Welcome to #39 and apologies for tacking on an extra off-week or two. I chopped away at this for awhile and think I turned this piece from a giant friggin’ mess to at least a more manageable small mess. There’s far too many video clips because I just couldn’t leave any of them out. On the other hand, Goon itself is a giant, disgusting, lovable, hilarious mess so maybe there’s a little grace in all this.
That’s what I’ll keep telling myself anyway.
OMG, A NEW CHALLENGE HAS ENTERED THE GAME
As this list enters the 30’s, I’m starting to run into movies which really mean something to me in a variety of different ways. And I have probably called most of these as “being in my Top 10/15/20” at some point in time, especially if adult refreshments were involved. True sports fanatics who actually sit down to put together their list of top 10 or 15 sports movies of all-time will quickly realize there’s 30 or 40 contenders.
And maybe that’s just me but I don’t think so. If you don’t believe me, grab pen and paper or Excel spreadsheet - highly recommended, by the way - make your list and save it.
In addition, remember which beloved sports movie of yours was left off my list entirely in a fit of stupidity, egregious by even my low standards.
Once I’ve buzzed through all 50, we’ll do a couple of polls - the #1 Left-Out per above and which movie did y’all think should’ve been #1. And then I’ll drag everyone for disagreeing.
Just kidding of course. Although I’ve gotta admit, I’ll always look for an excuse to use one of my favorite lines from the legendary college football and golf sportswriter Dan Jenkins who once got mailed a response to one of his more biting columns which read, “You got a big problem, asshole.”
Dan took the time send back his written response: “No I don’t, I have a typewriter. You have a problem.”
On to the countdown.
How best to describe the aptly-named Goon before we dive into the particulars? Thinking this over took awhile since this show is the epitome of a lovable mess. The effort is destined to be a fail but here we go.
(Note - the movie was loosely based on the book “Goon: An Unlikely Journey Into Minor League Hockey” by Adam Frattasio and Doug Smith, which is a biography of Smith, a former hockey goon.)
Goon is the story of Doug Glatt, played by Sean William Scott of American Pie fame, a sweet lug with the heart of a golden retriever who just wants to be part of a team and protect his friends. Also, he can fight like a combination of a demon possessed and Cocaine Bear. It’s an incredible train wreck about a sport with no shortage of blood and violence. However, the director effectively hired the special effects crew from Rocky II and gave them unlimited budget to bathe the screen and its actors in fake blood during the fight scenes.
On the plus side, it 100% captures the locker room and bar talk of a hockey team and creates a character in Glatt who is completely believable.
Before we dive in, just for real world reference, here is an actual fight between Bob Probert and Marty McSorley, legendary old school goons who both actually had sufficient skills to consistently score in double figures in the NHL while racking up their mountains of penalty minutes. Unlike the movies, note how they can fight defensively through footwork, jersey and arm grabbing and ducking their heads away as opposed to simply standing toe-to-toe and trading face punches. There is in art to this:
Note the end when the pads get tangled and both hold still and get a head pat from the refs for not trying to take cheap shots. It really was the equivalent of Ali-Frazier in Manila.
(Now let's talk about the show.)
Goon begins with Doug Glatt working security in a club which involves exciting things like wrestling unruly drunks outside and being treated to occasional collateral vomiting by said patrons - reason #1278 why the customer is not always right. Doug is Jewish and basically known as “our other son” to his parents, featuring Eugene Levy as his father. They and his younger brother, Ira, are all doctors. His brother is also gay, which his parents also aren’t thrilled about, but they seem to feel better about that than a son who was unable to follow in the family footsteps.
(Note - Scott and Levy previously worked together in the American Pie series.)
Doug’s best friend is Pat who loves hockey and hosts a wildly profane podcast. Doug loves corn dogs more than hockey, but he appears on Pat’s show and then is brought to the local minor league Orangetown Assassins hockey game which will end up changing his life.
(Note: Pat is played by Jay Baruchel, one of many Canadians starring in the movie. In fact, the only Americans in the cast were star Sean William Scott from Minnesota and Liev Schreiber from NYC. Baruchel also co-wrote it with Evan Goldberg of Superbad and Pineapple Express writing fame.)
While Doug is enjoying a handful of corn dogs, a fight breaks out on the ice and one of the opposing players gets tossed in the penalty box a few rows in front of them. Pat, whose default setting seems to be “frenzied”, begins joyously and profanely heckling him. The player becomes enraged, climbs over the glass and charges up the stairs.
I’ve gotta be honest - if anyone ever heckled me like that, I’d have the same reaction. If he was just acting, Baruchel is an amazing talent. And if he was on as much coke and meth as he appears to be, my surprise level is about a 2 on a scale of 1-100.
