Goon (2012)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on April 8, 2012 @ tonymacklin.net.

Goon is based on chutzpah.

At the beginning of the movie, it says, "Based on a true story." That's usually the kiss of inauthenticity.

The movie Goon has a connection, often frayed, with the nonfiction book published in 2002: Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey into Minor League Hockey, written by hockey enforcer Doug "The Hammer" Smith and his lifelong pal Adam Frattasio.

The movie's producer, screenwriter, and actor Jay Baruchel has melted its ice. Only the language is base. It's full of pucking dialogue.

Doug Smith's autobiography winds up in the penalty box, watching as the facts of his life disappear.

Baruchel imports writer Evan Goldberg, who destroyed The Green Hornet (2011) to help him slash Smith. Fortunately Goldberg is not able to mess up Doug Smith nearly as much as he did Britt Reid.

Baruchel and Goldberg convert Doug Smith, who is named Doug Glatt in the movie, to Jewish - one of his teammates screams, "You're a ... Jew. You're ... nothing." Smith was not Jewish.

They send Doug to Halifax, Nova Sotia; actually he was a born and bred New Englander, who has had a career with the Hanson. Massachusetts Police Department. Smith played in four minor leagues in the US.

And they have him score goals; Smith never scored during his career. Out with Smith, in with Glatt.

I've heard that Tim Tebow is going to make a movie about Sandy Koufax, as an Evangelical, in Alaska.

Goon is the story of Doug Glatt (Seann Michael Scott), a wayward young man who is a bouncer in a bar. He attends a hockey game, destroys a player who comes into the stands, and is hired to be an enforcer on the ice. Under duress, Doug goes far beyond his initial limitations.

Jewish actors abound. Liev Schreiber is affecting as Ross "the Boss" Rhea, an aging enforcer on another team. And Eugene Levy brings his patented, bewildered vitality as Doug's father.

Jay Baruchel has said that one of the influences in the film is his late Jewish father, who played youth hockey on an all-Jewish team.

Jay plays Ryan, Doug's best friend, a Zamboni machine of obscenities. He's gauche and vulgar - distressing Doug's parents at a game and at a dinner. Near the end Ryan calls himself "a Mick," perhaps an allusion to Jay's mother, who is an Irish Catholic. Baruchel's parents were divorced.

Despite the Ring Around the Rosie of nationalities, Goon still has a vibrant potency.

What best serves Goon is the terrific performance by Seann Michael Scott as Doug. One might expect Scott to portray an obnoxious, arrogant clod.

Instead Scott's performance is substantial and engaging. In a world of sleaze and obscenity, Doug Glatt is deferential and mannerly. He's a nice guy. While his friend and teammates curse ceaselessly, Doug is polite and sweet.

Doug says to Eva (Alison Pill), "I'm such a moron." And, "I have a really huge crush on you." [It may be of some relevance that Canadians Baruchel and Pill are engaged.]

Baruchel and Goldberg smartly contrast a crude world with a sensitive one. Director Michael Dowse evocatively expresses this.

The scene between Ross "the Boss" Rhea (Schreiber) and Doug in a cafe at 3 am has a convincing poignancy.

To his adversary Doug says, "Hello, sir." And later as the two adversaries prepare to brawl, Doug says, "Thank you for asking."

Like Rocky (1976), Goon is not the story of a champion. The Halifax Highlanders are just trying to get into 8th place and the play-offs.

Although Baruchel has said he wants his movie's action to be more real than Rocky, Goon has a lot in common with that classic. Actually Rocky's action was violent and effective -and helped win John Avildsen the Oscar as Best Director.

Ironically, Sly Stallone's original screenplay for Rocky was full of vulgarity and obscenity, before the language was sanitized. Perhaps occasionally some tape over Ryan's spewing mouth might offer a little respite.

But what Goon most shares with Rocky is its personality and humanity. Like Rocky, Goon has a spiritual core.

The two teams Doug plays for in the movie have uniforms somewhat reminiscent of the Philadelphia Flyers.

I was a fan of the Philadelphia Flyers' Broad Street Bullies, who had the greatest enforcer of all-time, Dave Schultz. He was the real "Hammer."

They also played with great heart. Toothless Bobby Clarke was a mean wonder on ice.

Goon captures the humanity of the brutal - and uplifting - game of hockey that is identified so strongly with Canada.

It's no coincidence that actually, Jay Baruchel has a tattoo of a maple leaf over his heart.

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