Released: 8th September 2017
Directed By: Jay Baruchel
Starring: Seann William Scott, Alison Pill
Reviewed By: Van Connor
In much the same manner the first Austin Powers movie found its fan base on home video, so too did the almost-completely overlooked hockey comedy Goon back in 2012. In Goon’s case however, it found its fans through – the then-new-to-the-UK – Netflix, quickly earning itself a modestly-sized cult audience you may well have encountered whenever the question of “whatever happened to that Stifler guy?” comes up down the pub. Now, five years later, Goon finally has itself a sequel, and – as was the case with the Shagadelic one – Last of the Enforcers is a bigger, ballsier, and bruisier effort than its predecessor.
While the first movie took its cues from Rocky – with underdog nobody Doug Glatt (Sean William Scott) finding an unlikely home and arch-nemesis in the world of regional hockey – the sequel instead borrows the basic template of Rocky III. Years on, and now having settled into a comfortable life with his teammates and wife Eva (Allison Pill), Doug faces a new opponent in the form of venomous upstart Anders Cain (hockey player-turned-actor, and son of Kurt, Wyatt Russell). When their first confrontation leaves Doug unable to safely play hockey again, the beaten Goon finds himself stifled by the confines of a 9 to 5 life, a life he turns to former rival Ross Rhea (a returning Liev Schreiber) in order to retrain and find a way back onto the ice.
Though Goon never proved particularly challenging on a narrative level, where it did impress was in its unashamed foul-mouthed comedy and sharp character writing, particularly in Scott’s loveable-but-dim Doug. This time around however, the effort by writer – and first-time feature-helmer Jay Baruchel – instead focuses misguidedly on the plot mechanics of its titular character’s journey, a journey which proves as inherently chucklesome as before, but sorely lacks the warmth that made it such a fan-favourite to begin with.
Thankfully, this doesn’t appear to have phased Scott one iota, with Doug as engaging – though noticeably less deep – a lead as we’ve seen before. With nearly the entire supporting cast also returning – including the mercilessly scene-stealing Kim Coates – but saddled largely with retreads and minor reworkings of gags-gone-by, its down to newcomers Russell, Callum Keith Rennie (the mostly-forgotten “second Ray” from Due South), and Deadpool breakout T.J. Miller to inject something new into this sequel, something all three try with varying levels of success, yet at complete tonal odds with one another. Russell, for example, makes for a delightfully ruthless Clubber Lang stand-in, while Miller’s thinly-sketched and inappropriately foul-mouthed sportscaster never particularly feels like anything more than an eleventh-hour replacement for a presumably-deleted evolution of Baruchel’s now less-present best friend character.
Through all of the laughs however, this scattershot approach by Baruchel feels more and more glaring, presumably a consequence of the typically-solid comedic writer ascending to the directorial role this time around. He can shoot the hell out of a hockey fight, sure, but he does so in the face of a screenplay which drops character-arcs as quickly as it picks them up, and takes thematic diversions to the detriment of the overall story without any real thought of their consequence. Schreiber’s Ross Rhea, for instance, appears to have two entirely different arcs that the screenplay simply shifts between halfway through, with no real closure or completion for either, and the relegation of Pill’s Eva to merely the token nagging wife feels a tremendous disservice to the refreshingly rounded and flawed character she was given last time around.
There are, at least, enough laughs to mostly pave over these glaring structural cracks, and – in the case of a hockey comedy sequel – Last of the Enforcers, almost by default, ranks among the better ones. For a generation raised on Mighty Ducks movies and now facing their thirties, Doug “The Thug” Glatt emerges an unlikely comedic hero. Duller than before, but still charming enough, the Goon still packs a lively and bloody-thirstily amusing punch.
Now, if Doug could somehow find his way to Russia next time…