Doug Glatt is sweet-natured but armed with a solid punch, as is “Goon,” the lovable true story of Doug Smith, a hockey enforcer who achieved minor-league fame. Reminiscent of the kind of humor in “Slap Shot,” and more violent, this sports comedy from director Michael Dowse and screenwriters Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg balances the action on the ice with sharply drawn characters off the rink. Canadian biz will be passionate; Yank market is most likely in vid.
Doug (an ideally cast Seann William Scott) works as a bouncer in Orangetown, Mass., certainly a few rungs lower than the career envisioned by his family’s Ivy League-scaled expectations. He projects a dumb but winning innocence and good nature, but his fist can deck just about anyone. He admires minor league star, and hockey goon supreme, Ross Rhea (a Fu Manchu’d Liev Schreiber, never looking more macho). When Doug gets into a fracas with a player in the stands during a game, he draws the attention of the local club.
It’s quickly evident that Doug — who has to learn how to skate — is an enforcer with promise, and is soon promoted to the minors with the Halifax Highlanders, whose star, Xavier Laflamme (Marc-Andre Grondin), has never been the same since Rhea decked him with a vicious crosscheck three seasons prior. Doug’s only job on the ice is to cover Laflamme’s back; it’s most definitely not to actually play hockey.
The job of a hockey enforcer, invisible to many non-fans and even casual fans, is definitively presented here by taking the viewer into Doug’s world and letting him do his thing. Along the way, Doug wins over the heart of self-described “slutty bad girlfriend” Eva (an adorable Allison Pill), who’s drawn to hockey players but feels slightly guilty for making out with Doug while she has a b.f. on the side. More challenging for our hero is convincing his roommate Laflamme, who pops Ecstasy and beds women between games, that he can skate well enough to play at the Highlanders’ level.
Dowse and editor Reginald Harkema (a fine filmmaker in his own right) pace the action on and off the ice with confidence and efficiency, and game coverage displays a true knowledge of the sport. Dowse’s love of the effective slo-mo moment is smartly timed throughout, especially when some blood needs to be shed on the rink. Although he’s yet to match his best film to date, “It’s All Gone, Pete Tong,” the helmer once again shows he knows how to deliver smart entertainment with cinematic vigor.
With Scott, Pill, Grondin and Schreiber — and Kim Coates looking like an NHL coach in the making — the pic has a first-rate team of actors who visibly enjoy their roles and the sharp dialogue by Baruchel and Goldberg. Tech package is decent, but shows its budget limitations.