“Goon,” a charmingly violent hockey movie with heart

Sports movies, eh? No, I meant that in a Canadian way, because that’s where most of Goon takes place.

Goon, made available a month ago On Demand, debuted on only a handful of movie screens over the weekend. It’s silly, juvenile, full of profanities and praises gratuitous yet non-life-threatening violence. So, basically, it’s a hockey movie.

Let’s roll the official trailer, then talk about it.

Based on a true story, Seann William Scott stars as Doug Glatt, an unlikely man who winds up in the minor leagues of hockey because of his superior fighting abilities — allowing him to play the “goon” role to protect his goal-scoring teammates. The screenplay is adapted from the book about Doug “The Hammer” Smith, who played in the late 1980s and early 1990s (footage of Smith and his fights show up during the end credits), and comes from Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg (Superbad, Pineapple Express). Baruchel also co-stars as Glatt’s best friend, who swears about every third word even though he hosts a cable-access show about hockey.

Baruchel says of the film: “Even though it’s more violent than anything that’s come out of the studios in a decade, it’s probably got the biggest heart of any movie in a long time.”

He’s not just saying that as self-serving promotional b.s.

Glatt gets recruited by a minor-league team in Halifax to help and protect a young star too scared to play following a concussion in the NHL. Timely! Although I don’t recall anyone questioning Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby’s fortitude.

At any rate. Back to the movie.

Glatt is more than a bit innocent for a guy who starts the film as a bouncer. Or is he naive? Dumb? Sweet? Maybe he’s all of those things. He sticks up for his gay brother, as well as his teammates, even though they never asked him to.

Liev Schreiber turns in a fiendishly funny supporting role as Ross Rhea, a 40-year-old player and “goon” on his way down and out from an infamous NHL career. Eugene Levy also shows up, too, because, well, doesn’t he just seem to be in every comedy film for at least a couple of minutes. Allison Pill plays a Canadian girl who’s horny for hockey players, but Scott’s Glatt quickly falls head over heels for her all the same.

Because of Glatt’s sweet, dumb, innocence, several scenes come across as quite corny. But there’s a natural ease to the film, too. As well as plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. And it all comes from a good place. Even the bloody fight scenes on the ice.

Despite debuting on only 31 screens this past weekend, it has earned more than $4 million at the box office (likely and largely due to On Demand rentals from home viewers). Spread the word. Goon is worth your time and your money.¬†If you enjoyed¬†Slap Shot, the 1977 cult classic starring Paul Newman, then you’ll love this new entry into the pantheon of great sports movies.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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