Saturday, March 31, 2012


Tonight I ordered the movie Goon on-demand (bless on-demand for letting you rent movies the day they come out in theatres). Although it apparently was JUST released this past week to the US, I hadn't heard about the movie through any sort of advertising. I had only heard about it from many fellow hockey fans who talked about it. Since many of them spoke very highly of it, I wanted to see it for myself. I honestly am not a fan of the name Goon to begin with, because it already gives the wrong impression although I suppose it is appropriate for the film - just not for the reasons that are normally associated with the word "goon" to non-hockey or casual-hockey fans.

One review I read (don't remember where, oops) made a good point that it doesn't make much sense or seem like a good decision to market a movie about fighting as a comedy after the tragedies over the summer in which 3 young enforcers died within 3 months. I think it's a fair point to why it shouldn't be marketed as a comedy. But it doesn't do an injustice to those players - it's actually potentially an insightful look into the lives those players lead. Although obviously much different at the NHL level, enforcers are erroneously perceived as barbarians when in fact, they have some of the strongest character of players in the league.

Before I talk about the movie, I want to point out the inaccuracy of marketing the movie as a comedy. This movie has great, funny parts, but is not a comedy. It is not like Slapshot. Both movies are great, but very different. Goon is pretty dark, obviously very violent, and offers an incredibly unique perspective on minor league hockey, violence and fighting in hockey, and the particular brutality of violence in minor league hockey as well as the strength of character of individuals who play in these leagues and the lives they lead. If this movie could somehow be efficiently marketed to US audiences, I think it would have a lot more success than sending people in expecting to see a Slapshot-like comedy. But that is another topic entirely.

The film is actually based on an autobiography called Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey Into Minor League Hockey. I could not believe that this movie is based on a true story. But it is - it's based on the career of Doug Smith, who played in the minors primarily through the 90s (not to be confused with former NHL player also named Doug Smith; this Smith didn't actually play in the NHL). It also borrows a lot from all different parts of hockey, including the clear origins of the clip of the Ross Rhea character swinging his stick and striking an opponent in the back of the head during an NHL game. It's a clear re-enactment of when McSorey did that to Brashear. The wiki page for the movie reaffirms this, and also makes a few good points about how the player climbing the glass to fight Glatt in the stands resembles when the Boston Bruins did it in the 70s, and how the original team Glatt plays for resemble in nature and logo, the Flyers, who of course were the only team more violent than the Bruins in the 70s (and being violent was the only reason the Flyers won Cups..just saying).

Ok so this movie was written by the guys who wrote Superbad and Knocked Up, which I thought was interesting. This movie has a ridiculous amount of violence that made my stomach queasy - especially the fight at the very end. It was also extremely crude, with a few appearances of naked hookers having cocaine snorted off their bodies. But the interactions of the teammates (initially, not so much later after Glatt helps them bond) was crass as hell. I was not expecting that at all. Most of the actual comedy came from Glatt's character because of how incredibly kind-hearted but stupid he is. He is such a lovable character. Sweet, respectful, kind. I loved the portrayal of how he brought the team together, and transformed the character of Xavier Laflamme back into an incredible talent.
Such lovely surprise happen over and over while watching "Goon." Yes, it begins with blood splattering on the ice in slow motion, but it's also about friendship, loyalty and teamwork in much more convincing ways than glossier, feel-good movies. (Review in Detroit Free Press)
The New York Times also has a great review I strongly agree with in many aspects.
“An infantile way for a man to spend his adult years,” sniffs Dr. Glatt (Eugene Levy), a pompous New England physician, when his son Doug (Seann William Scott) declares that a hockey enforcer, or goon, is his choice of occupation. “I’m stupid,” Doug replies. “For once in my life I get to wear a uniform that doesn’t have ‘security’ on it.” This is the moment, midway in the film, when “Goon” reveals its true colors and turns from a rowdy sports farce into something vaguely resembling the “Rocky” of hockey movies.
Before this movie, and still now after it, I don't know much about the way minor league hockey works. This is a Canadian minor league being portrayed (presumably the QMJHL, I think, although in reality, Smith played in the ECHL, which is an American minor hockey league). The violence is over exaggerated at times probably, for the purpose of entertainment and plot advancement, but has enough basis in reality (or reality of the past, as a lot of aspects of the game portrayed in this movie have changed) to show how brutal it is and what kind of sacrifices these players make. It certainly makes a strong argument for the enforcer. On the accuracy of the fights in the movie, in this article, Smith says:
I'm a purist, and some of the fights look really Hollywood, but there are a couple of fights that look pretty good. It's as realistic as a Hollywood movie is probably going to get.
The cast is pretty good. Sean William Scott is pretty good as the lead character, Doug Glatt. Liev Schreiber is a pretty famous actor as well, so I was happy to see him in this movie as Ross Rhea. He must be a hockey fan, cause he also narrates 24/7.
I did [the movie] because I figured I’ve probably got five or six years of ice hockey left in my body, and the opportunity to go to a professional hockey training camp and learn the game seemed like an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. (HuffPost interview with Schreiber.)
Also, George Laraques appearance in the movie was quite interesting. The character of Laflamme looks exactly like an NHL player, but I cannot remember who exactly it is. He resembles Carcillo, and Letang a little, but there is another player in the NHL who he looks exactly like. If anyone knows, let me know, cause this is driving me crazy. Also, "Ricky" from Trailer Park Boys is in it briefly, which was awesome.

I honestly need to watch it again before I can fully form my thoughts on it. The ending was very different from what I expected throughout the movie. At first I wasn't too thrilled with it, but in retrospect, I think it was a pretty appropriate ending. It's a solid drama with a great storyline. I'm not a movie reviewer (for accurate reviews, see the Goon page at Rotten Tomatoes - which has surprisingly good ratings), and since I still want to watch it again, I instead wanted to write a little bit about the actual true story and production of the movie. Since I recently did so much research on fighting in hockey for my term paper that was an argument to eliminate fighting in hockey, I both wish I had seen this movie a month ago and want to find out more about it.

I'd love to discuss the movie more with others who have seen it. And strongly recommend everyone to go see it!

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