With live sports on pause and most people stuck at home due to the coronavirus, hockey fans have to find other ways to pass the time. Watching a good hockey movie can certainly help, but the fact is some of us haven't seen the "classic" hockey movies since we were kids.
So how good are they really? Do they actually hold up? With nothing but time on our hands, let's find out.
Every Friday during the pause, I'll have a hockey movie review in which I will watch a movie the night before, take notes and provide those notes and a grade for each movie just to see how good they really are.
You can check out the past reviews here:
This week's movie: "Goon: Last of the Enforcers"
"Goon: Last of the Enforcers" is the sequel to "Goon." It is the story of Doug Glatt, played by Seann William Scott, who became an enforcer for a minor league hockey team, the Halifax Highlanders. The first movie indicates at the start that it is based on a true story. This one does not and that really is the central issue between these two movies. While the first manages to be funny and entertaining while also providing a realistic, though exaggerated, depiction of minor league hockey, "Last of the Enforcers"...does not. It is still funny and entertaining, but it goes a bit too far to the crazy side to pull off the same feeling of realism you got from the first. That's too bad because there are important themes here. The movie is really about Glatt trying to find his identity without hockey, which is a real struggle for players. The solution? Play anyway and everything will work itself out.
Like the first movie, you have to be able to take the humor. I love it, I was laughing throughout but...it's not going to be everyone's cup of tea. It's definitely not one for the kids. The cast again is fantastic with Scott, Allison Pill, Liev Schreiber and Jay Baruchel all reprising their roles. It also adds T.J. Miller, Wyatt Russell and Elisha Cuthbert. That's a solid cast for an off-color movie about a niche sport.
"Goon" set a high bar for this sequel to follow and it made the classic sequel mistake. They took everything you liked about the first movie and tried to multiply it. Big fights and blood? Plenty of that. Off-color humor? You got it. Dysfunctional team interactions? Loads. But in an effort to give you more of that, this movie felt less authentic than the first and ultimately that was what really made the first one so enjoyable.
Here are my notes from watching:
- Miller as Chad Bailey on Sports Desk with James Duthie was a recurring bit throughout the movie and it made me laugh every time.
- I'm not quite sure how much time has passed between movies. It was six years in real-time from when the movies came out, but the team is still largely intact except Park Kim who is now the team trainer and Gord Ogilvey who is an assistant coach. At the same time, Xavier LaFlamme who was the hotshot young prospect Glatt was supposed to protect in the first movie talks a lot about how he is slowing down. I wasn't really sure if it was meant to be the season immediately following the first or to take it in real-time.
- Glatt is made captain immediately in the movie and LaFlamme looks genuinely disappointed that it's not him. The show-boating puck hog would literally have been my last choice as captain. The fact that he is still in Halifax also would suggest he never stuck in the NHL and was a total bust.
- Glatt fights Anders Cain in the first game we see in the movie and Glatt gets worked over. It is treated like this monumental event, but if you fight all the time you are going to lose some of those fights regardless of who you are. He did get injured and that injury turned out to be a career-ending injury (until it wasn't), but they really make a big deal out of him losing a fight. It's really not.
- The two Russians continuing to mess with the goalie may have been my favorite part of both movies. "You will never eat a meal in peace. Animals don't eat in peace." That line made me laugh out loud.
- What life is like after hockey is a compelling story. Guys trying to find their identity after walking away from the sport they love is a struggle and something I thought could have been hashed out better. Obviously, people watching this want to see Glatt play hockey. No one is watching to see him sell insurance, despite how funny his boss is. Having said that the movie really just skips over that. The threat of long-term health issues is also hinted at, but ignored whenever the movie found it convenient. Oh, Doug has to walk away from the game? How will he adjust? He won't and will just end up playing again anyway. Ross Rhea, Schreiber's character, was washed up at the end of the first movie. He comes back, says the doctors warned him another bad hit to the head could cause serious damage so...of course he gets signed by Halifax. He then gets a serious hit to the head, but, hey, don't worry about that. LaFlamme is worried he's losing a step, but gets named captain later in the movie so problem solved. If you are going to bring up complex topics, don't just pretend like everything sorts itself out. Dive into it.
- Another interesting storyline the movie brings up and then solves as lazily as possible, what do wives of the players think about them being enforcers? Eva doesn't want Glatt to fight anymore which is both understandable for the family, but totally unreasonable as it is why he is able to play the game he loves. The movie makes this a theme, but resolves it just by Eva deciding he can fight again right after their baby was born. Why? Because what made him want to be there for the birth of their kid...is why he should be playing hockey? What?
- Highlanders owner Hyrum Cain wanting to trade for his son, Anders Cain, and name him captain was incredibly transparent, but not really ever addressed. The team would have basically revolted. Also, if the movie is operating under the premise that the league will get more media attention because of an NHL lockout, then they should have included the team getting blasted for an owner bringing in his son to be captain of the team when he clearly should not have been.
- Anders Cain is the villain in this movie and, I'll be honest, I just don't get this guy. He fights Glatt at the start of the movie. Got it. They are both enforcers, he goes after the big-name enforcer. Standard. But it goes deeper than that as Cain just flat out hates Glatt. Why? Does he see him as a threat to take the C back? Your dad is the owner of the team, traded for you and named you captain before you ever played a game. He is also way more talented than Glatt. Why would he care about a fourth-line enforcer? Cain seems level-headed when talking with his father at points, but other times is crazy. He is also depicted as being about as simple as Glatt, but more unemotional and unempathetic. This character is seriously all over the map from trying to be a captain for his team, to not caring about anyone on his team. He also simultaneously hates his dad, wants to impress his dad and earn his approval, etc. He is just all over the place. And before you say he's just a bad dude, he tells Glatt, "I just do whatever my team needs me to do" which he does try to do sometimes, but other times just doesn't care. He picks fights with everyone, including Glatt. Cain's character is so scattered that after a while I just dismissed him as a crazy and moved on.
- Having a hockey fighting league is a cheap gimmick just to get Rhea into the movie. While there actually was a hockey fighting tournament in 2005 called the "Battle of the Hockey Enforcers," this seemed pretty transparent in the movie and was totally unnecessary. Halifax is supposed to be one notch below the NHL, so it is basically the AHL. The movie could have just as easily had Rhea playing in a lower minor league like the ECHL or even just a beer league. Remember Glatt was discovered in one of those lower leagues in the first movie before going to Halifax. The movie didn't have to use this blatant, silly gimmick.
- Michael Del Zotto, Tyler Seguin, Colton Orr, Brandon Prust, Georges Laraque and George Parros all have cameos. Doug "The Hammer" Smith, who was the inspiration for these movies, also has a cameo in the battle royale. Glatt headbutts him.
- The scene in the plane was a good reminder that this is not an NHL team so they have to make do with flying commercial. The coach trying to talk up the team is one of the funniest scenes in the movie.
- Even when LaFlamme starts to take control of the locker room, it feels forced. This guy is not a leader and I would never have given him the C.
- I have done the quiet yell while watching sports and holding a baby. I could absolutely relate to that.
- Ever notice how the dirtiest hits in sports movies always happen because the refs aren't doing their jobs? Take control of the game, for Heaven's sake!
Final Grade: B-
“Goon: Last of the Enforcers” has the same kind of humor as the first, it’s still hilarious and wildly entertaining with humor hockey fans in particular can enjoy. Having said that, the first movie did all of this while managing to keep one leg planted firmly in reality and that’s what made it so compelling. This one touches on real themes but either exaggerates them to the point where they feel over the top or just ignores ther real questions those themes pose. It loses something because of that.
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