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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



In my review for The Fighter, I began with a simple thought: “If you’ve seen one sports story, you’ve seen them all.” At that point, it seemed true. Though still a good movie, The Fighter was nevertheless overrated. It was predictable and formulaic to a fault, despite some solid performances. It was just like every other sports drama I had seen. But now it appears I’ll be eating those words because Warrior stands apart from the crowd. It’s a unique film in an overabundant genre and it gets nearly everything right. It’s so good, I'm a little tempted to go back and bump all my recent scores down a point because nothing so far this year has come close to matching it. It may be getting the same score as Kung Fu Panda 2 and the last Harry Potter, but make no mistake, Warrior is superior in nearly every way.

The film begins with Tommy (Tom Hardy) sitting on the steps of his father, Paddy’s (Nick Nolte), house. They haven’t seen each other in 14 years, but there’s a reason for that. Paddy was a drunk and it tore the family apart. Tommy has never been able to forgive his father for his past mistakes, despite the fact that he has been sober for over two and a half years, but he is seeking his help anyway. He needs a trainer so he can fight in “Sparta,” a mixed martial arts tournament that is handing over five million dollars to its winner. Meanwhile, his brother, Brendan (Joel Edgerton), with whom he also has bad relations, is having financial problems and cannot pay his mortgage. If he can’t come up with the money soon, the bank is going to take his home. Being a former UFC fighter (and a family man), he can’t let that happen and also enters into the tournament, unaware that he could end up facing Tommy.

Warrior is as gripping a sports drama as any that has come out in recent memory. A big part of that is due to its refusal to follow the typical path sports dramas usually take. Because the two estranged brothers are pitted against each other (a story point that shouldn’t be considered a spoiler given the all too revealing trailers), it gives the film more depth. Their fight is not one of glory or fame and the money is merely a means to an end, to solve whatever problems and battle whatever demons they might be facing. Their fight is one of emotion, an emotion that has been building for many years and for many reasons. This is not a feel good movie where there’s a clear team or person to root for like in Remember the Titans or The Express (or, for that matter, most other similar movies). In Warrior, you are presented with conflicting emotions because both fighters have noble motives, one to protect his family from bankruptcy and the other I’ve deliberately kept mysterious to avoid spoilers. You come to feel for each of them and wish for both to be victorious, but it’s an outcome that is simply impossible.

All of this works because of the actors. Hardy and Edgerton both show the desperation their characters are going through, though one is more an inner turmoil, ashamed of something he has done and wishing to make it right. Their performances bring their characters to life and though they talk a lot about forgiving others, it’s in their mannerisms that you can tell what they really need to do is forgive themselves. The real standout, however, is Nick Nolte in a comeback role for the ages. In recent years, he has done little more than voice work in garbage like Zookeeper and Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore and it’s nice to actually see him in a role that doesn’t require him to hide behind CGI animals. His character is trying to turn things around and wants nothing more than to reconnect with the sons he regretfully neglected so many years ago and his performance is heartbreaking. While this movie deserves a number of nods come awards season, if Nolte isn’t nominated for an Oscar, it should be considered a crime against cinema.

I’m not a fan of mixed martial arts. To me, it’s nothing more than senseless, barbaric violence. It’s a sport that if done in the street will land you in jail, but surround yourself with a cage and suddenly it becomes acceptable. I simply do not understand the fascination of watching two men beat the living daylights out of each other for sport, but that’s what’s so great about Warrior. It’s not about the sport. It’s about the characters. It’s about the drama. It’s about forgiveness. It’s about family. It’s about everything but mixed martial arts. In this movie, MMA is merely a tool used to create deeper meaning, a metaphor for the struggles the characters are going through. You may hate the sport as much as I do, but that shouldn’t stop you from seeing this film. It’s not what you expect—it’s not cheesy like The Blind Side or emotionally manipulative like, well, any other sports drama—it’s raw and real. It’s as gripping as movies get.

Warrior receives 5/5