GOON: LAST OF THE ENFORCERS: An Inside Hockey Sports Comedy
Jay Baruchel steps behind the camera for cult sports comedy sequel Goon: Last Of The Enforcers, and forgets what makes the original special.
Goon: Last of the Enforcers sees director, writer, and actor Jay Baruchel applying a second chapter to his 2011 hit sports comedy Goon. Starring Seann William Scott once again as the dimwitted minor league ice hockey enforcer Doug “The Thug” Glatt, Baruchel pulls from a roster of surprisingly well-rounded cast of characters in the making of a second act that sees Doug facing a brutal end to a short career. After sustaining severe injuries during a fight with competing enforcer Anders Cain (Wyatt Russell), Doug leaves his position as the newly appointed captain of the Halifax Highlanders while in rehab at the behest of his pregnant wife Eva (Alison Pill).
While Doug is forced to find a more stable job as an insurance salesman working in the bowels of bureaucracy, the Halifax Highlanders face a losing streak that results in team owner Hyrum Cain (Callum Keith Rennie) – who is the father of competing enforcer Anders Cain (Russell) – signing his son to the team and forcing the coach (Kim Coates) into making Anders captain.
For all of its scurrilous bluster, bloody knuckles, and sophomoric humor, Goon: Last of the Enforcers is a less worthwhile successor to its predecessor. Without the help of co-writer Evan Goldberg, Baruchel and Jesse Chabot have done a minor disservice to what made the original movie an unexpected cult hit. In developing another ode to ice hockey, Baruchel loses sight of his audience in recreating some of the deeper cuts from sports history.
Taking direct inspiration from real life exhibition events, Goon: Last of the Enforcers grapples with the continuing controversy surrounding violence in professional hockey. Specifically, the film examines the very real ramifications of the kind of fisticuffs most frequently engaged in by enforcers hired by minor and senior league teams. Like Doug Smith – whose autobiography and career helped inform the character portrayed in the film by Seann William Scott – enforcers have long been brought into hockey industry for the ability to take a beating. Oftentimes lacking in any overt grace on the ice, enforcers were expected to beat themselves to death in gladiatorial combat.
In Goon, a lot of the physiological damage that goes into the making of an enforcer is glossed over in service of a feel-good sports comedy, a la Slap Shot from 1977. In Goon: Last of the Enforcers, the very real toll that fighting for sport takes on Doug “The Thug” Glatt (Scott) shows its true colors.
After being beaten to bloody pulp that puts him in a condition that would bar any other man from returning to the blood spattered ice of the hockey arena, Doug seeks out his old rival and late enforcer extraordinaire from the first film, Ross “The Boss” Rhea (Liev Schreiber). Picking up from where they left off in 2011, Goon: Last of the Enforcers revels in the playful camaraderie sustained between Schreiber and Scott.
When viewers are first reunited with Schreiber in Goon: Last of the Enforcers, his is a hardened and down-on-his-luck character. Unlike the glorified fighter from the first movie, Ross “The Boss” Rhea has become the washed up thug that he subconsciously always knew he was to begin with. Forced to fight other has been enforcers in a series of gritty, no holds barred exhibition fights – inspired in part by real life grudge matches of a corresponding intensity – Schreiber plays the same wounded animal from the first movie to far greater rewards.
The Rest of the Team
Contrastingly, Alison Pill reprises her role as Eva to lesser fanfare. Whereas the first movie examined some very real shortcomings in a psychologically complex character beholden to a hefty set of vices, Pill is left with little to do in Goon: Last of the Enforcers. Beyond paying minor lip service to her emotionally integral part from Goon, Baruchel is far more concerned with the immediacy of hockey in round two.
The rest of the cast – which includes returning Halifax Highlanders Marc-André Grondin, Richard Clarkin, Jonathan Cherry, George Tchortov, and Karl Graboshas – also deliver performances that are underserved by the script. Far too often Baruchel tries to provide callbacks to sight gags and recurring one-liners that detract from some of the more dramatically interesting material at hand. When he isn’t doing that, newcomers Elisha Cuthbert, Trent Pardy, and Jason Jones collectively introduce a few new gags to the mix that simultaneously titillate and annoy.
Goon: Last of the Enforcers: Conclusion
Director Michael Dowse brought a healthy dose of subtlety to the proceedings behind the scenes in the making of Goon. Beyond the film’s lurid subject, viewers were graced with the rare sports comedy that was about people who just so happened to be involved in athletic competition. In Goon: Last of the Enforcers, Baruchel turns in a directorial debut that teems with untapped potential.
Far too often, Baruchel indulges in fanboy adulation, resulting in a movie that feels like it was made for hockey super-fans only. The references that it makes to the contemporary concern over violence in hockey – and the precarious position that certain censorious voices have put the industry under – serves as an inside hockey reference that only the most well-versed sports historians will catch onto without having to seek out a whole host primary sources.
Beyond a few new faces that briefly enliven the mood, Goon: Last of the Enforcers loses sight of the characters that made the first movie so engaging. Played out like the minor league hockey parable that Baruchel was ironically going for, it’s hard to imagine the film leaving as serious an imprint in the minds of general moviegoers that Goon continues to conjure in its breathless dynamism.
Are you a fan of the sports comedy genre? If so, what did you think of Goon: Last of the Enforcers?
Goon: Last of the Enforcers saw initial theatrical release in the U.S. on September 1, 2017, and is currently available to rent online. Find international release dates here.
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