FILM REVIEW – GOON: LAST OF THE ENFORCERS. With Seann William Scott, Wyatt Russell, Alison Pill. Callum Keith Rennie, Liev Schreiber. Written by Jay Baruchel and Jesse Chabot. Directed by Jay Baruchel. Rated R for pervasive language, crude sexual content and bloody sports violence. 101 minutes.
Barely released to theaters in the spring of 2012, the scrappy, foul-mouthed hockey comedy “Goon” went on to become something of a sensation on home video––at least amongst sports fans and those of us who enjoy elaborate arias of profanity. Based on a memoir by Hanson, Massachusetts’s own Doug Smith about his un-illustrious career in the minor leagues (over 400 penalty minutes and zero goals), the movie’s grubby authenticity felt like a throwback to the naughty, bygone days of “Slap Shot” or “Semi-Tough” and an antidote to today’s blandly inspirational sports sagas. Cheerfully disreputable and endlessly quotable, “Goon” is the kind of movie guys like to put on when they come home drunk.
Like most comedy sequels, GOON: LAST OF THE ENFORCERS cranks everything about the original up a few notches thinking audiences won’t be satisfied unless they get a bigger, louder and more outrageous version of what they enjoyed last time. And like most comedy sequels, it’s pretty lousy. Sean William Scott returns as Doug Glatt, the lovably lunkheaded enforcer for the Halifax Highlanders. The whole joke with Doug is that he’s not much of a hockey player and can’t even skate very well, but he’s got a skull made out of rock and an almost supernatural ability to inflict grievous bodily harm upon his opponents. Our Number 69 is also a great big sweetheart, tenderly helping players off the ice after knocking their bloody teeth out.
But it’s Doug’s turn to get carried off in the opening moments of this sequel. He’s flattened and beaten within an inch of his life by Anders Cain (Wyatt Russell), semi-psychotic estranged son of the Highlanders’ new owner (Callum Keith Rennie). First-time director Jay Baruchel––who co-wrote the original and briefly reprises his role here as Doug’s annoying Masshole pal—stages the scuffle with geysers of blood better suited for a Tarantino movie. The previous picture’s casually escalating brutality already amped up to absurdity before the opening credits have even rolled, there’s nowhere for this movie to go except bigger, bloodier and more ridiculous. And believe me, it gets there.
His career seemingly ended by injuries, Doug tries working at a day job at an insurance company while not-so-secretly itching to get back on the ice despite doctor’s orders. His pregnant wife Eva (the returning Alison Pill) has a monologue in which she begs him not to turn her into the stereotypical shrew standing between her husband and his dreams, and for a moment it feels like they left the camera rolling while the actress was yelling at Baruchel and co-screenwriter Jesse Chabot because that’s exactly what has happened here.
“Goon: Last of the Enforcers” lurches its way around a long season of incoherently melodramatic developments, with the dastardly Anders Cain becoming the Highlanders’ captain between suspensions and then getting traded again whenever the plot requires additional conflict. Russell––a former professional goalie––has a few scenes here in which he’s genuinely scary, at odds with the oft-buffoonish comic tone but interesting enough to make you wish you were watching whatever movie he seems to think he’s in.
One of the things that made “Goon” so special was that the actors all took their ridiculous characters desperately seriously. Nobody acted like they were in a comedy and even Eugene Levy played it straight. Baruchel’s bigger-is-better M.O. leads to a lot more shouting and face-pulling. A direly unfunny blooper reel that runs under the closing credits reveals that the actors were encouraged to ad-lib to their hearts’ content, which would account for the erratic, over-scaled performances and random non-sequiturs that probably seemed funny on set.
Bless that Liev Schreiber though, who reprises his role here as Ross Rhea, a former bruiser for the Boston Bruins not going gently into that good night. Once again, Schreiber plays the part like he’s Daniel Day-Lewis in “Gangs of New York,” an elaborately mustachioed relic with an odd gentlemanly streak, still swinging away according to ancient codes of combat. There’s a brief, wonderfully affecting scene in which he simply sits alongside Doug, bloody and concussed while lighting yet another cigarette. It’s a tiny moment in which Schreiber allows us to catch a quick glimpse of this cartoon character’s pain and regret, and it belongs in a much better movie than this one.•••
Over the past eighteen years, Sean Burns’ reviews, interviews, and essays have appeared in Philadelphia Weekly, The Improper Bostonian, Metro, The Boston Herald, Nashville Scene, The House Next Door, Time Out New York, EntertainmentTell, Philadelphia City Paper and RogerEbert.com. He stashes them all at Spliced Personality.