Stories of underdogs in the sports genre are nothing new for Hollywood. Since sports movies date back to the silent era, the list of sport movies is growing every year, making the stories more familiar and predictable with each new offering. But, in spite of the predictability factor attached to the genre, sports films have always been about personal and team triumphs. Of course, most of the time we know the end result. An underdog team might claw back to win against the favorite team, or an individual delivering a knockout performance in spite of odds stacked against him are examples of the results that we might see right from the start. For instance, “Hoosiers” (1984) and “Dodgeball” (2004) are stories about coming-from-behind team victories.
However, some genre classics are not about the end result, but more about emphasizing game play, overcoming mediocre game skills, and building team bonding--the panacea for all team-based sports. A recent ice-hockey film, “Goon” (2011), does not fall in the traditional sports category. There are no sporting skills on display here, no comeback victories, no sporting heroes, no great coaches. So, what is this movie about? One word: brawls.
First, we meet a nice, down-to-earth guy named Doug "The Thug" Glatt (Seann William Scott), who has no skills at playing ice hockey. But, with tough knuckles and a steel-like head, Doug is a brutal force when it comes down to fighting in the ice-hockey arena. One day while seeing an ice-hockey match with his friend Pat (Jay Baruchel), Doug brutally beats an ice hockey player, flattening him in a few punches. Soon after this incident, Doug receives a phone call from a local hockey team, asking him to join for a practice session and giving him the role of an enforcer, whose job is to protect his team members in case of a fight in the arena. We also meet another veteran enforcer Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber), who has been demoted to a minor league after a brawl. Meanwhile, Doug is sent to Canada to play for the Highlanders, where he faces Ross from the Shamrocks team. Along the way, Doug is romantically involved with Eva (Alison Pill).
There are plenty of brawls in “Goon,” and for the most part, they are bloody violent. This is one aspect about ice hockey that I have never quite fully understood. Enforcers participate in the fights, and they get suspended, too. The crowd cheers everything that goes on, and it only makes me wonder how anyone can enjoy guys savagely beaten during a game. Well…the brawls are part of the ice-hockey package, I guess.
Setting this characteristic of the game aside, “Goon” is an entertaining film that functions mainly as a comedy. Doug’s congeniality relaxes the viewers, and the characters around him. He is a simpleminded person who doesn’t want to hurt anyone. He patches up things with his close friend quickly and defends him in the arena as well. Surely, he is a selfless character, not expecting anything in return. Doug’s down-to-earth and non-egotistic nature helps him carry on a relationship with Eva. Mainly noticeable for his roles in “The Rundown” (2003) and “Role Models” (2008), Scott has played a number of likeable, comedic-centric characters in the past. But, “Goon” is probably Scott’s first movie where is plays the lead role rather than a supporting role, and, indeed, Scott handles his role really well.
“Goon” mostly works because the film is able to nicely balance the game violence with the addition of a romance angle and the inclusion of family and team moments. There are some hilarious scenes, especially when Pat goes on with his explicit verbal tirades and when Doug interacts with his dysfunctional family members. The tension between the two enforcers is perfectly represented, and the visceral nature of the brawls is accurately depicted. Indeed, for ninety minutes, “Goon” is a brisk, entertaining ride.
Magnolia presents “Goon” in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, encoded using an AVC codec. The film was shot using the Red One camera system, and the results are quite impressive. The colors are deep, and the film’s palette mainly consists of deep reds and other bright colors. The images look sharp, and the sharpness stays consistent even in dark scenes. The close-ups have remarkable detail and the skin tones are realistic, too. The transfer never appears fuzzy, even in rapid-motion sporting sequences.
“Goon” roars with a thunderous-sounding lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. The bass is active and deep throughout the sports-action scenes. Likewise, the dialogue is crisp and clean, and the sound level is appropriately set. The rear-channels rumble in the game scenes, and their sonic presence fills up the room. The gaming sounds are realistically represented, taking us right to the sports arena.
First, we get the “Power Play” mode, which can be activated from the main menu. Through an icon that appears on the screen, we can access interviews, extra footage, and other promotional material. Next, we get an audio commentary with director Michael Dowse and co-writer/actor Jay Baruchel. This is a funny commentary track, with Baruchel injecting his usual filthy language. Up next, there are six deleted scenes, followed by an outtake reel.
Following this, there is an interview segment with Seann William Scott and Jay Baruchel. The duo talk about the writing, script, and story. Next, “HDNet: A Look at Goon” features some promotional stuff and snippets from an earlier interview with Scott and Baruchel. There is also a brief audition tape with Jonathan Cherry, followed by hockey trading cards and two theatrical trailers.
“Goon” is predictable, as it has a “been-there-done-that” feeling right from the first scene. Nonetheless, as a hockey film, the movie’s characters are likeable, and the script nicely balances game moments with family and romantic scenes. Apart from an excessive use of vulgar language, the film has a funny, lighthearted tone that is surely going to bring a few laughs. “Goon” might not be the best ice-hockey film of all time, but it is darn close in terms of its entertainment value.