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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Goon

May 27th, 2012

Goon - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-ray, or Blu-ray Combo Pack

There are a lot of people who described Goon as the best hockey movie since Slap Shot. Although it is not all that impressive when you look into it, as there haven't been a whole lot of hockey movies made in the past 35 years. Only one of them, Miracle, is both well-known and earned good reviews. (The Rocket is the best hockey movie of the last three decades, but very few people have seen it.) On the other hand, Goon certainly has a lot more in common with Slap Shot, but can it live up to that film's legacy? And is the DVD or Blu-ray worth picking up?

The Movie

We meet Doug Glatt on the job. He's security in a local bar, meaning he checks IDs, removes drunks, even removes the trash, literally. You would think they would have someone low level to do that. On the other hand, his family are super smart. Both his father and his brother are doctors, making him the black sheep of the family. He's a little depressed that he's adult, but not really. He has nothing going on in his life to prove he's a grown up. Even his best friend, Pat Houlihan, has a local public access TV show about hockey, while Doug has a dead end job. To cheer up his friend, Pat takes Doug to the local minor league hockey game.

The game turns out to be a violent affair, and when Pat taunts one of the opposing players, he first uses a homophobic slur, which gets Doug upset. (Doug's brother is gay.) And when the player climbs over the glass to get Pat, Doug steps up to defend his friend, and his brother's sexuality, and proceeds to pummel the opposing player. It's such an impressive fight that Pat has Doug as a guest on his hockey show the next night. Not only that, but the coach of the Orangetown Assassins, Rollie Hortense, calls into the show and offers Doug a chance to try out for the team.

Doug of course agrees to tryout, even though he doesn't know how to play hockey. He can barely skate. Rollie's willing to put in long hours helping him skate better, while Pat shows him tape of Ross Rhea, the greatest fighter currently playing the game, to give him strategies to win a fight on ice. A couple of training montages later, and Doug can actually play the game, not well enough to score goals, but well enough to get called up to an NHL affiliate team, the Halifax Highlanders, who are coached by Ronnie Hortense, Rollie's brother. He's going to Halifax to help protect Xavier LaFlamme, a one-time top prospect whose career was sidelined after a brutal concussion he suffered after being hit by Ross Rhea. After Xavier recovered from his concussion, he became timid on the ice and more afraid of getting hit than motivated to make the right play. Hopefully if Doug can protect his back, he can get his career back on track.

It's going to be tough, as the Halifax Highlanders are more than a little dysfunctional and they are on a massive losing streak when Doug arrives. Not only is Xavier afraid to get hit, he's simply stopped caring about the game and spends more time partying with drugs and women. He's not happy that Doug's there to babysit him, even after Doug protects some of his teammates. He's even less happy when Doug starts to get along with the other players and earn some real playing time. Things get more complicated when Ross Rhea is sent to the minors after serving a 20-game suspension for a brutal high stick in the NHL. The man who may have ended Xavier's major league career is winding down his career and the two teams will be playing before the season ends. When they do, everyone expects an epic fight.

There's one last plot thread in the film, and that begins when Doug meets Eva. Eva is a hockey groupie, but I mean that in the nicest way. Doug falls in love with her instantly, and while Eva clearly likes him, she's in a long-distance relationship.

There are more details than that, but we are really getting into spoiler territory now.

So how is the movie? This movie has what I would consider the best hockey action in a movie, ever. The director, Michael Dowse, really captured the spirit of the game. This is a lot harder that it would seem and many sports movies have really suffered by not understanding how to capture the essence of the sport on film. They also captured the, how to put this, the baser elements of the game. This includes the most violence in a hockey movie since Slap Shot, as well as... let's call it "colorful" language. Jay Baruchel's character alone curses enough times to give this film a hard R-rating.

However, while the movie has all the fighting and swearing you need for three such films, it also has a lot more heart. While Doug makes his living beating people up, he's generally a really nice guy. His kindness even extends to some of the fights. In one game he fights an opposing player played by Georges Laraque, who was a real life hockey player known more for his physical play than his scoring touch. In the movie, he plays a fellow goon like Doug. But when they fight, they are both cordial about the affair. And finally Doug and Eva have really good chemistry together. She's not just a love interest thrown into the movie to pad out the running time and one more complication to the film. She's an important part of the film.

There are some negative aspects to the movie. For instance, the script does have more than a few clich├ęs thrown into the mix. Some of these are practically unavoidable for a film like this. (Has there been a sports movie without a training montage?) Plus, I will admit the violence and the language could be a real barrier for some moviegoers. That said, this is a must own for any fan of hockey.

The Extras

Extras start with an audio commentary track with the director, Michael Dowse, and the co-writer, producer, and actor, Jay Baruchel. They have a lot of fun and offer plenty of behind-the-scenes info and add another level to the quality of the film. Power Play Clips is 45 minutes of behind-the-scenes clips, interviews, etc. There are 30 clips, so each of them are mostly very short, but you do get quite a varied look at the making of the film. Next up are six deleted scenes with a total running time of 9 minutes. There are also close to six minutes outtakes. Seann William Scott and Jay Baruchel sit down for a 30-minute interview. Like the audio commentary track, there's a great mix of energy and information. There is also the standard 5-minute HDNet: Look At. There's an audition tape for Jonathan Cherry, who played Marco Belchier. There's a faux instructional video by Pat Houlihan offering advice on how to fight. Finally, there are several hockey cards for the characters in the movie, and not just the players.

The film's technical presentation is good, but not great. It's a low-budget film, so don't expect a lot of flash when it comes to the video. There's nothing wrong with it, no compression issues, no digital manipulation, but the detail level is only good, and not stunning. The details and colors tend to be better during the hockey scenes than during the outdoor nighttime scenes, for instance, but overall it is a solid but unspectacular film visually. The audio is better with lots of activity in the surround sound speakers during the hockey games, which adds to the overall feel.

The DVD costs $16 while the Blu-ray costs just $19, which is a good deal. The Blu-ray Combo Pack is $25, so it is only worth it if you think $6 is a good deal for an additional copy on DVD and Digital Copy.

The Verdict

Goon is easily the best hockey movie since Slap Shot. In fact, it might be better than Slap Shot. For a lot of fans of the sport, that's almost a sacrilegious thing to say, but I would put forth that argument. There are a lot of extras on the DVD and Blu-ray, but I'm not sure if the Blu-ray Combo Pack is a better deal over just the Blu-ray. Regardless, this film is a contender for Pick of the Week.

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