GOON is an astute and winning character study that subverts and short-circuits conventional expectations. Seann William Scott plays Doug Glatt, the eponymous goon, that member hockey team members tasked with taking out opponents with brutal directness, who goes from fan to fame by a fluke. That the incident that precipitates the fluke arises because of Dougs unswerving sense of right and wrong is a theme plays out through the film, shaming those who are capable of being shamed into a new respect for Doug, and into a whole new outlook on life, often in spite of themselves.
Unlike his doctor father (Eugene Levy) and his doctor brother (xxx xxx), Doug is not smart. Yet he has one special gift — he can take and give a lethal punch and be little the worse for wear. Mostly. And its ironic, because they dont make them nicer than Doug, who apologizes before punching out an offending patron at the bar where he bounces. Though leaving his parents aghast, Doug take pride in having found a way to make his mark, as it were, by using his talents to help his teammates, in particular, the former golden boy (Marc-Andre Grondin), whose run-in with the then-reigning goon, Ross The Boss Rhea, left him concussed and Rhea on suspension.
There is a nice arc that juxtaposes Dougs rise in the farm leagues with the falling fortunes of Rhea (Liev Schrieber), hockeys reigning goon sent back down to the minors for doing his job too well. As the papers tout the necessity of an on-ice meeting between the two, the script delivers one that should be a most egregious bit of cliché-dom, but in the hands of able actors, has the feel of a confessional. Doug, comes across Ross in a dive by chance as he is strolling the streets at 3am. Star-struck, Doug sits down and the two, with so much in common, and such different worldviews, hit it off as Ross delivers the wisdom of his years on the ice, with a side of cynicism, and a totally believable mutual admiration society is born. For all the action and violence of the sport, and the violence is emphasized to make Dougs talent for it all the more fascinating, this is first and foremost a film about fine actors giving superb performances that are, in some cases, far more complex than the characters they portray.
Scott is at the top of the list, giving a mature performance, one that is both heartfelt, thoughtful, and one that finally lives up to the promise of his work in THE PROMOTION a few years back. He may play a simple man, but Scott never allows Doug to be a figure of fun or an object of ridicule. He invests him with an honest sense of dignity and inestimable worth in his dogged insistence on respect, courtesy, and honor. When he quits his job as a bouncer by slamming his work-issued t-shirt down on the bar, he also takes the time to smooth it out. When he refuses to walk over the team logo in the locker room, he does it quietly and eventually others follow suit as they find the team spirit that had been lacking, not because Doug is a goon on the ice, but because he makes taking the high road seem like the right thing to do just by his quiet sincerity. There are volumes of philosophy in there, and, like Doug himself, the film doesnt drone on about them. It leads by example and by exercising excellent filmmaking.
Schreiber is also noteworthy, with his unsentimental yet wistful melancholy, as is Alison Pill as the hard-talking, loose-living woman who steals Dougs heart at first glance. There is a delicious moment when her character, confronted by the realization that Doug is exactly considerate, caring, non-judgmental, and completely guileless soul that he seems to be, takes on a look of perfect bafflement that says everything the audience needs to know about her and about the state of male-female relationships in the early 21st century.
The script, co-written by Jay Baruchel who co-stars as Dougs best friend and fellow, though far more profane, superfan, creates the perfect setting for Doug in all his profound simplicity. The joke is never ON Doug. Rather its on those taking him lightly or not at all. Direction by Michael Dowse, shows a perceptive sensitivity when needed, and an unerring instinct for what makes the action in the game of hockey action so exhilarating, both on and off the ice.
Doug The Thug Glatt is easily the one of the most original, compelling, and irresistible characters to hit movie screens this year and he appears in a film that is hard to pigeonhole, which is one of its many virtues. A violent film about gentleness, a profane film about dignity, a smart film about a holy fool of a hero, its as disingenuous as that hero and just as irresistible.