Film Review: “Goon: Last of the Enforcers”

Starring: Seann William Scott, Wyatt Russell and Liev Schreiber
Directed by: Jay Baruchel
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hr 41 mins
Momentum Pictures

In 2011, a small budget comedy written by actor Jay Baruchel and Seth Rogen’s long-tine partner, Evan Goldberg, called “Goon” attracted itself a small following. The story of Doug Glatt, a man whose IQ level is so low it leads him to become an enforcer in pro hockey, had its funny moments. Not sure if anyone was clamoring for a sequel but one has arrived. And it’s not too bad.

The NHL is on strike, which means more attention is being paid to the minor league teams, including Halifax Highlanders. Doug (Scott) is now the team’s captain, and each night he leads them onto the ice. He also leads the team in penalty minutes. It seems Doug is still a goon – picking a fight with anyone he sees. However this year things have changed. There’s a new black-hat in the league, Anders Cain (Russell) who is not only big and bad but is the son of the Highlander’s team owner. One night out on the ice Doug and Anders throw down, with Doug being seriously injured. With a new wife and a baby on the way, Doug decides to retire, thinking he can skate away from the game he loves. But it’s never easy to walk away.

Well cast and smartly written, “Goon: Last of the Enforcers” is built on different relationships. Doug and his teammates. Doug and his wife. Anders and his father. They all play a part in the story. And the cast help pull these relationships off. Scott has always been able to play the dense guy who just doesn’t get it but here he give Doug (or, as he signs his name, “Dug”) a quiet sweetness that keeps you rooting for him. And as much as you want to hate him, you also quietly root for Anders. It’s obvious that he’s only playing the game the way he does to earn some recognition from his father, a one-time hockey star. The violence he dispenses is his way of asking for attention. I had the opportunity to meet Wyatt Russell last year and he is a pretty good sized guy. He was also a hockey player (he was a goalie) so I can imagine it was fun for him to be outside the pipes and facing off on the ice. Schreiber seems to be having fun with his role as former enforcer Ross Rhea who, like Doug, finds himself reliving the old days by participating in local “hockey nights.” It should be noted that no hockey is played at these events. It’s just fighting match-ups, with the winner moving on to the next guy.

First-time feature director Baruchel shows a keen eye for keeping the film moving and his cameras have managed to capture the best part of ice hockey – the speed in which the game flows.

If I have a problem with the film it’s with the amount of blood that is shed during the on-ice battles. Most hockey fights consist of one guy grabbing another guy’s sweater, pulling it up over his head and giving him a few shots to the head. Those pale in comparison to the violence here, where teeth are lost and gallons of blood are spilled. Oh, and also TJ. Miller has an unfunny, recurring gig as a “Sportcenter” style host. I wish I knew who in Hollywood he had naked pictures of because I’d steal them back and return them if it meant I never had to endure him again in a film.

Film Review: “Chuck”

Starring: Liev Schreiber, Elisabeth Moss and Jim Gaffigan
Directed by: Philippe Falardeau
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hr 36 mins
IFC Films

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

A couple of weeks ago I came across a scrapbook I put together when I was 14 and living in Cleveland. The big news, apparently, was the opening of the Coliseum in Richfield, Ohio. Elton John was there. Many windows were broken when a riot broke out during Led Zeppelin. And, on March 24, 1975, little-known club fighter Chuck Wepner fought the great Muhammad Ali for the Heavyweight Championship of the World.

“Who cared about me a month ago? Nobody!”

This quote, from the film “Rocky,” opens the new film about Chuck Wepner (Schreiber, absolutely losing himself in the role). Known as the “Bayonne Bleeder,” a nickname the New Jersey native dislikes, Wepner is popular in the ring because he can take a punch. He is so popular that he has been told her will receive a shot at the title once Champion George Foreman defeats Ali in Zaire at the famed “Rumble in the Jungle.” Ali won his belt back in Africa but he decides to give a “white” guy a shot at the title. And that white guy is Chuck Wepner.

If you’ve ever seen Chuck Wepner on a talk show, you know the man is always “on.” Here he is no different. Schreiber plays him with a confidence that’s off the charts. Yet he still manages to exude the sadness inside, which Wepner feels whenever his wife (Moss) or others are disappointed by him. Things begin to look up after the film “Rocky” is released, with Wepner being hailed by the press as “the real Rocky.” He begins to associate himself so much with the film that, the night after “Rocky” took home the Academy Award for Best Picture, he is telling people that “We” won the Oscar. However, things begin to slowly unravel, both in his marriage and his life, giving Wepner one more fight to win.

As mentioned above, Schreiber is outstanding as the title character, but he also has a great supporting cast, including Ron Perlman as trainer Al Braverman, Michael Rappaport as his brother, John, and Pooch Hall as Ali. Wepner even has some interaction with Sylvester Stallone himself, played by Morgan Spector, auditioning for a role in “Rocky II.”

As a final note, I’ll add that Stallone has never said he based Rocky on Wepner. He has said that he saw the Ali/Wepner fight and alluded to it when “Rocky” was released. However, as he continued to make more Rocky films, he distanced himself from the Wepner-inspired story. In 2003, Wepner sued Stallone for basically using his story for financial gain. The case was settled in 2006.