Oh, quarantine life. Is there anything better to do when isolating yourself from society as a deadly pandemic ravages the planet than indulging in obscure sports movies? Honestly, probably. But we’re not really the “better” type. Besides, who doesn’t like a sports movie? Actually, probably a lot of people… but nobody reading any of the content we produce, that’s for damn sure. So here we go.
The Movie: Goon
The Sport: Ice Hockey
The Oversimplified Plot: A likeable dive bar bouncer beats up a hockey player at a game and gets a minor league contract out of it. Because of course that would happen.
Key Cast Members: Seann William Scott, Liev Schreiber
Rating (?/10): 6.5
The Good: Scott is criminally underrated as an actor, and while “likeable, somewhat dimwitted hockey tough guy” isn’t exactly a role that will stretch his method abilities, he nails it as Doug “The Thug” Glatt. You do kind of find yourself pulling for him, much in the way you pulled for Adam Sandler’s Happy Gilmore to beat Shooter McGavin. It’s meant to be a mostly irreverent comedy and succeeds at that, but there is just about enough suspense in the right moments to make you wonder about the outcome.
Irreverent though it may be, it stuck mostly to the notion that it is a hockey movie, and succeeds. Ross Rhea, the enforcer played by Schreiber, seems to be modeled after a real hockey goon – possibly Rob Ray of the similar sounding name, or Gino Odjick. There’s also a scene where Rhea clubs an opposing player upside the head with his stick, ala Marty McSorley, resulting in a suspension and demotion to the minors. (editor’s note: It’s prevailingly unlikely that McSorley was an influence beyond that incident, as he was actually a fairly talented player in his day who also happened to be good at beating face. Guys like Odjick and Ray were simply brawlers.)
Also, while Scott and Schreiber are the only real well-known names in the cast, some of the more minor parts were executed brilliantly. Richard Clarkin is downright perfect as washed up veteran Gord Ogilvey. Jonathan Cherry’s portrayal of goalie Marco Belchior is over the top, but captures the essence of goalies’ legendary quirkiness. Goon even features a bit part by legendary NHL pugilist Georges Laraque, including an homage to one of his real fights where he very politely asked his opponent if he wanted to square up, and then wished the opponent sincere good luck before they traded blows.
Lastly, it’s loosely (very VERY loosely) based on a true-ish story of Doug Smith, who played hockey on his fighting merits alone in the 1980s. And who doesn’t like a true-ish story?
The Bad: It’s one thing for a movie’s villain to be a hateable character. Everyone hated Alan Rickman in Die Hard, right? That’s because the late, great Rickman was freaking awesome at his craft. Jay Paruchel plays Scott’s best pal in the movie and is easily the worst part of it. His character is so damn annoying that he nearly made me turn off an otherwise thoroughly entertaining movie on multiple occasions. I have no idea if it was just a horribly conceptualized character, or Paruchel just taking it upon himself to be as brutally annoying as possible. Either way, edit him out if anyone ever remasters this.
In most sports movies, the actual sports action is fraught with unrealism. Not always to the point of Rocky IV, where Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lundgren trade heavyweight haymakers for a dozen rounds when in reality any ONE such punch from a heavyweight landing ends the fight, but Goon is no different. Some of the action is good. Some of it, surely intentionally for comedic effect, is nonetheless farcical. I know it’s a comedy but would prefer the sports part of it stay somewhat true to form.
Lastly, some of the language is overly crass. And listen, I have a difficult time going a dozen words without dropping an f-bomb in conversation sometimes so I’m far from a prude. But there’s a juncture you reach beyond the comedic value of shock effect where you may ask yourself, “ok, was that string of homophobic slurs really necessary or could the movie have survived without it?”
Should you watch it?: I mean, sure. You got anything better to do right now? Joking aside, with reasonably set expectations, Goon is well worth 90 minutes of your time. It’s on Netflix so it’s easily accessible. Unless of course you hate fun.
Watch it and let us know what you think @thestainsports on Twitter.