Magnolia Pictures // 2012 // 91 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // June 4th, 2012
Meet Doug, the nicest guy you'll ever fight.
"69! Take the number 69, it's hilarious!"
Doug Glatt (Sean William Scott, American Pie) is a large, physically intimidating man who works as a bouncer at a local bar. Sure, he's not too bright and he's fallen well short of his parents' expectations, but there's nobody who can match him in a brawl. One night, Doug attends a minor league hockey game with his pal Ryan (Jay Baruchel, Million Dollar Baby) and somehow ends up in a scuffle with one of the toughest players on the team. Doug quickly knocks the player out cold, which unexpectedly turns out to be a great career move: the coach is impressed by Doug's strength and wants him to join the team. In most areas of the game, Doug's skills leave something to be desired, but he's more than capable of providing ferocious protection for his teammates. So begins the meteoric rise of one of the sport's most notorious and likable thugs.
Technically, Goon is just another formulaic rags-to-riches sports story that hits all of the familiar beats: the unexpected rise to fame, montages of improving skills, some bumps in the road that threaten to derail everything...it's not hard to tell where this thing is headed. However, Goon is a good deal more enjoyable than most films of that sort, because it's far more interested in the characters than in the details of the plot. Also, it's pretty funny, which certainly can't be said of something like Invincible.
One of the most intriguing things about Goon is the manner in which it presents hockey (particularly minor-league hockey) as little more than an elaborate excuse to stage violent brawls. As someone who knows next to nothing about hockey, I couldn't possibly comment on how accurate this depiction is, but that idea is conveyed in entertainingly graphic fashion. The violence in Goon can be pretty extreme at times (you're going to see quite a lot of blood spurting from the heads of various characters by the time this thing is over), but it's handled in a cheerful, goofy manner.
The most consistently enjoyable and distinctive element of the film is the way it contrasts Doug's gentle persona with his violent tendencies. This is a soft-spoken, good-hearted guy whose instincts are more protective than aggressive. Early in the film, there's a scene in which he's required to deal with a rowdy customer at the bar. "I'm sorry," he says regretfully just before he punches the customer in the face. Doug's contradictory nature is a large part of what makes him so compelling, and Sean William Scott persuasively sells us on both sides of the character's nature. Previously, I never would have imagined the smarmy Scott as physically intimidating or gentle, but he hits those notes with grace and strong comic timing. It's arguably the actor's best performance to date and it's easily his most ingratiating.
The supporting cast is consistently colorful, but rather hit-and-miss in terms of quality. The only player on Scott's level is Liev Schreiber, who does terrific work as an older version of the sort of professional bruiser Doug is transforming into. Schreiber and Scott have a terrific scene together in which the former lays all his cards on the table and talks frankly about the nature of their profession; a great moment that sets aside the general wackiness of the film and delivers an immensely satisfying heart-to-heart chat. In fact, the film is typically at its best when it's sincere (consider the touching romantic subplot between Scott and Alison Pill), while sometimes floundering when it indulges its broader comic instincts.
The DVD transfer is stellar, offering all of the blood-spattered action in fairly vivid detail. Flesh tones are warm and accurate, blacks are reasonably deep -- it's a decent-looking standard-def disc. The Dolby 5.1 Surround track gets the job done nicely as well, with the surprisingly operatic soundtrack getting a particularly strong mix. The fight sequences also benefit from some rather vivid sound design. Supplements include a commentary with Baruchel and director Michael Dowse, some brief behind-the-scenes "power play" clips housed within an interactive feature, a handful of disposable featurettes ("Goalie Audition," "Fighting 101," "A Look at Goon"), some "Goon hockey cards," some deleted scenes, outtakes/bloopers and trailers.
Though the film certainly delivers its fair share of laughs, there are moments when the movie seems to become too silly for its own good. The character-driven comedy involving Doug is terrific, but the wacky absurdities spewed by the hockey announcer seem too contrived (not to mention derivative of countless other sports comedies). Additionally, the character played by Jay Baruchel is meant to be an entertainingly frantic jokester, but most of the time the guy is just annoying. Thankfully, Baruchel (who co-wrote the screenplay) disappears for the second act of the film. Finally, Eugene Levy (American Pie) is completely wasted as Doug's disapproving father. Sure, Levy is misused or asked to handle bad material on a regular basis, but having him in the cast and doing nothing with him at all seems like an even greater crime.
Goon is a pleasant surprise. Don't let the straight-to-DVD-ish cover art fool you, this is a decent little sports comedy that hands Sean William Scott his strongest role to date. It's worth a look.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Interactive Feature
* Deleted Scenes