Can hockey fights be funny? Goon says “yes”
by Jorge Ignacio Castillo
OPENS FRIDAY 24
There's just something entertaining about hockey movies. Even the bad ones (Youngblood, Score) are watchable, if only because we can snicker about the implausibility of certain plays.
Obviously, the pace and the passion of hockey are great on film. So are (sorry, but it's true) the broken teeth and blood.
The comedy Goon displays all of the above, although it deals specifically with the latter two elements. Goon celebrates hockey's working class players - guys with no real puck skills or skating ability who can definitely give and take a punch.
Seann William Scott (of American Pie fame) plays Doug Glatt, a gentle man with powerful fists, protective instincts and the IQ of Forrest Gump. Even though he can barely stand on skates, Glatt is intimidating enough to keep rivals at bay, allowing the rest of his team to do wonderful things with the puck.
His fame gets the attention of Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber, in full-on Broad Street Bully mode), the biggest goon of all in this particular league. Rhea is nearing retirement but he can't leave the game without fighting this young upstart. The inevitable scuffle is easily the most cringe-worthy scene I've seen in a hockey movie.
The team behind Goon's cameras is a veritable who's-who of contemporary Canadian filmmaking. There's director Michael Dowse (the FUBAR saga, It's All Gone Pete Tong) and screenwriters Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg (Superbad).
Dowse was more than happy to answer questions on just about anything (including his contentious Hollywood movie Take Me Home Tonight). What he wouldn't do was apologize for all the fighting in Goon - or for lines like, "I have two rules: stay away from my Percocet; and, do you have any Percocet?"
Goon doesn't shy away from showing blood and broken bones, so you had to know that the film would be accused of glorifying violence.
My goal was to show the impact of the punches - to allow the audience to experience a fight, on the ice, as a goon. There are so many films about hockey that aren't that solid, and as a diehard fan I wanted to make something authentic. I love the game, including the hard-hitting aspect of it. I also didn't want to censure what happens inside the locker room. If you watch the HBO show 24/7, you get an idea how funny these guys are.
Did you try t o get the approval of the NHL?
We tried, but we didn't spend a lot of time on it - because they were very clear [in refusing]. To this day, we can't advertise on NHL.com. I understand why.
Considering the ongoing debate about fighti ng in hockey, what do you think the game would lose if it was eliminated?
I'd expect more cheap shots - and it's already happening to a degree with the instigator rule. If the players retain the right to police themselves, I believe the game would be cleaner, in an ironic way. That's something we wanted to do with the film - to cover the code, the sportsmanship of the position. It's not just bravery - you have to be very athletic. It's exhausting to be in a hockey fight.
Based on your experience, what aspect s of the game make it compelling as a movie subject?
The speed of hockey lends itself very well to film - when I was shooting, I made sure that the camera captured how fast the game can be. I also enjoyed running practices and becoming a coach. I educated myself by planning what I thought could be good hockey plays, and then made them richer with the professionals' input.
Casting Liev Schreiber as a veteran hockey enforcer seems risky - regardless of how reliable he normally is.
I talked to him about what we were trying to accomplish, showed him some Bob Probert footage and he jumped on board. Liev took it very seriously: he cultivated a fine Canadian accent; we got him a trainer and he went from barely able to stand on ice to being a pretty smooth skater.
I recently caught Take Me Home Tonight , your "Hollywood" movie. It doesn't look like anything else you've done.
It's different because I wasn't allowed to edit it. That film was taken away from me.
Is FUBAR 3 a possibility?
We've discussed it - maybe having it take the shape of a European concert DVD - but we don't know yet.
Finally, why is the goalie in Goon from Regina?
He was supposed to be a Portuguese guy from Montreal - which is very specific - but the actor, Jon Cherry, was more comfortable with the Prairie accent, so I went with it. Plus, Regina rhymes with "vagina".