Celebrating Everything That's Wrong In Sports
Written by Matt Giles
Edited By Erin Accomando and Jason Umpleby
"You're not here to play hockey. You're here to fight."
These words are the central focus of the bloody, violent, and poorly written Goon; a film that tells the story of a good-hearted bouncer-turned-hockey enforcer, Doug Glatt (Sean William Scott).
Goon is not really a sports drama, nor is it an underdog story. It's too unsure of itself to leave its audience with anything memorable other than blood. There's not an established tone in the film; it can't decide whether it's going for comedy, drama, action or even excitement.
Doug, for example, is a guy who has never excelled at anything in his life other than fighting. His parents (played by Eugene Levy and Ellen David) are disappointed that he's not a doctor like his brother, Ira (David Paetkau), and he does not have much support from his best friend, Pat (Jay Baruchel, who also co-wrote the film). He comes across as a lovable oaf but when he fights we're exposed to a different, meaner side of him that takes away from his goodness. By a stroke of good luck he's recruited by a local hockey team to hurt anyone by any means necessary - a task which makes Doug feel important. This dichotomy of simpleton and brutality shown in Doug is never handled properly, making the film a mess.
Adding to this confusion of tones, Goon also tries to be a romantic comedy of sorts. Doug falls for Eva (Allison Pill), a woman who confesses to loving hockey, sex, and a combination of the two. I assume this storyline was added to play up Doug's likability, but it sadly (like everything else in the film) feels out of place and clumsily constructed. Nothing in the story hinges on these two getting together; it's not a will they/won't they scenario. It's not even a matter of Doug giving up coming home bruised and broken for the woman he claims to love. It's just thrown into the mix in a very, "Why not?!" fashion.
The filmmakers clearly wanted to showcase the violent nature of sports, and it's this aggrandizement of carnage that adds to Goon's failure. It builds and builds to the final fight between Doug and Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber), the enforcer of the opposing team, known for years as "The Boss" because of his knack for seriously injuring other players. When the final fight does happen, it's so glorified that it's as if the two players are ancient gladiators going head to head in a battle to the death. The staging of the fight comes across as false, adding another tonal shift at the end of the movie that just does not make any sense.
Maybe the film would have been better in the hands of more capable writers. It could have taken the stance that violence in sports is a problem and something that needs to be addressed, not celebrated, but it doesn't. Just a month ago, the TV series House explored the psychological effects that being a bruiser has on a hockey player. It had a point to make about sports; something Goon should have done. Instead I felt like Doug sucker-punched me in the face.