There is one element that distinguishes a "great" sports movie from a "good" sports movie. It's "the feel". It doesn't matter if the movie is about baseball, basketball, football or hockey. If it doesn't smack of authenticity you might as well flip over to a live game. "The Natural" had the feel of baseball and for hockey "Slapshot" has always been the template for the great hockey movie. I happily add "Goon" to that rarefied space.
As far as movie making goes, it has all the right stuff. The acting is convincing and solid, the jokes are funny and there is lots of on-ice action. But the defining feature of this film is that it feels real. It feels like these are real guys playing a real game in front of real fans. True hockey fans will get the in jokes, wince at the ankle injury, relate to the dressing room banter, and feel tempted to yell "head's up" when the bad guy starts to take a run at the little guy.
The key scene is, of course, the final showdown between "good goon" and "bad goon". We know it's coming, but sometimes we know the NHL fights are inevitable, as the tough guys line up before the face-off and start jabbering. The build-up is just as visceral in "Goon", and when they finally drop the gloves it reminded me of that great final shoot-out scene in "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly", as the guys do the pre-fight strip tease and wait for other to draw first.
I will risk the wrath of my fellow hockey fans who have grown up worshipping at the church of "Slapshot". It was a great movie, although a bit long. I found "Goon" to be more entertaining, as authentic and more believable. Nice work guys!