Goon (DVD/Blu-Ray) – Dir. Michael Dowse. Starring Seann William Scott, Alison Pill, Jay Baruchel.
Strangely uneven Canadian sports comedy.
Seann William Scott is Doug Glatt, a dimwitted American bouncer whose talent for breaking heads wins him a job as a thug for a minor league Halifax hockey team. His inability to skate, shoot, or carry on a conversation isn’t a problem for coaches and fans who only want to see him bash faces.
Goon features more or less every Canadian actor ever, including genuine and established talent like Eugene Levy, Liev Schreiber, and Kim Coates. It’s slicker, bolder, and a heck of a lot more violent than typical Canadian productions.
But other signs indicate an amateur effort. Editing is sloppy and the filmmakers show a poor grasp of pacing and flow. Scenes are arranged in a slipshod, disconnected fashion, without logical transitions. Characters rush through pages of expository dialog in scenes that appear to end in the middle of conversations. The story resorts to an action montage within the first ten minutes: a time when it should be establishing the basics of its characters and world, not fast-forwarding through them.
The movie at this stage resembles a low-rent knockoff of an Adam Sandler film, although the coarse locker room talk that provides most of its humor still outdoes anything Sandler has offered in years. An awkward love story and a subplot about a fallen hockey star on Glatt’s team are tacky distractions from a mess of a movie whose only worthwhile contribution is a few (admittedly pretty funny) one-liners.
And then, in its second half, Goon undergoes a bizarre transformation. It ditches the slapstick entirely and focuses on telling an authentic sports story. Suddenly Glatt has a goal in sight (a realistic goal for a mediocre team, not the usual championship clichés), an antagonist (Schreiber) with a surprisingly nuanced personality, and some tough questions to ponder about the dignity of his career choice. It’s as though the film’s two writers each picked half of the script to write and never consulted with each other.
The movie ceases to be a comedy almost entirely before the end, and though the humor of its toddler stage might be missed, it’s a far better film in this semi-serious form. Goon is too inconsistent to be a really good product, but it reaches greater heights than its shaky start promises.
Rated R for painfully accurate stereotypes.
3 out of 5
Man on a Ledge (DVD/Blu-Ray) – Dir. Asger Leth. Starring Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Jamie Bell.
I’m a sucker for high concept movies, also known as gimmick movies: the ones where somebody’s drunken barroom story pitch like “a bunch of snakes on a plane” or “a bunch of people stuck in a cube” or “a hobo with a shotgun” somehow makes it all the way through the process of becoming a feature film.
Now, these movies have the obvious downside of being pretty much universally terrible, but I can’t help but root for a story that can be summed up in one sentence.
Enter Man on a Ledge, which is a story about a man on a ledge. That man is Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington), a former cop convicted of a felony who has decided that the best way to prove he is innocent of that crime is to commit a whole heap of even worse crimes. Threatening to jump from a high-rise hotel in front of a crowd of New Yorkers is just a part of that brilliant plan.
And that’s really the problem with Man on a Ledge: it’s afraid to commit to its concept. In its early scenes, when we are shown Cassidy stepping out onto the ledge without any context or explanation, the film cultivates an exciting air of intrigue. The mystery becomes more tantalizing as a police negotiator (Elizabeth Banks) tries and fails to pry Cassidy’s motivations out of him, all while we know hardly more than she does.
That’s when the story runs out of ideas, or courage, and abandons all of this completely.
Man on a Ledge, believe it or not, is actually a diamond heist movie; the ledge plot amounts to little more than a ploy for attention that ties into the real plot in only the faintest and most contrived way possible. The story, in fact, would work just as well (that is to say not particularly well) without any ledges, windows, or steep slopes at all.
Man on a Ledge in the end is just another ridiculous and nonsensical action movie. If it had remained true to its premise, there’s a good chance it would have been bad, but it would have been bad with dignity.
Rated PG-13 for scary heights.
2.5 out of 5