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Entries in sports (2)

Friday
Apr202012

Goon

What is it about sports that bring out our bloodlust? Why do we cheer for and encourage hard hits in football, fistfights in hockey and beatings in the ring? For one reason or another, normally peaceful human beings turn into barbarians when watching sports, but why? It’s a question I can’t answer and, evidently, neither can the new hockey “comedy” Goon, a movie without purpose, structure, flow or brains. It celebrates our desire for sports related violence without ever truly saying anything about it. It doesn’t add to the conversation; it’s merely an example of it. It’s not insightful, interesting or funny in the slightest and you should absolutely skip it.

Apparently based on a true story, the film follows Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott), a dimwitted bouncer living in Massachusetts. He’s never known how to do anything except for protecting others through fighting. One day, while at a hockey game with his best friend, Ryan (Jay Baruchel), a disgruntled player jumps into the stands and attacks him, only to be beaten down easily by Doug. The coach of the team is impressed and brings him on to drum up interest. Eventually, his notoriety begins to travel and he is promoted to a minor league hockey team in Canada, to an area where people end their sentences with “eh” and pronounce “out” closer to “oat.” Soon, another player by the name of Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber), who is also well known for his ability to beat down other players, catches wind of Doug and their big game is coming up. Who will win the fight?

Who cares? Goon has one of the lamest, most inconsequential stories I’ve seen in a while. When the crux of your film rests on who’s going to win in a fight between two no name minor league hockey players, you’re in trouble. This story isn’t like one of last year’s best films, Warrior, where the fighting worked as a metaphor for something greater, which transcended the brutal act of beating each other mercilessly. No, Goon is just about cheering on the senseless violence the sport is known for while ignoring the actual playing of the sport itself. Eventually, you’ll learn a playoff berth is on the line for Doug’s team, but the movie seems so uninterested in their actual record that you have no choice but to reciprocate the feeling. So while his fighting is supposed to mean something greater to the team and the players on it, it instead simply feels unnecessary.

The violence is brutally depicted and glorified to the point of sickness, made all the more so since, as mentioned, the story about glory through fighting is so bare. There’s no momentum to it and no true character arc; Doug ends the movie just about the same way he began it, albeit with a swollen eye and numerous lacerations. There’s so little going on here, even in its brief 85 minute runtime (sans the credits), that the filmmakers threw in a flimsy, poorly developed schoolboy crush side story with a random girl he meets named Eva (Alison Pill) that exists only so someone will actually care about him in his time of need, since his parents are only in two scenes total, working as the obligatory villains who aren’t proud of him, and with good reason—they don’t want to see him make a living off brutalizing others. Clearly his parents are being unreasonable.

Goon also boasts ugly cinematography and horrible editing, with so many obvious jump cuts you’ll swear the copy of the film you’re watching is missing bridging shots. It’s nice to see Seann William Scott break his usual typecasting as the outgoing, crazy character—he’s timid (at least when he’s not fighting) and not so quick with the tongue here—but simply accepting a role that’s different than your norm isn’t enough to make a good movie. There has to be some meat to it, some type of theme or meaning to hold everything together. Goon has nothing of the sort and it’s a complete waste of time.

Goon receives 1/5

Friday
Sep232011

Moneyball

A couple weeks ago, we were treated to Warrior, a sports drama that broke the mold of a typical sports drama and became something more. Hot on its heels is this week’s Moneyball, a movie that, similarly, hopes to break new ground in the genre by focusing more on what goes on behind the scenes rather than on the field. It’s written by Aaron Sorkin, screenwriter of last year’s best picture, The Social Network, directed by Bennett Miller, director of Capote, framed by Wally Pfister, cinematographer of The Dark Knight, and it features a terrific cast of Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Its resume is second to none and although it’s a technically sound film, it nevertheless tells an inconsequential story, one that will likely have people asking when it’s over: that’s it?

Moneyball tells the true story of Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), the general manager for the Oakland Athletics, when he attempted to wrangle up a championship team despite a tiny budget during the 2002 baseball season. To do so, he enlisted the help of Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), an Ivy League graduate who explained to him that the owners of Major League Baseball teams are trying to buy players when they should be buying wins. He believes there are undervalued players out there that are overlooked because of trivial matters like body type or play style. He thinks, despite a lack of money, they can find 25 men worthy of calling themselves a ball club.

Moneyball can be viewed a number of different ways, though none of them are particularly interesting. One way can be as a traditional sports story about defying expectations—after all, this ragtag group of players ended up setting the record for most consecutive wins in a single season—but defying expectations meant making it to the playoffs, where the team lost in the first round, making a movie adaptation about them questionable. Another way would be as a story about a man who changed the way the game was played, or, more specifically, how managers recruited players, but that’s a tidbit that is interesting as a footnote in a sports book, not as a full length feature film. You could also see it as a film about a man overcoming his emotional struggles, but even that proves to be uninteresting because his struggle stems solely from baseball. They don’t come from a meaningful outside factor like in the aforementioned Warrior; they come from not winning games, which is hardly a struggle at all.

The best sports dramas aren’t about the sport, they’re about something else. Remember the Titans, for example, was about a social divide brought on from racism. The Express similarly dealt with race relations, chronicling the story of the first African American Heisman Trophy winner, an accomplishment that meant more than the sport itself. Moneyball is simply about baseball, that’s it. While not necessarily a bad thing, its insignificance can’t help but show through when compared to other films in the genre.

There needed to be a reason to care about Billy and his team, but none is ever presented. He’s a divorcé, a situation ripe for emotional turmoil, but only one scene exists between him and his ex-wife and, as far as the viewer can tell, their post-marriage relationship is fine. He too has a good relationship with his daughter, shown through scenes that prove to be the only gripping moments away from baseball. In his family life, nothing seems to be eating away at him. The film tries to create a connection between his desperate need for success by tying it in with flashbacks from his failed professional career, seemingly wanting to make up for the fact that he never lived up to expectations as a player, but again, it’s not fleshed out enough and the connection gradually diminishes until there’s nothing left.

Moneyball is a baseball lover’s movie. If you don’t know what an RBI is or are uninterested in the player trading process or don’t care about the likelihood of a player getting a hit based on the pitches he swings at, this movie may not be for you. Because the process used to recruit the players is based on an old algorithm, there is a lot of statistical talk, which many will find dry and boring. I played baseball as a kid and watch it today, so I found it somewhat interesting, but these talks are as deep as this movie gets, which is a problem considering its pretentiousness in thinking it is so much more. It’s still worth seeing because of the great performances, top notch cinematography and gripping dialogue, but it’s simply too shallow to make an impression.

Moneyball receives 2.5/5