ENTERTAINMENT ONE (2017)

 

Director: Jay Baruchel

 

Starring: Seann William Scott, Jay Baruchel, Liev Schreiber, Alison Pill, Elisha Cuthbert, Wyatt Russell, Marc-André Grondin, Kim Coates, Callum Keith Rennie

“Holy shit on Mary’s tits”

 

The Goon guys are back, the Halifax Highlanders have returned and so has their legendary enforcer, Doug “The Thug” Glatt. This time, a new batch of characters arrive too to expand the Gooniverse and provide the team with more obstacles to overcome in their rise to the top of the minors. The band is back together, and after the sleeper success of the original, there’s no doubt Last of the Enforcers would be a riot.

 

Sadly, that’s not the case.

Polite pounder Glatt (Scott) has been promoted to captain of the Highlanders to much fanfare, and his status within the team and area has never been higher. With a blackout in pro hockey, an influx of players has joined the minor league to get some game time – including Reading Wolfdogs young, psychotic enforcer Anders Cain (Russell), son of the Highlanders new owner, Hyrum (Rennie). The opening game arrives with the Highlanders facing off against the Wolfdogs and as the game rolls on, Cain provokes Glatt into throwing down the gloves. Younger and dirtier, Cain beats Glatt to a bloody pulp and causes “The Thug” to hang up his skates.

 

Settling for a job as an insurance salesman, Glatt receives more life-changing news – his (now) wife, Eva (Pill), is pregnant with their first child. Not wanting to jeopardize her family’s future, Eva pleads with Doug not to return to hockey and to live a safer, more mundane existence. Doug agrees, but it’s not long before he’s sneaking out to receive southpaw training from his old rival, Ross “The Boss” Rhea (Schreiber), now a fighter in an underground hockey enforcers club.

 

Without Glatt, the Highlanders tumble down the league and Hyrum recruits several overseas players, and his son Anders, in order to turn the tide. With crazy Anders forced in as captain, Doug pushes harder for a return to the team, however, can he risk his health and family life for a return to the rink?

 

With Jay Baruchel taking up the directorial reins for the sequel, Last of the Enforcers at least had some sense of consistency after the departure of original helmer Michael Dowse, but his absence is telling. Whilst Goon could never be accused of being a deep character study, it at least offered some decent character development and relationship building – thanks in part to the writing, directing and acting – but all that seems to be somewhat missing here. Baruchel isn’t a strong enough director to ensure the movies emotional beats hit their marks – the pregnancy reveal, most scenes between Doug and Eva, the insurance salesman arc – and instead focused on bigger, bloodier brawls. Why must the majority of sequels insist on just going bigger? The charm that Goon had laced throughout is lacking here.

 

Seann William Scott is just as affable as he was before, though his character seems to have got dumber since the last movie. That’s the fault of the writers who may claim Doug’s persistent brawls have knocked more brain cells out, but it’s all an attempt to make a goofier Doug even better than before. Scott handles his role well and his performance is commendable. Grondin and Coates are solid once more, and Liev Schreiber is brilliant as the washed-up fighter Ross – prowling the screen like an old warrior of the Westerns. Alison Pill has been reduced to needy nagging wife and makes a total U-turn on her established characterization, Wyatt Russell alternates between convincing and caricature and TJ Miller is just awful in his cameo.

 

The main issue is the narrative and how it is organized. It feels like a bunch of ideas that the team thought would look cool all thrown together with forced stitching to hold it all together. The Highlanders have a shady new owner with a crazy son who joins the team and immediately made captain, Doug retires and has a disjointed arc as a salesman (which seemed forced in to ensure wanking hobo jokes could be included), there’s a pregnancy thread which receives minimal attention, a bit of training between Doug and Ross, including an underground enforcer battle royal, somehow gets him back on the team, ageing Ross then also joins up with the team – there’s a lot going on that seems to exist solely to let the writers fantasies play out rather than benefit the story. The fights are bigger, badder, bloodier and more bruising than before and receive the most attention leading up to the grand battle at the end – hard-hitting is good but it doesn’t cover disappointing writing. The story itself is a rough rehash of the original, as I was watching I realized it followed the same key beats. It’s a shame the writing favoured cruder jokes and bigger bouts as opposed to a bit more finesse with its characters.

 

There are some redeeming moments, a fair few in fact, and the majority involve scenes with Scott and Schreiber. Gone is the respectful young vs old rivalry of Goon, now Ross is the mentor for Doug's last hurrah. Schreiber’s embattled portrayal adds weight to the movie and the scene of the pair in the locker room following their battle royal is poignant and provides the movie's highlight. The constant jibes towards the Highlanders goaltender from the two Russian players continue and, whilst just as churlish, raises some laughs. What both Goon movies do well is know when to end, and Last of the Enforcers goes out on an emotional high, providing a satisfying conclusion and closing Doug’s journey neatly. As with Goon, it must have been tempting to push on for a few extra minutes, but the writers showed good restraint once more.

 

Where Goon was a fine addition to the pantheon of ice hockey movies, unfortunately, Last of the Enforcers doesn’t nestle alongside it. Ditching the warm characterizations in favour of brawls and lewd gags, the movie suffers and comes up short. It’s in no way a terrible movie, it just could have been a lot better. It was great to see the gang back together again, but now it’s time to hang up the skates.

 

Game over.

October 12th 2017

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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