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An underdog sports yarn that wears its lowbrow thuggery as proudly as a hickey delivered by the hottest girl at the bar, Goon should be director Michael Dowse‘s graduation from microcult comedies (Fubar) to movies people actually pay to see at the multiplex.
Teaming not with usual collaborator Seth Rogen but his Undeclared costar Jay Baruchel (who has a supporting role here), Evan Goldberg delivers a hockey screenplay reveling in stereotypes about the sport — built, in fact, around the idea that teams recruit players to do nothing but go on the ice and beat others up. (The story was inspired by a book by real-life minor-leaguer Doug Smith.) Sensitive viewers may recoil at the fountain of homophobic insults at the outset, but those subside quickly into a stream of banter that is merely (intentionally) juvenile, and often very funny.
Seann William Scott executes a convincing and endearing left turn here, playing a character whose brand of dumbness is likably self-effacing instead of snarky. His Doug Glatt is an aimless nightclub bouncer when his talent for inflicting pain is noticed at a local hockey game; the coach quickly recruits the non-skater, teaching him just enough about the game to get him suited up.
Deciding the kid has been “touched by the fist of God,” the coach trades Doug to a major-league farm team, where he’s meant to protect a fallen star (Marc-André Grondin) whose confidence was shattered by the league’s most shameless brawler, Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber, who with gladiatorial cool steals scenes from the cartoonish figures surrounding him).
Doug takes his job seriously, and Dowse delivers violence so shamelessly bloody — not photographed with any particular flair, but convincing in its aggro glee — some viewers will avert their eyes. But Doug harbors no malice against his opponents; he’s doing it for his team, and is sweet and guileless enough outside the rink to convincingly win the affection self-proclaimed slut Eva (Allison Pill), who has a boyfriend but won’t for long.
However nice the guy is, it’s disturbing to learn that the character’s inspiration (seen in game footage during the credits) has since become a policeman. One of the things making Goon so enjoyable is its fairy-tale suggestion that all humanity’s violent impulses can be exorcized in a Zamboni-groomed ice rink.
Venue: Toronto International Film Festival (Magnet)
Production Company: DCP (GOON) Productions Inc.
Cast: Seann William Scott, Jay Baruchel, Alison Pill, Marc-Andre Grondin, Eugene Levy, Liev Schreiber
Director: Michael Dowse
Screenwriters: Jay Baruchel, Evan Goldberg
Producers: Don Carmody, David Gross, Andre Rouleau, Ian Dimerman, Jay Baruchel
Executive producers: Jesse Shapira, Mark Slone
Director of photography: Bobby Shore
Production designer: Gord Wilding
Music: Ramachandra Borcar
Costume designer: Heather Neale
Editor: Reginald Harkema
No rating, 90 minutes
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