'Goon: Last of the Enforcers'
A few years ago, the hockey comedy ‘Goon’ proved to be a pleasant surprise by being both disarmingly sweet and disorientingly filthy. Now the sequel has arrived and somehow seems to get everything wrong that the original movie got right.
Even as someone who has absolutely no interest in hockey, I have to admit that 2011’s ‘Goon‘ was a goddamn delight. Based on an autobiography and a shared love of ‘Slap Shot’ and compound swear words, the movie delivered a devilish mix of shock comedy, romantic comedy, and sports comedy that gleefully avoided all those genres’ various clichés. The cast was far better than most movies of this ilk and director Michael Dowse (‘Fubar’, ‘It’s All Gone Pete Tong’) knew exactly how to make it feel cinematic without diluting the laughs.
While all the original actors returned for the sequel, unfortunately co-writer/co-star Jay Baruchel has turned it into a directorial vanity project. Well, perhaps that’s unfair. Even though Baruchel took over writing and directing duties himself this round, ‘Goon 2’ feels like a sequel desperately struggling to justify its own existence. The last movie felt like a story the filmmakers were passionate about. This one plays like a project everyone knew they could get financed and didn’t particularly care about beyond that.
Seann William Scott returns as Doug Glatt, the hockey enforcer with a heart of gold. Everything seems great up front. He’s just been promoted to team captain and everyone loves him, including his former nemesis (Marc-André Grondin) and especially his wife (Alison Pill). But since sports movies and comedies require adversity to overcome, that all goes away quickly. Doug is brutally beaten in a game by a new minor-league hockey tough guy named Anders Cain (Wyatt Russell) and left so injured that the team is forced to drop him. (To add insult to that injury, the team replaces him with Cain and starts losing oh so many games.) Doug is forced to take a crappy day job with a crappy boss. The team falls apart without his charming presence. His marriage gets a little strained. Nothing seems right. Then he runs into his old enforcer partner (Liev Schreiber) in a pathetic traveling hockey fight league and realizes that he might be able to redeem his career and save his team through hockey violence. Or something like that.
The script for ‘Goon: Last of the Enforcers’ is a muddled mess of competing sequel ideas that Baruchel never quite settles on. Is this movie about the team making the playoffs, Doug learning to live after hockey, the lowly life of minor league hockey failure, the joys of hockey violence, the painful after-effects of hockey violence, intergenerational family abuse, or how funny dick jokes are? Somehow, the sequel is about all of these things and none of them, bouncing between themes and subplots with little rhyme, reason or cohesion. The script feels like it was several drafts away from actually being ready to shoot, but the money was there so everyone assumed they could figure out the focus as they went along.
As a result, any semblance of the narrative clarity or heart from the original movie disappears. The convoluted plot merely exists to shove character who were popular from the last movie (plus a few new additions such as T.J. Miller and Callum Keith Rennie) together to swear a bunch in the name of comedy. The jokes rarely land. Baruchel’s approach to comedy seems to be to tell his actors to add more “fucks” to the dialogue assuming that’ll make every line funnier. More often than not, it’s just grating.
As a director, Baruchel does what he can with the horrible script he co-wrote. He has a glossy visual style that’s quite nice, but without the grinding grit that Michael Dowse brought to the original none of it feels remotely real or relatable. He also clearly let the actors improvise constantly, mostly leading to sluggish and endless scenes of performer indulgence. The whole thing feels shaggy and overdone, piling on all the worst qualities of the overly-improvised state of modern mainstream comedy.
It’s sad, because the cast is fantastic. When Liev Schrieber or Allison Pill gets a decent scene to play, it’s easy to remember the sense of pained realism that slipped in between the filth comedy and sports drama last time. By the time ‘Goon 2’ stumbles toward a clichéd “against the odds” final game climax, it feels like Baruchel didn’t quite get the appeal of the first movie at all. ‘Goon’ went out of its way to avoid all the tiresome sports movie clichés that can make the last act of this sequel a painful sit.
More than anything else, ‘Goon: Last of the Enforcers’ proves that not every successful or cult movie deserves a sequel. The original ‘Goon’ was a little miracle that served as a platonic ideal of R-rated sports comedy bliss. Ambitions were generic in form, yet high in content. It worked in every way. The sequel is a big sloppy mess that fails to live up to the original and gets wrong so many things that the last movie got right.
No one who enjoyed ‘Goon’ will get anything other than frustration out of the sequel, and even those who disliked the original movie are likely to hate this one even more.