Bowing at the 2011 Toronto International Film Fest, Goon was a surprisingly enjoyable sports pic, an underdog hockey tale whose shockingly violent hero (played by Seann William Scott) bore no ill will to the opponents whose noses he shattered on the ice. The film went on to modest success; now, rather than spin off a VOD sequel exploiting the title but recast with no-name actors, producers have reunited all key players for Goon: Last of the Enforcers, in which our man must become a grown-up. (One top-shelf supporting player, Eugene Levy, is missing here; T.J. Miller is added to the mix.) Though not as fresh or funny as its predecessor, this feature directing debut for actor Jay Baruchel stays true to its spirit and will please its most enthusiastic fans.
Scott’s endearingly guileless Doug Glatt has married girlfriend Eva (Alison Pill) and been made captain of his team, the Halifax Highlanders. But just as his responsibilities are about to double (Eva is about to learn she’s pregnant), Doug suffers a career-ending injury. He is beaten to a pulp by Anders Cain (Wyatt Russell), whose Karate Kid-grade viciousness masks emotional pain: Anders’ father is Highlanders owner Hyrum Cain (Callum Keith Rennie), a tycoon who’s openly contemptuous of his underachieving son.
With Doug gone, the elder Cain overrules the team’s coach and shocks players by hiring his son as their new captain, giving him an opportunity to prove his grit. Meanwhile, Doug brokenheartedly leaves hockey and tries to make peace with a job at an insurance firm. A wholly middle-class existence looms ahead of him, but Doug clings to the hope that he can rebuild his body and get back on his skates.
Enter the first film’s legendary gladiator Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber), who has gone to seed and works on a circuit where athletes don’t even pretend to be playing hockey — they just skate out on the ice and start destroying each other for the bloodthirsty crowd. Doug convinces Ross to teach him how to fight without his damaged right arm, and soon Baruchel gives us the ‘80s power-anthem training montage he has probably always wanted to make.
The script, by Baruchel and Jesse Chabot, can’t be accused of originality. Doug trains in secret while pretending to Eva that he’s content with his new, square life; when she finds out he is returning to hockey, she agrees to let him follow his bliss on the (obviously impossible) condition that he won’t get into fights. On the plus side, it completely eliminates the homophobic taunts peppering the first film’s trash talk. (This movie’s locker-room banter is more of the “your mother last night” variety.) And while its opportunities for rinkside action are limited by the plot, it delivers a reasonable level of rock-’em, sock-’em when called for.
Baruchel has told interviewers he has ideas for several franchise follow-ups, but Last of the Enforcers creates an obvious exit point for its star. It’s tough to imagine this lightweight narrative going anywhere without the innocent brute at its center. Then again, few 2011 TIFF attendees expected much from a film that now, evidently, has something of a cult behind it.
Production companies: No Trace Camping, Caramel Film
Distributor: Momentum Pictures
Cast: Seann William Scott, Liev Schreiber, Alison Pill, Wyatt Russell, Jay Baruchel, Callum Keith Rennie, Kim Coates, T.J. Miller, Jason Jones
Director: Jay Baruchel
Screenwriters: Jay Baruchel, Jesse Chabot
Producers: David Gross, Andre Rouleau, Jay Baruchel
Executive producers: Jeff Arkuss, Jesse Shapira, Evan Goldberg, Seann William Scott
Director of photography: Paul Sarossy
Production designer: Anthony Ianni
Costume designer: Lea Carlson
Editor: Jason Eisener
Composer: Trevor Morris
Casting directors: Sara Kay, Jenny Lewis
Rated R, 101 minutes