Word association time: when I say the words "hockey" and "comedy" in the same sentence, what springs to mind? If you said anything other than 'Slap Shot' (or one of its sequels), shame on you. Sure, there's 'The Mighty Ducks,' but that's more family fare/sports inspiration cliche, and maybe us Americans can laugh at the Russians for their failure in the historic retelling 'Miracle,' but aside from that, we're left with nuggets from other films, like Adam Sandler's brief hockey career in 'Happy Gilmore,' a black and white scene on a convenience store roof, or parts of the cruelly awful 'The Love Guru.' 'Goon' doesn't feel so much like an original film as much as it seems like they took Gilmore's failed career and made an entire film out of it, with bloodier sensibilities and a much fouler mouth.
If you see anything wrong with the previous statement, just press the back button now, as nothing else that can be said will appeal to you.
For Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott), life isn't all roses. The bar bouncer who can both give and take a severe ass kicking is a disappointment to his family as he tries to find his place in the world. Then he becomes a minor league hockey enforcer when he beats the ever loving snot out of a player while watching a game in the stands. Though he can hardly skate and doesn't know a damn thing about hockey, his ability to beat the shit out of anyone and everyone makes him a star, quickly promoted to the league directly under the pro teams, where it's his task to take care of a former wunderkind (Marc-Andre Grondin) who scores more coke, E, and STD's than he does goals. The newly minted number 69 has finally found a place in the world, but his inexperience, puppy dog demeanor, and crush on the already taken Eva (Alison Pill) take their toll, as Doug has to fight just to fight.
Based on the book Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey into Minor League Hockey from Doug Smith, 'Goon' is a brash, crude, nasty, bloody, mean spirited motor scooter. That's what makes the film so damned enjoyable. Written by Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg, 'Goon' is wall to wall F-bombs, gushing facial wounds and hard hits, with bits and pieces of debauchery and true love mixed in for good measure. The way it unforgivingly presents its content, unflinchingly showing the nastiest type of hockey imaginable, is sure to turn some stomachs, but, quite honestly, flying teeth and razor sharp skates to the leg aren't even the nastiest part of this flick.
Scott has been in terrible film after terrible film, but it's his ability to play the lovable oaf that makes 'Goon' a winner. Doug "the thug" is impossible to hate, as he doesn't have a single mean bone in his body. He doesn't like beating people to a pulp; he just does it because he's told to. He doesn't understand consequences, and cause-and-effect is a concept too wordy for him to comprehend. He's a pure character who is easy to root for, as his pursuits of the girl are hardly crude or nasty (if anything, they're borderline chivalrous), his quest to find his place in the world noble, his dedication to his friends and teammates applaudable.
While Baruchel is borderline unbearable as Doug's best friend and hockey fanatic, what makes 'Goon' work beyond Scott is the work of the vastly underrated Liev Schreiber. As Ross Rhea, an enforcer on his way out of the pro hockey game, Schreiber acts the part of both the mentor and the villain, playing a vital role in the career regression of Grondin's Laflamme character. Through his grizzled eyes, we see the truth of the game, rather than the idealized, blatantly shallow view Doug banters about, and see what Doug is likely to become if he doesn't keep his head on straight. Perhaps that sounds a bit too Dickensian for those who think such a parallel is fetching, but it's hard to not see the way Doug sees himself through Rhea, and vice-versa.
While 'Goon' is riddled with continuity errors that will drive any Canadian utterly insane (let's just say the attention to geography is negligible), this is the kind of film hockey fans have been praying for, since no 'Slap Shot' sequel can quite live up to the legend. Starting fresh with a "Hebrew Dolph Lundgren," the sports comedy genre gets a nice boost of adrenaline from the bloody yet saccharine sweet 'Goon.' Doug "the thug" is a character an entire generation can relate to, his quest for a place in the world not all that different from yours or mine. Whether he finds true love or not, whether he ever scores a goal or even plays three minutes straight without hitting the penalty box, we have a main character who isn't about to quit on anyone, and it's hard to find a character like that these days.
The Disc: Vital Stats
'Goon' comes to Blu-ray in two editions: a Blu-ray only version, and a Blu-ray+DVD+DC set. The Blu-ray is a Region A locked BD50 disc, which has the typical mix of individually skippable Magnolia trailers. There are no menu or packaging gimmicks aside from a first pressing slipcover on the combo pack.
Speaking of combo packs, you know what sucks? When a package says there's a DVD and Digital Copy inside it...and they aren't. In a first (for me, at least), an advertised combo pack was not a combo at all, just a Blu-ray. I can assume that Magnolia swapped packages for reviewers, but then why the slipcover that indicates goodies are in there? My advice: if you see this in stores, feel how heavy it is compared to other releases (of the non-eco-pack assortment), both three disc and one disc, and verify you grab one that weighs as much as a three disc set does. Only way to be sure...
'Goon' was filmed with the Red One camera system. I just love the way films made with this camera translate to Blu-ray, and this 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode at 1.78:1 is no exception. Textures are fantastic, from the thick meshed jersey to the various facial hair forests, and even the layered, oft-brittle looking ice, and colors are bold and powerful. Detail levels are solid, often superb, while blacks are infinitely deep, picture depth is always noticeable, and major issues are kept at bay for the most part. Skin tones go nuclear in a couple of scenes, and there is some fluctuation in the skin tinge from shot to shot, and there are a couple small bands in the picture, but for the most part this disc is an absolute winner. If you look away at some of the more nasty violence, you're missing extreme-close-up high-def gold!
If power is enough to earn a perfect grade, 'Goon' would be earning five stars, easily. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track on this disc is all balls. This isn't a pinpoint precision disc with localized puck passing, ice shaves, and swirling cameras making for a dynamic full room experience. No, this is a heavy hitting, board crashing, cross checking son of a gun, from the erupting crowd cheers, the intense puck POV shots, the heavy, beefy punches in fight sequences, and plenty of bass thump to add extra "whoompf" to each and every little bit. Dialogue is clear, though sometimes even it has a heavy and deep power that makes no sense in its respective scene. Rears get plenty of crowd ambience, but let's face it: the sometimes off dynamics, the random hollow dialogue, it's all secondary as this disc screams at you like an aggressive hobo looking for meth money. Sometimes, that isn't as unwelcome as it sounds.
The set sent to me was supposed to include DVD and Digital Copy versions of the film, but since their absence was conspicuous, these bonus goodies will earn no score on this review.
I hate hockey "fans" who are only in it to see the fighting. Hate may seem like a strong word for such a silly offense, but I find great beauty and talent in the sport, and it's insulting to be near anyone screaming for blood, rather than appreciating the talents who handle the puck. 'Goon' is the kind of film that does the ravenous hockey fan a great justice, as it focuses on the brutality of the game rather than the grace. It's really not a bad film, and it has moments where it's immensely enjoyable. Magnolia's Blu-ray release of the film isn't a game changer, but it's a very solid release, loaded with extras to boot. Considering the low first week pricing, this title comes with an easy recommendation and very low risk.