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TIFF: 'Goon' is a bloody riot that does justice to our treasured national sport

GOON ***1/2

At Goon’s world premiere last Saturday, Montreal-based director Michael Dowse, who’s already behind THE quintessential Canadian slacker film with FUBAR, proudly declared: “I think we’ve finally made a hockey film to be proud of.” And he’s absolutely right.

Quebec had already contributed its share of solid cinematic stories about our country’s cherished national sport (mostly care of Charles Binamé’s Maurice Richard biopic, and on the more commercial front, the cultural phenom that was the Les Boys franchise), but English Canada? Score: A Hockey Musical? Hmm... Dowse is clearly onto something.

His hilarious hockey satire Goon, whose US distribution rights were sold to Magnolia Pictures earlier this week, tells the story of affable pub bouncer Doug Glatt (Sean William Scott), the black sheep in a family of academic overachievers, who draws the attention of a minor league hockey coach and suddenly finds his calling as an on-ice enforcer, pummeling any and every opposing team's goons.




Co-written by Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg (Superbad, Pineapple Express), the creative tag team fleshed out the script based on the non-fiction book Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey into Minor League Hockey by Doug Smith, a late bloomer and outsider to the hockey world who took on all naysayers to finally play for the world’s second-best hockey league.

Comparisons to the ‘70s Paul Newman cult classic Slap Shot are inevitable, but Goon is nastier, more outrageously violent, and full of superb, un-PC humour. Scott, who broke out in the late-nineties by perfecting the jockish dimwit (American Pie, Road Trip, Dude, Where’s My Car?), proves he’s got the chops and charisma to rely on other things than looks or silly slacker scenarios. His Doug is the (naïve) heart of the film and a superhero of sorts on the rink, protecting his team’s precious, substance-snorting, tantrum-throwing hot shot French scorer (Marc-André Grondin).

The already expletive-prone Baruchel steals every scene he’s in as an obscenely foul-mouthed pal of Doug’s, an online hockey show host who lives for the moments of inordinately violent rumbling provided by the sport. In the TIFF programme book, the film’s aptly described as “the worst nightmare of anti-violence advocates”, but it’s also a bloody riot.



Toronto International Film Festival | Until September 18 | tiff.net