And so, January is here. The traditional post-Christmas release pattern in the UK is for the more worthy films to be aired just before the Academy Awards ceremony in February. With the festivities and their associated blockbusters out of the way, now is the perfect time to see actual film at the cinema, and 2012 is no exception.
With Goon, director Michael ‘Take Me Home Tonight’ Dowse brings us a tale of self-discovery and cameraderie, with the rough-and-tumble of Canadian and American mainstream sport as a background rather than the focus, per se. In many respects, it owes a lot to Rod Daniel’s 1985 piece, ‘Teen Wolf’, with the many individual matches themselves being shown purely from the protagonists viewpoint, and often in a few minutes or less.
Sean William ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ Scott brings the role of Doug Glatt to life. Glatt finds his way from casual door-security work, onto the professional ice hockey circuit, not by being a gifted player, but rather by virtue of his talents as an enforcer, or the titular ‘goon’. His mandate within the squad is to keep his violent counterparts on the opposing team in check. A role which he relishes at first, but with which his character struggles when he begins to extend into actually playing hockey, only to be reprimanded by his own manager and more sportingly talented teammates.
Indeed, this struggle is only one of many as Glatt is something of a lost soul, looking to find his raison d’etre. Raised in an orthodox Jewish family, the film paints him as almost an outcast from the offset, with his parents struggling to accept his job first as a ‘bouncer’, and later as a hockey player (in fact, the thread with Glatt’s parents is never quite resolved in the film, making the dénouement particularly hollow).
Elsewhere, tensions rise within the team as Marc-André ‘The Chameleon’Grondin plays Xavier Laflamme, the golden-boy of the team whose own focus and determination on the ice is slipping, and is taking out his frustrations on Glatt, whom he holds partially responsible for his waning star. A particularly touching scene sees Glatt making his peace with his enforced flatmate Laflamme whilst talking through an adjoining wall, reminiscent of two characters talking whilst in neighbouring prison cells. Of course, up until this point, the characters had been in cells, albeit of their own psychological making. Similarly, once Glatt moves north to join the Halifax Highlanders, a romantic interest emerges in Eva, played by Alison ‘Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen’ Pill, who is similarly confused with her position in life. The two disparate souls are brought slowly together, each being an antidote to the weaknesses and damage in the other’s psyche. A particularly poignant touch from the director is the scene they share in Eva’s car, with the snow outside representing her crumbling reluctance to commit to a relationship with Glatt, and the plastic cherry suspended from the rear-view mirror representing his implied virginity.
And finally, we have the St John’s Shamrocks enforcer Ross Rhea, courtesy of Liev ‘Mixed Nuts’ Schreiber. Rhea spends most of the film as an observer, having been suspended for gratuitously violent conduct. We see Glatt’s rise to fame from his eyes as he studies the matches which take place in his absence, knowing that their paths will cross eventually. Like the best grizzled old pro’s, Rhea knows the time will soon come to hang up his boots for good, and it is the culmination of Glatt’s story and Rhea’s career that brings the film to its heart-stopping climax. As I intimated earlier, the film is less about ice hockey, and more about the violence that accompanies it. Blood is spilled frequently throughout the film, but always sparingly, save the final showdown between the last of the old generation, and the first of the new.
Each drop of blood that hits the ice is a metaphor for tears, sweat and dignity. Ice hockey is portrayed as a sport that is less about numbers and points, and more about agression and raw, primal truth. Goon isn’t quite perfect, but it’s a thoughtful reminder that the same can be said of any one of us. With determination, we should all strive for the goals within our reach.
I shall be sorely disappointed if The Academy fails to recognise the haunting and touching contributions that Scott, Schreiber and Grondin have made to celluloid.
I have to say, I’m loving the British reception to this film! Considering that Ice Hockey isn’t a sport we really play, watch, or even identify with, it’s great to see people really enjoying it! Granted, as the review said it’s less about the actual hockey than the violence behind it, it’s still a sporting film that many Brits probably won’t ‘get’ in the same was as they would football. – Seph7 – Admin