Published Sep 15, 2011In 1977, Slap Shot set the bar for the hockey movie, immortalizing the hardscrabble world of working class minor hockey with a legendarily profane script and unforgettable characters that were both over-the-top and admirably real, imperfect and relatable.
While puckheads love and quote Slap Shot to this day, attempts since to capture hockey on the big screen have been mostly frivolous, conceived by sun-baked Hollywoodites who can't tell a five-hole from a glory hole. Now, a full generation later, director Michael Dowse has given the world a hockey movie that not only approaches the glories of Slap Shot, but may very well eclipse them.
Based on the book by former minor league enforcer Doug Smith, Goon stars Sean William Scott as Doug Glatt, a happy-go-lucky Boston-area bar bouncer who gets swept up by an ultra-low budget hockey team after pummelling a marauding player that leaps into the stands. Soon enough, Doug "the Thug" develops into a fearsome fighter and graduates to Montreal's minor-league affiliate, the Halifax Highlanders, playing Dave Semenko to a talented but troubled Quebecois prospect.
The Highlanders are an eccentric team full of working class players either on their way up or down, including a grey bearded veteran in the midst of a messy divorce, two penis-obsessed Russians, an excitable rookie that looks like he stepped off a '50s cereal box and a goaltender that has two rules: "Don't touch my Percocets" and "Do you have any Percocets?"
Dowse (best know for the Fubar films and It's All Gone Pete Tong) returns here with a more conventionally shot, but just as ruthlessly funny film. Working from a tight script by Jay Baruchel (who also co-stars) and Evan Goldberg (Superbad), Dowse proves that he doesn't need to exploit the mockumentary format to extract the humour from sometimes ugly situations.
And while Goon doesn't necessarily have the same mix of partying and pathos as those earlier films, his remarkable eye and ear for the nuances of the rituals of male behaviour are as finely attuned here as ever.
While Scott is perfectly cast as the nice guy who punches people for a living, special mention must go to the chameleonic Liev Schreiber, who is brilliant as Glatt's aging nemesis, Ross "the Boss" Rhea.
Goon has a broad enough appeal for anyone into roughhouse comedy, but it will especially make hockey fans giddy with its bullshit-free portrayal of life as a puck pugilist. After a heavy summer of having to say goodbye to some of the game's toughest customers, it's more than welcome. (Alliance)