hang dog expression.

It's not all sunshine and straightforward joy in GoonEugene Levy plays against type, but to no real affect, as a Jewish father ashamed of his knucklehead son, and not to any good conclusion.  The same is true of Baruchel, an actor who continues to confound me.  He has a charm I really dig (see How to Train Your Dragon and She's Out of My League) but sometimes the cadence of his voice really grates me.  Since he wrote himself in as the obnoxious host of the late posting internet-only hockey commentating program I shouldn't be that surprised I'm a bit surprised, but know it would be stretching the bounds of credulity to see him take a hit from Liev Schreiber.

I may belong to a minority population, but I love when movies show people who are really willing to fight for their friends and family.  Doug is such a character, greatly played by Scott, who says "When you deserve a beating, you take it" with such natural conviction it's hard for me not to dig in.

This is the slapstick side of Warrior, neither should be missed.

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Goon (2012)

Directed by Michael Dowse.
Screenplay written by Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg.
Starring Seann William Scott.

Posted by Andrew

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  1. Just watched this movie last night and I also loved it. One thing you didn’t mention in your review was Liev Schreiber’s performance. In a small role he really brought out the helplessness of a career ending and not being able to stop it. I thought his scenes were really well done and the build up to the fight was outstanding.

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