Netflix Hidden Gem #83: Goon
Director: Michael Dowse
Synopsis: A simple-minded bouncer, who is professionally and emotionally adrift, inadvertently winds up becoming an enforcer for a minor league ice hockey team.
Overview: Like the thematically akin sports comedy cult-classic Slap Shot from 1977 starring Paul Newman, director Michael Dowse offers a light-hearted send up of some of the more brutal aspects of professional ice hockey as the other great contact sport beside American football. With American Pie alumnus Seann William Scott in the lead role as the charmingly dimwitted Doug “The Thug” Glatt, Goon blends several sub-categories of the comedy genre together into a winning combination.
At times, the original screenplay co-written by frequent Seth Rogen cohorts Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg offers some glimpses into the real world of minor league hockey. Based in part on the non-fiction book Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey Into Minor League Hockey by Adam Frattasio and real-life minor league hockey player Doug Smith, Dowse’s film offers a glowing depicting of the spectator sport that is sure to please avid and casual fans alike. The sequences of actual hockey games are consistently thrilling, and whenever they devolve into tense bouts of one-on-one fisticuffs between two opponents, the larger scenes feel both viscerally realistic and cinematically cathartic.
In between those instances of actual player sports action, the rest of Goon acts as both a feel good guy’s guy kind of sports movie and a surprisingly sympathetic romantic comedy that the former viewer could easily put on with their significant other. The perpetually underutilized Alison Pill plays chief love interest Eva with grit and tenderness in equal measure, making her character a flawed one whose eventual capitulation to a monogamous relationship serves as a slight nod towards subverting viewer expectations.
There aren’t really any moments that viewers well acquainted with the studio comedy template won’t see coming from a mile away, but the movie also doesn’t set itself apart as meaning to break any new ground. The punches fly unencumbered by any sort of self-conscious preamble, and the comedy beats land with a well timed precision that always arrives on cue. Watching the movie over and over again thus becomes a source of dependable reassurance in the same way that any good comedy should be, namely in providing the following: a narrative wherein an immediately identifiable stand-in for the viewer is tested by personal hardship and overcomes the odds despite his own weaknesses.
Goon will hardly be the last movie of its kind, and there are certainly other sports comedies that do a cleaner job of telling a similar story. But in Dowse’s film, co-writers Baruchel and Goldberg provide not only the former, but a heartfelt send up to the sport that has meant so much to them over the course of their own individual lives. And with the forthcoming franchise sequel Goon: The Last of the Enforcers on the way later next year from first-time director Baruchel with most of the cast returning for round two, fans of Goon can rest assured that they haven’t seen the last of Doug “The Thug” Glatt quite yet. What’s more, first-time viewers have more reason now than ever to get acquainted with the contemporary sports comedy that tactfully manages to speak to both hockey aficionados and romantic comedy connoisseurs in equal measure.
Featured Image: Magnet Releasing