'Goon' plays hockey violence as an art form

Handout photo from the movie "Goon" scanned for SPORTSWEEK on March 23, 2012
Handout photo from the movie "Goon" scanned for SPORTSWEEK on March 23, 2012
Posted: March 30, 2012

IN THE CLOSING moments of "Goon," a bloody tooth spins slowly in the air as we hear the soaring notes of Puccini's "Turandot."

There is, "Goon" implies, something of classic opera in the hockey fight, the grand passions of the evening enacted and expressed by designated performers who play their roles, take their bows, and exit stage right for medical treatment.

We see that there is an art to beating somebody's brains out on the ice. The rituals, the purpose, the rules of engagement at the rink are as old and as honored as they are at Carnegie Hall.

The understudy in "Goon" is one Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott), a beefy bouncer who becomes an Internet sensation when he coldcocks a hockey player who spills into the stands chasing a heckler.

A local minor-league team hires him as a publicity stunt, and sends him (wobbly-legged) onto the ice to protect the team's fragile, high-scoring center (Marc-Andre Grondin).

Glatt can't skate, but he can punch (he is "touched by the fist of God"), and on the ice he finally feels at home. Wayward Doug has been a disappointment to his upper-class parents (Eugene Levy plays his dad).

Glatt find his niche, a hockey-groupie girlfriend (Allison Pill) and an operatic foil in Rhea (Liev Schreiber), a longtime enforcer whose star recedes as Glatt's ascends.

"Goon" is a vulgar, sloppy, R-rated comedy, but it has heart, too, and some soul - there is a wonderful scene between Schreiber and Scott, as the older man shares what wisdom he has accumulated.

And then, the next day, they fight.

Most hockey fans will adore "Goon," and the uninitiated might come to understand something about the violent Kabuki of Canada's national pastime.

The movie, by the way, is deeply Canadian. Nearly everyone involved (writers Evan Goldberg and Jay Baruchel, the director, most of the cast), hails from north of the border. Schreiber lived there until he was 5, and Scott is from Minnesota, so he might as well be Canadian.

The movie's hockey bona fides are earned, though I think Baruchel might have improved "Goon" by eliminating his own foulmouthed character, a sop to a young male demo, a group that should probably be offended, but won't be.

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