“Goon,” a new hockey comedy in the vein of “Slap Shot,” introduces a refreshing and hilarious character, Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott, at his very best), also known as “Thug.”
Like many great comic characters, he’s a walking contradiction. He’s incredibly tough and extremely good at beating people up — but his actions come from a place of supreme peace.
When he pummels someone into submission, there’s no hate, anger or vengeance. It’s just a skill he has mastered and performs with Zen-like concentration. He sometimes even apologizes to his victims.
He’s not very bright, but even in his ignorance, there’s a kind of bliss. And because he’s unable to return any kind of verbal insult, difficult tense situations are diffused.
As “Goon” begins, Doug works as a bar bouncer, who beats up an actual player at a hockey game. The act does not go unnoticed, and he gets an offer to join the local team.
But his job does not involve actually touching a puck. He beats up offending opponents, and then calmly takes his place in the penalty box.
Of course, he rises through the ranks, moving up to a bigger league and eventually to semistardom.
In any other movie, the plot would lead up to the “big game,” but the screenplay — by writer Evan Goldberg (“Superbad”) and actor Jay Baruchel — instead focuses on that most noble of causes: true love.
When Doug sees Eva (Alison Pill) in a bar, his world stops. In his limited capacity, he can only tell her how beautiful she is. For her part, Eva is turned on by brutal hockey players and cheats on her boyfriend with Doug, creating a sticky situation.
Before the movie ends, Doug must also fight veteran player Ross Rhea (an excellent Liev Schreiber) on the ice. The clash is not about justice, hatred or revenge; it’s simply inevitable. They both know they are going to fight, and they both agree to it.
Director Michael Dowse, who also made the party movie “Take Me Home Tonight,” creates a kind of grungy, funky universe, one in which a creature like Doug could slowly evolve.
While Dowse makes the common mistake of dropping the humor a few degrees while wrapping up the plot, the characters in “Goon” are so pure and honest, the movie sails through on momentum, like a well-placed slap shot.
Starring Seann William Scott, Jay Baruchel, Alison Pill, Liev Schreiber
Written by Jay Baruchel, Evan Goldberg · Directed by Michael Dowse
Running time 1 hour 32 minutes