8/31/2017

Review: 'Goon: Last Of The Enforcers', Seann William Scott Lands Punches And Laughs


Jay Baruchel's hockey comedy Goon was just about perfect for fans of the sport, which will probably forever remain on the outskirts of American popularity. But in Canada it's the only sport that friggin' matters, and those same fans appreciate the hard-hitting, rock 'em sock 'em aspects of the sport, even as the NHL works to move past it. The appeal in the film didn't really strike me then; despite its charms there weren't enough laughs to sustain them; but the sequel, Goon: Last of the Enforcers, has more of everything that worked previously. More Seann William Scott as knuckleheaded hockey thug Doug Glatt, more jokes at Canada's expense, more heart, and definitely more bloody brawls.


In fact, the blood flows so thick and deep that you could almost call Goon: Last of the Enforcers a hockey horror. There's a shocking amount of violence here, including an underground gladiatorial fight club for hockey retirees. But there's also a surprisingly sweet center, and a logical progression forward for Doug, who at heart is a protector and not just a fighter. Only now, he's charged with being a protector for his wife, Eva (Alison Pill), who is expecting their first child. It's a way of raising the stakes for Doug that goes outside of his hockey life, which is skating on thin ice, pun intended, after he's delivered a heinous beatdown at the hands of Anders Cain (Wyatt Russell), a rival upstart and son of the Halifax Highlanders' team owner, Hyrum Cain (Callum Keith Rennie). The beating puts Doug on the shelf for good, forcing him to face a life without hockey in it.


It's a stark commentary on more than just hockey, but every professional sport that chews up and spits out its players. Where is someone like Doug, who we can fairly say is pretty stupid, supposed to go? His struggles to acclimate to a domestic life and a boring job as an office worker provide the film much of its surprising heft, because we know Doug is doing it all for the benefit of Eva. That said, we also know it won't last, and before long he's seeking out former foe and fellow goon Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber) for some sage-like advice on getting back on the ice. But first, they'll have to bloody that ice up with the faces of other retired pros in a vicious battle royale (where the only rule is "no hockey") for the audience's amusement.


Jay Baruchel takes over as director and, along with co-writer Jesse Chabot, they keep the previous film's knuckle-dragging stoner spirit intact. A hockey die-hard, Baruchel fills every scene with loving jabs at this favorite sport, although some of his references will slapshot right over the head of non-fans. He also fills the cast with others who have as much a love of the sport as he does, such as Elisha Cuthbert who is married to an NHL player, and Wyatt Russell (Kurt Russell's son) who played the sport professionally for a time. It gives the film a fun, enthusiastic energy lacking in the first movie, and I think it's matched by a superior performance by Scott. He's called on to do more than just make Doug a guy who bashes people's brains in. He has to show that Doug has enough brains to recognize what's important, and to care when it's put in jeopardy. Of course, he's still dumb as a box of pucks just like many of Scott's former characters were, but there's also a touch of sadness to Doug's slowness because of the career he's had taking shots to the head.


There's a lot going on, too much actually. Beyond Doug's story there's also a pro hockey lockout, beef between the Highlanders' coach (Kim Coates) and owner, father and son beef between Hyrum and Anders, former first-round hotshot Xavier LaFlamme's (Marc-Andre Grondin) attempts to prove himself a team leader, and more. It doesn't all come together and serves to distract from Doug more than it should, but Baruchel at least gives us the grisly final showdown we were all eagerly awaiting. The film ends on a similar note as before, with Doug having reached a personal apex that goes beyond scores or playoff berths. That Goon: Last of the Enforcers aspires to be about more than hockey when it absolutely doesn't have to is why it's a shot that hits the back of the net.

Rating: 3 out of 5