Goon is a charming buddy/romance/sports flick that takes surprisingly nuanced looks at male friendship, relationships, family, and hockey, and manages to avoid the common pratfalls sports movies often fall into.
Sean William Scott is likable as a bouncer named Doug who is stuck in a dead end job, while Marc-André Grodin almost steals the show as a brooding, oft-injured hockey star and Allison Pill—costar and writer Jay Baruchel’s real life ex—stars as Doug’s love interest. Liev Schrieber also has a small but important role as a longtime hockey goon named Ross “The Boss” Rhea.
Doug Glatt is a bouncer trapped in a job he hates, and is the “disappointment” of his adoptive family; his brother—also adopted—is a doctor (though he’s also gay). Eventually, Glatt goes to a hockey game with his friend, Pat, and gets into a brawl in the stands. Doug’s fighting skills catch the attention of the head coach of the Halifax Highlanders, a team on the brink of making the playoffs who lack a “goon” to protect its stars.
I thought the movie was delightful, for the most part, and quite enjoyed it. The only times the movie lost me was when it dealt with Doug and Eva’s burgeoning relationship. I really wanted to like Eva more, but the romantic subplot felt weak compared to the stuff with Doug and Xavier, and Doug and his family. Eva as a character did have a lot of potential, but it felt wasted when the character was shoehorned in as the love interest.
Truthfully, the movie really felt more like it was about Xavier than Doug, or Doug and Eva. Xavier had his own story arc, and I found it much more compelling than Doug’s story arc. Doug didn’t really have to do much growing; he starts off as sort of this lovable loser stuck in a dead-end job he hates, and has a family that doesn’t respect him, and he becomes… a lovable loser with a better job and a girlfriend. He’s already kind of a good guy who’s loyal, and is good at fighting. He’s not even that good at hockey. In the end, he gets to put those “skills” to use, and do something he enjoys. Doug’s arc is predictable, though enjoyable.
Xavier’s arc is a bit more interesting to me. Xavier is this guy who starts out on top and then plummets to the lowest of lows and just stays there and wallows in it until Doug shows up and proves to him that someone’s got his back. Xavier’s safe existence—relatively speaking, considering he does a copious amount of drugs—is challenged by Doug and he’s forced to grow as a person.
The movie seems to want the audience to consider Doug the main character and his story arc the main arc. The problem with that is Doug comes off as a supporting character in a movie in which he’s supposed to be the main focus, and his storyline comes off like more of a subplot (it also makes the subplot with Eva seem even more extraneous to the movie as a whole). It doesn’t really hurt the movie, but it makes it seem a bit unfocused.