Doug steps in to protect his friend as the enraged player calls Pat a f*****t among other things. Uh-oh. Doug’s eyes narrow and he informs the player that his own brother is gay and he shouldn’t say that. He says it again and the bomb goes off (the fun starts around the :40 mark):
(Just assume when it comes to language and/or violence, every video clip here isn’t safe for work or anything else)
The savage beating aside (Look at that face period!!,” Pat screams maniacally), my favorite thing about this scene is how all the players on the ice stop fighting to watch Doug’s assault in the stands. At the end, Doug demands the bloody, semi-conscious Oshawa player take back his homophobic slur, he refuses for some odd reason, and Doug headbutts his helmet, shattering it, causing everyone in attendance - and probably the theater- to flinch in horror.
Also watching the proceedings intently is Assassins head coach, Rollie Hortense, who quickly decides Doug has some skills sorely lacking on his squad and calls him in the middle of another of Pat’s batshit podcasts to offer him a tryout at the team’s next practice. Doug accepts and borrows his brother’s white figure skates and prepares to dive in. Which he almost literally does. As he hops on the ice, it becomes apparent skating is NOT one of his skills.
(Note - the real-life Doug Smith did not start skating until he was 19.)
However, as Doug begins to stammer some answers to questions, the team’s captain decides ridiculing and shit-talking Doug is the road to take with the guy who laid a Mount Olympus-level beatdown on a fully padded hockey player less than 24 hours before.
I was going to say it went predictably, except it didn’t:
There’s so much going on in this clip, but what I took away was Coach Hortense. Rollie is comedy gold (“Of course, on the bright side, those are yer teammates that you fucked up out there. Whaddya say son, you wanna be an Assassin?”). And just like that, Doug is now a professional hockey player sporting the legendary #69 thanks to Pat’s encouragement. (“IT’S HILARIOUS!!!”)
Soon enough, it’s time to meet Rollie’s brother, Ronnie Hortense, played by Kim Coates, head coach of the Halifax Highlanders. Having gotten off to a fine start beating opponents senseless as an Assassin, Ronnie decides he’s ready to move up to the highest minor league level and sends him up to play for Ronnie. Doug makes his way into the Highlander locker room and a much warmer welcome. The divorced team captain makes introductions where Douggie learns some team rules and also that the Russian brothers on the team are just really creepy:
It should be apparent by now that Sean William Scott has taken a major detour from his roles in American Pie, Road Trip and Role Models. In the middle of the violence and the raunchy comedy, he has created a character in Doug Glatt who is actually very sweet and sensitive at his core. This really is his best work.
He settles in with the Highlanders where it’s made known to him his job is to protect the smaller, faster Xavier LaFlamme, he of “probably in the parking lot giving a single mother herpes” fame in the previous scene. LaFlamme, like many of Doug’s new teammates, is a walking cautionary tale and has become gun-shy on the ice after being injured on a vicious dirty hit by Ross “The Boss” Rhea. Ross is a legendary NHL goon playing in the minors while serving a massive suspension for a Marty McSorley-esque stick to the head of an opponent. Given the fact he is around 40 years old, he has probably played his last NHL game.
With Doug on board, the Highlanders begin to come together, the team starts a playoff run and it’s apparent that Doug and Ross Rhea are on a collision course. However, this is Goon and the laughs never slow down for long.
First, we are privy to a simply harrowing and hysterical pre-game performance of the wonderful Canadian national anthem. Again, lots going on but definitely keep an eye on Coach Ronnie’s expression, the singer’s “I totally killed it” fist pump and the play-by-play announcer’s amazing outraged response: (anthem portion only takes about the first 50 seconds)
“Well that was borderline treasonous and a disgrace to our nation and it’s proud and storied history!”
If you think I don’t have that line committed to memory, you would be wrong. Amazing how often it fits right in as a crack when watching sports.
Later in that same clip, Doug gets in his first fight, a one-punch knockout, leading to drinks at the bar and the strangest attempt at an initiation I’ve ever witnessed in real life or on screen. And I’ve witnessed a few:
Of course, it’s the Russian brothers’ idea and thanks to Belchie the goalie for pointing out 100% correctly, “I been playin’ hockey my whole life, man, and I never signed nobody’s d*ck.”
(Not too long after, Doug gets a fight with player named Huntington who was played by ex-NHL goon, Georges Laraque. Huntington asks Doug if he wants a go and then wishes him good luck and tells him “good fight” when they are done. This was based on an actual Laraque NHL fight when he basically said the same exact things to his opponent while mic’d up for TV.)
The season progresses and the Highlanders are improving, inspired by Doug’s attitude - as well as having more room to skate with fear of retribution from Doug keeping opposing players’ cheap shots to a minimum.
LaFlamme, however is still a disaster on and off the ice, but fortunately Coach Ronnie brings he and Doug into the hall to inform them of a change in leadership in his own sensitive and caring way:
Ronnie Hortense: Well, one of you has really been impressing me with your play lately, and one of you hasn’t. Either one of you wanna venture to guess as to who’s who?
Ok, well, LaFlamme I’m ripping that “A” off your jersey. You don’t deserve it unless the “A” stands for asshole, which is the way you’ve been playing. Glatt, you’re promoted. Assistant captain. Good on ya, keep up the good work. There’s the game puck. I’m proud of you!
