Some sequels are a natural extension of what has come before. Others are an exercise in assembling nearly all of the cast from the previous film and finding ways to cram them into a new movie whether it feels right or not. The 2011 Goon worked in so many ways—as a raunchy comedy, a sports film, and an observational piece about the Canadian obsession with hockey, the rougher the better. But Goon: Last of the Enforcers feels like retreading the first film as an over-the-top comedy that does a great disservice to its beloved thuggish heroes. Still the passion project of actor Jay Baruchel (who again co-wrote the screenplay and directs the film), this time around the scary parts of sports life rear their ugly heads.
Thanks to an NHL lockout, the original members of the Halifax Highlanders are back together and back in the spotlight, although not doing nearly as well as they were several years ago. Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott) is now team coach, but is challenged both physically and mentally by an absolute death machine opponent on the ice, Anders Cain (an impressively nasty Wyatt Russell), who just happens to be the son of the Highlanders owner (Callum Keith Rennie). Anders beats the bejesus out of Doug, landing him in the hospital and effectively ending his hockey career. To shore up the team, the owner brings Anders on as team captain, and the team is ready to mutiny against the asshole on skates, who effectively ignores them all during games and is a one-man scoring machine. While the team does win more games, morale is at an all-time low.
While in recovery, Doug gets a desk job to satisfy his wife Eva’s (Alison Pill) worries about getting hit again. But he sneaks out at night to train to punch left handed (his right arm’s injury never heals right) from his former foe Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber), a fellow retired enforcer who is now making money in what are essentially on-ice boxing matches with other former hockey players. Quite a few other familiar faces pop up, including Eva’s best friend Mary (Elisha Cuthbert), Doug’s disgusting cousin Pat (Baruchel), the Highlanders coach Ronnie (Kim Coates), and even a sportscaster gone rogue, played by T.J. Miller, who provides a few amusing lines here and there, but zero sustained, knowing laughs like the first film provided.
In fact, most of the funniest lines are throwaway comments, some of which barely register unless you’re actually listening carefully. The bigger jokes often fall flat, and while there is a certain amount of comedy in players just tearing into each other playfully or pranking each other or the other team, so much of it feels familiar and doesn’t land. My bigger problems are with the characterization of Doug, who is a terrible husband, lying to his wife about training again, forgetting the most important thing: she’s a cool wife and would work with him to compromise because she’d understand how miserable he was working a desk job. It’s as if the filmmakers don’t give their own team enough credit for carrying slightly heavier emotional weight through this film, and that’s a shame because Seann William Scott has occasionally proven himself capable of doing just that in his career.
I’m sure those who worship the first film will find more to like in Last of the Enforcers than I did, but after six years, it felt anticlimactic to be met with little more than broadly drawn heroes and villains, a barely acknowledged relationship drama, and several characters in search of moments to pop their heads in and crack wise. Baruchel’s passion is still present and appreciated, but he’s capable of so much more, especially as a first-time feature director. He shoots, but he doesn’t quite score.
The film opens today in the Chicago area at the Classic Cinemas Charlestowne 18 in St. Charles.