Goon didn’t exactly set the mainstream world on fire when it came out in 2011, but I bet most people who saw it found themselves under its spell. A total charm-bomb with a surprising amount of blood and heart, Jay Baruchel’s ode to hockey (co-written by Evan Goldberg and directed by Michael Dowse) had all the right ingredients for a nearly perfect small sports movie one could enjoy without knowing a damn thing about hockey.
It was such a perfect mixture of ingredients, in fact, that the prospect of a sequel recreating them aren’t great. And yet Goon: Last of the Enforcers manages to pull it off. It’s a bit more complicated than the original, and far more derivative of other sports sequels (particularly Rocky II & III), and yet - possibly for those exact reasons - it might even be better than the first film.
Both Goon films focus on Seann William Scott’s Doug Glatt. Glatt’s not especially great at hockey. His role is to beat the shit out of problem opponents and take his time in the penalty box. Scott is a gifted actor when given the right role (check out his It's Always Sunny appearance!) and the Goon series is one of few places that knows how to use him correctly. Glatt is dumb, kind, sensitive, and loyal - a great guy who just so happens to also be a major ass-kicker. Scott got famous playing cocky, but it turns out earnest suits him so much better.
The film opens with Glatt weathering a debilitating injury from a dust-up with Wyatt Russell’s Anders Cain, a character that starts as an asshole and goes more and more feral from there. With a kid on the way (with a super-badass Alison Pill), Glatt retires from hockey and accepts a soulless job in insurance, while Cain takes over his old team and runs it into the ground. But the straight life is no good for Glatt, so he gets tutelage from his old nemesis Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber, once again stealing all his scenes) to teach him how to hit with his left arm now that his right is useless.
If that sounds familiar, that’s because it is super fucking familiar. Training to switch a dominant hand is totally Rocky II. Getting trained by an old nemesis so you can beat the tough new blood is totally Rocky III. Near the end, Glatt doesn’t get the blessing from his wife to go kick ass until after their baby is born, which once again, is some serious Rocky II shit. Hell, Jay Baruchel even shows up a couple times to provide a Paulie.
But I don’t care. It’s a familiar story wearing unique enough clothes to keep things from feeling lazy, particularly given the great cast at work here. Most sports movies tend to have this problem, anyway. I’m fine watching one about hockey players with hearts of gold beating the shit out of each other.
Goon: Last of the Enforcers marks the directorial debut for Jay Baruchel (who co-wrote with Jesse Chabot). As a director, Baruchel’s most notable choices aren’t all that cinematic. He keeps things simple and pedestrian for most of the film. He does, however, facilitate great charm with his actors and knows how to capture friendship and rivalry. His greatest contribution has to do with extremities. The first Goon didn’t shy away from bloody fights, but this is on a whole different level. The final fight in particular is gory as hell, and the touches he applies to Wyatt Russell’s increasingly insane villainy are inspired for their almost hilarious lack of subtlety. Baruchel does falter when it comes to capturing these hockey games. Until the last one, which utilizes a lot more dramatic flourishes, it’s hard to know what’s going on. Still, I look forward to more Jay Baruchel movies if only because they guy’s not afraid to get a little crazy with it.
I had it in my head that Goon: Last of the Enforcers wasn’t going to be very good. I’m so happy to report I was wrong on that score. While slightly different in scope, it’s just as good if not better than the first film, and the two are different enough, while sharing the same basic feel, to make an excellent double feature someday.