Doug Glatt: Thanks, coach. (LaFlamme storms off)
Ronnie Hortense: Xavier, you can take this the right way or the wrong way, son! Ladies’ choice.
As the stakes rise, team captain Gord Ogilvey attempts to fire the boys up in the locker room. Although his heart is in it, his focus isn’t as he 1) obviously still has divorce on his mind and 2) has literally left the planet mentally as he tries to wrap it all up for home run finish to the speech:
Along with phallus autographs for an initiation, I have also never been part of a locker room speech which ended with the coach or captain imploring me to play “gay porn hard!!”
In the end though, everything is driving to bring Doug & his Highlanders head-to-head with Ross Rhea and the St. John’s Shamrocks. In the game prior though, Doug has to save Halifax again. With a 1-goallead and the goalie out of the net, he dives in front of the goal where he
1) is pummeled with sticks
2) while someone stands on his ankle with their skate blade and-
3) he makes a game-winning save at the buzzer by taking a puck to the face.
(Not playing that clip and you don’t need to see it. It’s truly over-the-top gross.)
Anyway, in the late morning hours the night before the St John’s game, Doug is wandering the streets and sees Ross Rhea sitting alone in a bar where he joins him for a surprisingly heartfelt conversation between the rookie goon making a splash and a legend likely playing his last game:
“You have my respect. Whatever that means to you, you got it.”
Again, like Scott’s overall performance, this may be one of Liev Schreiber’s finest scenes. In the span of that clip, he manages to be tragic, world-weary, caring, offering sage advice and calmly showing the savagery which lurks beneath in real life but explodes on the ice.
So the game does finally roll around. Do Doug and Ross square off? Do they have a fight which breaks records for sheer trauma and bloodletting? Did Doug’s ankle collapse make me, a guy who seldom freaks out on movie blood, do a yurk? Yes to all. And yes, I was strangely happy for both a bloody Doug Glatt and a bloody Ross Rhea no matter how over the top it was. And it was incredibly over the top.
However, the pre-game scene is still what sticks with me. After all the laughter and goofiness and meat packing plant level violence, these guys broke out a Rocky/Herb Brooks/Husker Tunnel Walk level moment. And they did it to the bagpipes of “Scotland the Brave” complete with a piper on the ice as the teams walk in, tape up, etc. And Captain Gord, despite starting off with more divorce regret, miraculously cranks out a locker room speech for the ages rivalling Miracle, Any Given Sunday and Friday Night Lights:
I gained a family with you boys. You skated, you fought and you fucking bled. And you have earned every piece of this! You got that shit that makes you keep goin’ long after you have no reason to. That Doug shit. No matter what happens out there, they will know. THE HIGHLANDERS WERE HERE!!
It still gives me chills and seems like a fine way to move on to the categories:
Quality of Sports Scenes: This is a tough one, so I’m gonna land in the middle. You have some guys who can play hockey. And I’ll be the first one to say a hockey fight is way bloodier up close. But the blood and violence here is grossly cartoonish. Score - ***- Pelini
Music: That Canadian anthem WAS borderline treasonous. And “Scotland the Brave” was on a “Gonna Fly Now” level. I don’t really remember any other music, so we’re gonna go with Score - **1/2 - Solich
Love Interest: I didn’t go into it above, but Doug’s love interest, wonderfully played by Allison Pill, is a hit. Promiscuous and aware of it, she tries to warn Doug away refusing to believe a guy that sweet would want anything to do with her. She is sweet, supportive, bitingly hilarious and brings a real depth to a role which is just a retreaded character in many other’s hands. Score - ***** - Osborne
Adrenalin/Goosebump Scenes: There’s really only one, but if it makes me put some bagpipe music on a playlist, then they killed it. Score - *** - Pelini
Comedy: So many big laughs. And if many of them are jokes which can’t be retold in front of most people, then the cast, director and writers of Goon have just earned their second 5-star score. Score - ***** - Osborne
Unintentional Comedy: Not anything I can remember. The laughs are very intentional even if class and good taste are non-existent. Score - no stars - Riley
The Training Montage: None here. Score -no stars - Riley
Rewatchability - 100% rewatchable. Can jump in almost anywhere and be cracking up in under a minute. There’s probably a little grumbling about all of the YouTube clips. I’m not kidding when I say I still left a LOT out. A lot. Score - ***** - Osborne
OVERALL - I’m always going to bonus a hockey flick which takes you in the locker room, on the ice, on the bench and in the bar and this is where Goon soars. So many NHL interviews involve a blank face and monotoned answer with “100%” as a key phrase. Even with all the laughs, the dialogue comes off as authentic. Also, I don’t mind a good wild shit show on the screen. Score - **** - Devaney
#50 - THE MIGHTY DUCKS
#49 - AMERICAN FLYERS
#48 - WIND
#47 - THE NATURAL
#46 - BLOODSPORT
#45 - YOUNGBLOOD
#44 - THE REPLACEMENTS
#42 - KINGPIN
#41 - RUSH
#40 - THE WATERBOY