Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Goon (2012) – Review

Review: Goon is a great sports comedy (probably the best hockey centric comedy since Slap Shot). The film is about Doug Glatt, an outcast in a family of doctors who works as a bouncer (and is not particularly intelligent). However, he finds his calling when he joins a struggling hockey club as their enforcer. Director Michael Dowse and writers Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg get hockey – the atmosphere, the lingo, the culture – which is why this comedy works so well. Its foundation in minor league hockey is solid (the games are also shot very well), but it can still be enjoyed without a knowledge of hockey specifically as sports culture/comradely is somewhat universal. That said, the film is also very funny – full of crude jokes, oddball characters and great hockey related antics and hijinks. In many ways it is very reminiscent of Major League. Along with the crude nature of the humor, the graphic violence of the film will probably not appeal to all viewers. There is a lot of blood and mild gore. Again, this is the story of a minor-league enforcer, whose role is to stand up of his teammates and fight. The film also has an interesting juxtaposition to what is happening in the NHL at present with the true enforcer role coming to an end. However, this is based on Doug Smith who was prevalent in the 1980s when enforcers were very much a necessary part of the game. Dowse and company structure the narrative well, creating the film both as a showdown between Ross Rhea (an aging enforcer who is feared throughout the league) and Doug and as a story about friendship and finding one’s place. Dowse does a very good job with the characters, economically and efficiently developing them. Doug is crafted as a brute, but a generally friendly and caring guy who supports his team and teammates as he beats the crap out of opposing players but does not do it from a place of hate. He is a very likable character. The viewer cares about Doug and his relationships, elevating the film from merely being funny or violent. Doug’s developing relationship with Eva (the love interest), his friendship with Xavier (the star player who has lost his confidence) and the admiration and showdown with Ross (which is great, two gladiators battling in the arena) are all stories the audience cares about. At its heart, Goon is the story of Doug finding where he belongs in the world, having been lost all his life. And in this, it works well.

Technical, aesthetic & acting achievements: Michael Dowse, coming off the terrible comedy Take Me Home Tonight, has returned to making films that are both funny and have good characters like his early work (Fubar and It’s All Gone Pete Tong). This is my favorite of his films to date. The soundtrack and original music from composer Ramachandra Borcar both contribute to adding to the great atmosphere and tone that Dowse creates, perfectly capturing the spirit of hockey. This is also true of Sean Vizsy’s art direction. Cinematographer Bobby Shore does a fantastic job with the hockey sequences. The games feel legitimate, which is often not the case in sports films. Goon is littered with great bit characters and performances. The Russian characters are very funny, and Jonathan Cherry’s goalie character is brilliant. Jay Baruchel, Alison Pill and Marc-Andre Grondin are great in supporting roles, as well. Liev Schreiber steals every scene he is in. He is just fantastic as Ross Rhea – big, strong, intimidating, and with the swagger of a gunfighter. Seann William Scott is good. He plays Doug as a man with a ton of heart and grit.

Summary & score: Goon is one the best sports comedies, just with more violence and cruder. 7/10

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