FILM REVIEW: Goon (15)

Over the past year, sports headlines have focused as much on inspirational championship glories as shameful transgressions on and off the field of play.

If sport was ever beautiful, it faded just a little in 2011.

Goon is an offbeat comedy based on the incredible true story of a minor league ice hockey player who courted fame for his thuggish conduct.

Adapted from the book by Adam Frattasio and Doug Smith, Michael Dowse’s endearing film is a celebration of an underdog who found his calling by flooring his opponents.

The goon of the title refers to an enforcer, whose role is to protect his team-mates using any part of his battered body that can clatter the opposition at speed.

The brawler in question is dim-witted yet lovable Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott), who works as a bouncer in Orangetown, Massachusetts.

He feels alienated from his Jewish parents (Eugene Levy, Ellen David), who hoped he would train to become a doctor like his gay brother, Ira (David Paetkau).

Doug isn’t bothered by Ira’s sexuality and when he’s sitting in the stands at an ice hockey match and a fellow spectator makes a homophobic jibe, the bouncer shows his displeasure with his fists.

The coach of the local team is impressed with Doug’s fighting skills and best friend Ryan (Jay Baruchel) encourages him to try out as an enforcer.

After just one season, Doug transfers to the Halifax Highlanders in Nova Scotia, where coach Ronnie Hortense (Kim Coates) asks him to protect out-of-form scorer Xavier LaFlamme (Marc-Andre Grondin) against bullying rival Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber).

Away from the rink, Doug nurtures a crush on Eva (Alison Pill), who by her own admission has few morals and many sexual partners.

She is attracted to this innocent oaf, who is definitely not the sharpest blade on the ice, but she is reluctant to get involved for fear of souring his innate sweetness.

Goon is a pleasant surprise: a macho comedy awash with fisticuffs that slap shots into our affections.

Scott strikes a balance between naivete and brutish physicality, and he catalyses warm screen chemistry with Pill as the bad girl, who finds redemption in Doug’s doe eyes.

“You make me want to stop sleeping with a bunch of guys!” she coos.

Scriptwriters Baruchel and Evan Goldberg sketch characters with affection and gift the ensemble cast sparkling one-liners, which zing through the air like pucks.

The plot stays on its feet, despite a couple of wobbly moments, culminating in a bloodbath during a vital championship game that almost has us cheering from the multiplex stands.

By Damon Smith

:: SWEARING :: SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 6/10

Released: January 6 (UK & Ireland), 91 mins