We’re all about comics here at Panels on Pages, but a geek cannot live on comics alone. Outside the Longbox is our chance to spotlight something outside our typical four-color realm – be it movies, music, TV or whatever.
Directed by Michael Dowse
Starring Sean William Scott, Jay Baruchel, Liev Schrieber, Alison Pill, Kim Coates, and Eugene Levy
Everyone has a specific film genre that they automatically respond to, no matter the quality of the movie. The tried-and-true “underdog sports movie” is one of those genres for me. The story structures of these films usually don’t vary from the standard formula of a ragtag team of misfits learning how to work together to win the big game, or a plucky protagonist beating the odds and winning the big fight. Though, there are some movies like the original Rocky and last year’s Moneyball that offer fresh variations of this formula. This year brought us a small, violent, but immensely charming hockey comedy entitled Goon that managed to stand above the standard sports movie fare and became one of the best-reviewed films of the year so far.
Unlike most films about team sports, Goon focuses mostly on an individual character. The protagonist is Doug Glatt, a shy, mild-mannered young man living in Massachusetts who works as a bouncer at his local bar. Despite Doug’s friendly demeanor, he exhibits an uncanny knack for fighting, as he is able to pulverize his opponents in a matter of seconds. He never fights out of anger and only throws down when his job requires it, or if his friends are threatened, which is what happens when he and his pal Ryan (Jay Baruchel, who co-wrote the film with Superbad ‘s Evan Goldberg) are accosted by an obnoxious player at a minor-league hockey game. Doug’s prowess is noticed by the team’s coach, who invites Doug to join the team as an Enforcer who protects the best players against physical harm from the opposing team. He beats people up so well on the ice that he is quickly traded to a more prominent minor league team in Canada to protect the best player on the team, who was sent down to the minors after being thrashed by a vicious player named Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber). Rhea himself is soon sent down to the minors, which sends the hockey world ablaze with anticipation of seeing both Doug and Rhea throw down on the ice. Meanwhile, Doug starts a shaky relationship with a young lady named Eva (played by the delightful Allison Pill) and struggles with his own self-worth after being branded a “goon” by several people, including some of his own teammates.
Like most sports movies, the overall plot of Goon is not extremely original. Everything within the plot leads up to one big final game to determine which team will go to the playoffs, and, wouldn’t you know, (spoiler alert) that final game is played by Doug’s team and Rhea’s team. What really makes Goon special are the characters. Sean William Scott is better than he’s ever been playing a role that is miles removed from the cocky smartasses that he usually plays. He makes Doug Glatt such a sympathetic and likable protagonist that you can’t help but cheer him on, even when he’s beating some poor bastard to a bloody pulp. Liev Schreiber could have easily played Ross Rhea as a cliched villain, but he manages to add a layer of complexity to him that makes the viewer feel for him a little, too. Baruchel and Pill’s characters are less developed, but are also played extremely well. There are several other minor characters that are given moments to shine in the film, such as Doug’s eccentric teammates and coach, played by Kim Coates of Sons of Anarchy fame.
Eight months and several movies into 2012, Goon is still my favorite comedy of the year so far. It is also one of the bloodiest comedies I’ve seen since last year’s Super. Some viewers may be put off by the excessive violence featured in this movie, but it works within the overall theme of the story. In many ways, the bloody fight scenes endear us even more to Doug, because he takes just as much punishment as he dishes out. Here is a guy who is willing to bleed for his team and his fans and asks for nothing in return. It’s this extreme loyalty and sense of duty that makes him such a fan favorite within his league but also is what draws Eva to him. His devotion to his team also serves as a pure reflection of sport itself at a time when most athletes are seen as selfish and materialistic. Goon just may be one of the purest and most idealistic onscreen representations of what it means to be an athlete to come around in several years.
4.5 out of 5 Bloody Falling Teeth.