In a sport where brawling is part of the unwritten rules, an enforcer, aka ‘goon’, is typically a role assigned to a player in ice-hockey, who allows his more skilled teammates to flourish on the ice, by protecting them from violent play from the opposition, often by using his bare knuckles. The sports comedy Goon is an endearing film about the rags-to-riches tale of one such player, Doug Glatt, who is a bit of a nut in more ways than one.
Playing the lead is Seann Williams Scott, an actor who has perfected the role of the comically dimwitted character. Here, Scott is both hilarious and touching, as Doug, an honorable and sweet person, who is trying to come to terms with his shortcomings.
Glatt initially gets noticed while attending a hockey game. When his buddy Ryan (Jay Baruchel) jeers at the opposition players and gets into a brawl, Glatt comes to his aid. Glatt’s spirit and brawling skills soon land him on the Halifax Highlanders team as their enforcer. He is told by coach Ronnie Hortense (Kim Coates) that he has been brought in to protect and rehabilitate star player, Xavier Laflamme (Marc-Andre Grondin).
Xavier was an extremely promising talent, until he was mentally scarred after aggressive play from Ross ‘The Boss’ Rhea (Liev Schreiber), a retiring enforcer who Glatt idolises. Unfortunately, Xavier and Glatt don’t get along, and their animosity soon lands them both on very thin ice.
Glatt has other interesting relationships in Goon, including those with parents who don’t approve of his career, and would rather he be a doctor, and a gay brother who lends him moral support. There is also a charming romantic subplot involving Glatt, and promiscuous hockey fan Eva (Alison Pill), who is caught between her steady boyfriend, and the simple appeal of Glatt.
Where Goon is let down, is by its need to resort to tired sports movie clichés. That being said, the movie scores consistently with its amusing gags, strong characterisation, and interesting narrative. And while the lovable Doug Glatt may be a bit dim, Goon itself isn’t just another dumb sports comedy film.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, April 22nd, 2012.