So Tuesday I watched Goon for the first time ever. This apparently was shocking news to a lot of people, but it came out when I was still Not A Sports Fan* nor do I find Seann William Scott attractive, and so it had literally never been on my radar until this summer.
Let me start out by saying I really really liked this movie.
The main characters, Doug, Eva, and Xavier, had a lot of depth. It was a surprising amount of acting from good ole SWS, and while the plot, which pits Retiring Enforcer against Rising Star Trying To Find His Place In Life, was nothing new, neither one of these characters was written as a villain. Their eventual showdown is nothing more than a product of the culture in which they live; fighting is their job, and they’re both determined to do it well.
And they did a good job of keeping the tone of the movie lighthearted – the Grizzled Old Captain and his Loyal Spunky Sidekick was some of the best comedic writing I’ve heard in a while. They managed to take a joke and stretch it far enough to the point of hilarious absurdity without crossing the line of nonsense, which is my absolute favorite kind of comedy. (I was raised on the Marx Brothers & Monty Python, so that probably says a lot about me).
But at times it was very hard to watch.
And I don’t just mean the fighting. Please let this review serve as a GIANT TRIGGER WARNING FOR BLOOD & GRAPHIC VIOLENCE, more than I expected from a movie about fighting in hockey.
I mean that Doug Glatt is below average intelligence and seems prone to being taken advantage of, even by the people who love him because he wants to make them happy. Like when his best friend, Pat, tells him to wear #69. Doug is so clearly a nice person that I just kept waiting for him to get broken by the “harshness of reality” or whatever assholes are using to justify their behavior these days.
That said, the fighting was ALSO very hard for me to watch because I hate fighting in hockey.
I know, that seems hypocritical given that Brandon Bollig is one of my favorite players, but let’s be honest – that’s not because of his play. And I found myself scarily attracted to Liev Schreiber’s Jagr-like flow, and ridiculous greying facial hair in this movie. I HAVE A TYPE. I’M NOT PROUD OF IT.
I hate fighting in hockey because it’s useless. Enforcers remind me so much of the Cold War – the more missiles you have, the more likely someone’s gonna fire one. And then to watch an entire movie glorifying the tradition (because that’s what it is at this point) of fighting, right after reading Player’s Tribune articles like Rich Clune’s & Harley Haggarty’s describing the pressure to fight, and how they do so they can just stay in the game. It makes me really sad.
It makes me sad for the retired guys with CTE from too many blows to the head. It makes me sad for all the teenagers desperate to not get cut, so they give up and toss off the gloves. It makes me sad that little kids are getting fed an example of “yes, violence IS the answer” from a sport that is broadcast to millions.
But while Goon brought out my ire at the larger cultural issues surrounding hockey, the movie itself was so character driven and, at its core, sweet, that it was easy enough to put those aside and root for Doug. And that’s what a good movie does; it helps you challenge the world around you, while keeping you entertained and engaged for an hour or two.
Goon 2 comes out next year, and is subtitled “The Last of the Enforcers” so there’s a good chance it tackles some of my issues. And of course I’m going to watch it. Hopefully on opening night at the Alamo Drafthouse, best theater ever, with some appropriately Canadian beer. Because as much as I love movies like the Mighty Ducks and Miracle for all their sports-victory-fist-pumping fun – this movie made me feel more about hockey, and sports, and victory than I have in a long time.
If you’re a hockey fan (and you don’t have major issues with blood…because SERIOUSLY WARNING) I feel like this is a must watch movie. It’s well written, it loves the sport, it has a great cast, and it gives you what you need from a sports movie.
*Except for Kansas basketball. Born a Jayhawk, die a Jayhawk