Making a great comedy is widely considered to be one of the hardest challenges in filmmaking. Making a worthwhile sequel to a great comedy is considered almost impossible. Goon: Last of the Enforcers is the rare sequel that works. Not only does the Jay Baruchel directed film rekindle the magic of its predecessor, but it does so while pushing nearly every character in exciting new directions.
Some time has passed since we left Doug ‘the Thug’ Glatt’s (Seann William Scott) team, the Halifax Highlanders. When the film opens the team is experiencing a brief moment of media attention thanks to a pro hockey lockout. Glatt is still considered an unstoppable force on the ice, but opinions begin to change after he loses a fight against newcomer Anders Cain (Wyatt Russell). Faced with news his shoulder will never be the same, not to mention the fact his longtime girlfriend (badass Allison Pill) is pregnant, Glatt must consider his future in a way that is completely new to the hockey sensation.
Last Of The Enforcers is by no means an original film. The story combines elements from Rocky II (learning to fight switch-handed) and Rocky III (birth of first child) to create a new journey that never fully abandons what has already been proven to work for this franchise. The fights are the real spectacle here, with Baruchel upping the violence through gratuitous use of fake blood, but it’s the story itself that will keep audiences glued to the seats. As Glatt begins to reconsider his position in life he turns to his old nemesis, Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber), for advice and guidance. Rhea himself is in a bad place, having fallen so far down the professional ladder that he now makes money fighting other washed up hockey stars for people’s entertainment. Together the two realize they are both capable of more than they initial thought possible, but the path to that self-realization is by no means an easy one.
Scott’s Glatt is as lovable as ever. His childlike understanding of how the world works is challenged in this movie more than the first, and watching him acclimate to his changing reality is something special. That said, Russell’s work as antagonist Anders Cain is something fans of movies about sports will be talking about for some time. There is zero subtlety to his approach, yet somehow he finds a way to consistently up the bar for crazy, brazen behavior as the film progresses. Where the film attempts to produce empathy for characters like Rhea there is no such effort found here. Cain is the villain through and through, even if his own rage is revealed to be somewhat influenced by his father (the owner of Glatt’s team). It’s a fantastic turn from a very funny actor that is just serious enough to make you wonder where his career might head in the future.
Last of the Enforcers marks the directorial debut for Baruchel, who co-write the script with Jesse Chabot. His approach to capture the story is a fairly grounded and straightforward affair, often placing us alongside the Highlanders whose names we never care to learn. One might even go so far as to write off his talent as being merely adequate, if not slightly less so during most hockey sequences, but as previously mentioned the film shines brightest when the focus turns to fighting on the ice. It is in the scenes that Baruchel reveal is a flare for theatrics that is hard to resist. The violence in this film is much grittier than its predecessor, with people spewing blood by the bucketful. Baruchel handles these moments masterfully, building suspense from scenes where the outcome should be obvious to anyone familiar with the franchise and making us root for Glatt once more.
Whether or not Goon: Last of the Enforcers can bring new fans to the franchise remains to be seen. That said, anyone who found themselves quoting the first film for the better part of the last half decade should find more than enough to love with this feature. It’s far from a perfect film, with plot holes and minor inconsistencies that may frustrate those paying close attention, but overall the film recaptures the magic of Goon without repeating past behavior. I would happily sit through a third and final film, but if we never see Glatt again he certainly goes out with a bang here.