Goon is a film written by the guy who wrote Pineapple Express who isn’t Seth Rogan, directed by a guy best known for directing a film released four years after it was completed and one that the critics are already calling a minor work of Seann William Scott. Doesn’t sound too promising does it?
Fortunately the film has one major thing going for it. Likeability. While it is crude, crass, indulges itself in bloody violence and celebrates (sometimes even deifying) those who commit it, somehow you can’t help but smile at it.
Seann stars as a nice guy with a armadillo shell, soft on the inside, hard as all hell outside. He doesn’t know much and can’t conduct himself in social situations with anything even approaching normality, but he can take a punch. And my god does he know how to give one.
His talent is spotted by a local Ice-Hockey coach who needs a guy to look after his players from the opposition. He doesn’t need him to makes passes or score goals or even play Ice hokey at all. He needs him to beat the living shit out of anyone who tries to rough up his team mates.
This is where the film revels. Director Michael Dowse doesn’t do much interesting with the character conflict or the conversations and he doesn’t even direct the comedy that well. But one thing he knows how to do is film an Ice Hokey fight. Drive may had had more extreme violent moments in it, but Goon films it with so much more blood lust. Aside from Raging Bull never has the sheer brutality of a hard punch to the face been filmed with such unflinching authenticity and unapologetic enthusiasm. The sound, the visuals, the cuts all add up to make some of the most bone-crunching moments in cinematic history, the results of which (blood, teeth, fractures) are often accompanied with angelic music and fetishistic slow motion. This film revels in its masculine and masochistic love of big manly men obeying there bases instincts and the culture which allows them to do so without fear of consequences. Nowhere else in the film does Dowse come close to displaying this kind of invention or experimentation. If he didn’t film on an ice rink it won’t keep you up at night.
That’s not to say there aren’t problems with the levels of violence on display here. The attempts to satirise the hockey fans love of fisticuffs doesn’t go far enough to be interesting and the sole voice crying out against this madness is dismissed after one scene never to be heard from again. It’s also the source of one of my biggest problems of the film. Seann’s character tries to get his parents to accept his new vocation in tandem with accepting his brothers homosexuality. Almost as if pressuring the audience into accepting the violence as a way of denying homophobia. It seems to say “Accept me beating the shit out of people or your a homophobe”. Its a cheap trick to convince the audience of its moral compass is pointing in the right direction but it just convinced me of the opposite.
The reason the film gets away with it however, is Seann himself. His portrayal of a mentally deficient man with the physical force of a grizzly bear isn’t the most compelling, but like I mentioned earlier, it is very likeable. It’s hard to stay angry at a guy with the IQ and mannerisms of a socially awkward eleven year old. The way he bumbles his way through conversation, tries so hard to find come backs to scathing insults you start feeling that his physical superiority isn’t an assertion of Alpha-Male dominance, rather it is an evening of the odds. There is also the chivalry and respect all the players have for each other. Violence is used a response only towards displays of arrogance and bullying. Each team have there own “Goon’s” and all of them are confusingly polite for people who specilise in giving each other concussions. Perhaps their minds can no longer process animosity after so many blows to the head. It’s not the greatest film ever made, nor is it the funniest and I doubt anyone will even remember having seen it after two months. But the next time you see two dudes drop gloves in the savage ritual that is a Hockey fight, you might just smile to yourself and remember the Goon.