Monday, August 13, 2012


Heya kids, long time no see.

It's been busy as hell in Mark world. Trying (in vain, oftentimes) to keep up with my responsibilities as a understudy for the uber-hit Moment at Steep Theatre. Working on scenes for my Meisner class at The Artistic Home. Traveling hours by plane and car to shoot a regional farm product ad in Iowa last week. Finally, beginning Frankenstein rehearsals last night.

I am exhausted. Completely, and I found myself utterly unable to come up with much to write about over the last few weeks. I just wanted to vegetate. That led to my watching a really, really wonderful little film on Netflix instant Saturday night after I got back from the shoot, while I was doing laundry.

Goon is a hockey movie, and hockey is just about the only sport I enjoy watching. There's something about the brutality of the play mixing with the gracefulness of the skating. It's the wonderful dichotomy of how those disparate parts of the game smash into each other. Screenwriters Jay Baruchel (from the short-live TV show Undeclared - he's also in the film) and Evan Goldberg (Superbad, Pineapple Express) get this. They've created one of the best combinations of brutal violence and tender sweetness since Rocky.

I was utterly blown away by how good Seann William Scott, who usually grates on me like sandpaper, was as Doug Glatt, a local bouncer who effortlessly beats the crap out of a player who hurls a homophobic slur. "My brother's gay" he repeats as his fist cracks the player's helmet in half. It's a early, powerful display of how Doug's mind works, which I think it's safe to say isn't much, but loyalty drives him utterly. Family, friends, teammates, Doug appoints himself as protector to all, and his blatant ability to endure, and dish out, pain makes him very good at it.

What's uncanny is how well Scott rides the wave between honestly playing Doug as...well, I'd honestly have to say the character is almost functionally retarded...and making his clarity of vision and purpose, and his huge heart, shine even in the midst of some quite graphic fight sequences. And, make no mistake, the fights are brutal, blood flows liberally, and Director Michael Dowse makes it HURT. even moreso because Scott's Doug is so, so winning, so sweet and open that every bit of punishment he took shook me deeply.

See, when the local coach sees Doug bring down a fully padded player with two punches, he sees an opportunity. He brings our hero onto the team when he can't even skate (he first takes the ice in figure skates), and molds him into a full-fledged enforcer, a "goon," there to endure and inflict damage to protect the "real" players. Everyone treats him like a joke, an ape. Every time he tries to actually play, disaster strikes, and he faces scorn. There's also an extremely painful scene where Doug, proud of his accomplishments, takes his parents (Eugene Levy and Ellen David) to dinner, where they deride his career. After the loyalty we've seen this character display to everyone in his life, it's heartbreaking to see how blind his parents are to it, and he's left with only the loyalty of his brother.

Baruchel plays Doug's best friend Ryan, who hosts an insanely foul mouthed hockey call-in show. He's over the moon with his friend's rising fame. There's also Marc-Andre' Grondin as Xavier LaFlamme, a star player who was badly injured and now holds back from his full potential for fear of further injury. He's Doug's roommate, and spends his time in debauchery that rivals any rock star's.

Alison Pill is Eva, a local "slut" (her words), who is utterly shocked that Doug treats her with respect and love from the moment he meets her. Unfortunately, she also has a boyfriend, who she also apparently cheats on constantly, but something about Doug's unwavering loyalty makes her unable to just screw with him. When she does actually leave her boyfriend for Doug, and we see how our goon "makes it right," I have to admit I teared up. It was absolutely painful, and also absolutely right for the character.

But my favorite supporting performance was Liev Schreiber as Ross Rhea, a veteran enforcer who's career is winding down, and the player who dished out LaFlamme's injury. Schreiber is stunning in a role that could've been a pretty one-note villain. Rhea is much smarter than Doug, much more aware of what his life and job have cost him, and he tries, in his own way, to pass this to the kid.

But, of course....they are on a collision course for each other.

I feel in love with this film. It's violent, crude and unapologetic about it (oh, so NOT for kids), but it also has about the biggest heart I've seen in a film in a long while. The courtship between Doug and Eva is flat-out charming and lovely. The way that Doug almost unknowingly lifts up and inspires the people around him reminded me of the great Being There. The way that the film knits together the brutal and sweet is really impressive.

This is a film that debuted on video on demand, I believe, and only had  the briefest and perfunctory theatrical releases. It did play at the Toronto Film Festival in 2011, but I'm pretty certain it's earned itself a solid place in my top ten of 2012. It, and Seann William Scott's wonderful performance, won my heart.

Highly Recommended.

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