Director: Jay Baruchel
Cast: Seann William Scott, Alison Pill, Liev Schreiber
Watch Goon 2 online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / Amazon Instant Video / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play
“Evolve or go extinct.” That’s the moral of Goon 2, a sequel that’s happy to both and neither. Arriving six years after the first film, Last of the Enforcers is a follow-up that nobody asked for – but that doesn’t mean it’s a film nobody wants. The original was such a lovable, heart-warming story about dim-witted ice hockey player Doug Glatt that it was impossible not to want to spend more time with him.
Goon 2, perhaps inevitably, abides by all the usual sports movie conventions, which means that it offers essentially more of the same. Fortunately, that means keeping its leading man in play: much of the pleasure of Goon: Last of the Enforcers is simply seeing Seann William Scott once again portray “The Thug”, a guy so numbskulled that he would occasionally get his own name wrong (“Goug Dlatt”). Scott delivers a career-best performance, fully committing to the character without ever taking his simplicity to cruel extremes: it’s a film that manages to treat him sympathetically, so that every slip-up becomes endearing.
If that approach is the strength of this unlikely franchise, it’s also its slight weakness: Goon: Last of the Enforcers is so busy being so gosh darned nice that it sometimes forgets to be funny.
As its title suggests, the film takes Glatt from one extreme of the genre to the other, switching from an unexpected underdog to a veteran making a comeback: only minutes after being made Captain of the Halifax Highlanders, he finds himself on the wrong end of Anders Cain’s (Wyatt Russell) fist, leaving the once-indestructible man with a career-ending shoulder injury. And so he retires, to focus on starting a family with Eva (Alison Pill), who’s now pregnant.
Will he stay off the ice for long? Of course not: the draw of the game is too much, and he soon starts to hook up with former rival Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber) to train in secret and get back in the rink. Schreiber, who’s just given a knock-out turn in boxing flick Chuck, is in his element here, bringing a fuzzy, gruff and menacing presence that perfectly balances heart and hard-hitting violence. Indeed, director Jay Baruchel (making his feature debut at the helm, after co-writing both Goon films) doesn’t waste the chance to prove that this sequel isn’t skimping on the claret, gloriously spilling blood all over the place at any opportunity: the fisticuffs are bone-crunching, side-splitting and heart-wrenching all at once.
The vulgar banter between hockey players is there too, as Baruchel’s script matches his passion for capturing the sport in action: the film dives into the culture surrounding the sport, from the eccentric teammates to the idiotic sportscasters (T.J. Miller). One scene sees Glatt join an underground ice fighting scene, which takes place after dark in the Highlanders stadium – a glimpse of ice hockey’s ugly side, which feels cruelly believable.
It’s that kind of weight that gives Goon its emotional clout: this is a gross-out comedy that gives character as much importance as dick jokes. Baruchel smartly dials down his own role as Glatt’s foul-mouthed, fast-talking friend, giving us more time to get an insight into Cain’s love-hate relationship with his dad, the manager of the team, who’s keen to shape the Highlanders around his boy.
But it mostly gives us a chance to hang out with Doug, and if some of the cruder elements of the humour fail to land, Scott ensures that every second he’s on screen is a solid blow to the heart, as he balances his urge to protect people with Eva’s request to stop putting himself in harm’s way. It’s a marked change of tone for the movies’ unusual love interest, and it’s to Goon 2’s credit that it doesn’t go unnoticed: Pill, who was a huge part of what made the original work, embraces the opportunity to portray a woman who becomes conflicted about her husband’s choice of career, despite their shared passion for the sport.
Such character work is to be cherished in a sequel that could have been a lazy re-hash of the first movie and nothing more. Ice hockey movies aren’t the easiest thing to sell, particularly to UK audiences, but for fans of Goon, Goon 2 manages to offer more of the same, while subtly growing these people, both on and off their skates. It evolves, but not too much, and proves once again that Seann William Scott is a talent who doesn’t deserve to go extinct.
Goon: Last of the Enforcers is available on Netflix UK, as part of £7.49 monthly subscription.
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