GOON: LAST OF THE ENFORCERS

Producer: Andre Rouleau, David Gross and Jay Baruchel
Director: Jay Baruchel
Writer: Jay Baruchel and Jesse Chabot
Stars: Seann William Scott, Alison Pill, Marc-Andre Grondin, Liev Schreiber, Wyatt Russell, Kim Coates, Elisha Cuthbert, Jay Baruchel, Callum Keith Rennie, Jonathan Mark Cherry, George Tchortov, Karl Graboshas, Trent Pardy, Richard Clarkin, Larry C. Woo, Jason Jones, Ellien David, Curt Keilbeck, T.J. Miller, James Duthie and David Paetkau
Studio:  Momentum Pictures

C-

The 2011 hockey comedy “Goon” was unexpectedly bright, with an ingratiating lead performance by Seann William Scott. Six years later, however, despite the return of virtually all the original cast—and the fact that Jay Baruchel’s Pat, the first film’s most irritating character, has much less screen time on this go-round (though the actor takes on directing duty to compensate)—this sequel fails to score the hoped-for goal. In fact, it doesn’t even come close to the net.

Williams is again Doug Glatt, now the long-time enforcer for the Halifax Highlanders, the guy who pummels any opposing player who hurts his teammates, and has just been appointed team captain. He seems even dimmer this time around—at one point even explaining what a hot dog is—though still an extraordinarily nice guy, even apologizing while he’s beating up some helpless victim.

Unfortunately he more than meets his match in Anders Cain (snarling Wyatt Russell), the enforcer for an opposing team, who clobbers him so badly during a rink altercation that his career is ended. He takes a job at an insurance agency where he’s welcomed effusively by a goofy boss (an almost gruesomely unfunny bit by Jason Jones).

Doug’s pregnant wife Eva (Allison Pill) is happy with the change, but Doug certainly isn’t, especially after the Highlanders’ sleazy owner Hyrum (Collum Keith Rennie) hires Cain, who happens to be his son, as Doug’s replacement—and forces the coach to name him team captain as well. So despite the fact that doctors have warned him that taking another swing with his injured right shoulder might permanently wreck his arm, Doug persuades veteran enforcer Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber) to train him to fight with his left, and comes back to the team after Anders has been dismissed by his ruthless dad for failing to inspire his teammates—and overdoing the violence. You would have to be as dull-witted as Glatt not to know that a showdown between the two men is inevitable.

This scenario isn’t terribly promising to begin with, but Baruchel and his new co-writer Jesse Chabot (who replaces Evan Goldberg in that slot) have failed to leaven it with much humor beyond a raunch-for-raunch’s sake variety. One might think that the reduction in Pat’s screen time would help, but it doesn’t because to compensate George Tchortov and Karl Graboshas get more as the extra-crude Russian brothers on the team. Then there’s Jones, who seems to have improvised many of his scenes, with ghastly result.

To add to the flat feel, Barushel emphasizes the violence-on-the-ice quotient over the comic element. Not only does the balance of elements feel off, but the fights are so bloody and nasty that they invite cringing. Tonally, the ice proves so slippery that the movie never finds its footing, and the training sequences, backed by triumphant borrowed music, are especially trying intrusions. Needless to say, everything ends in a big final game on which the whole season depends

Nor does Scott redeem the movie. In the first picture, Glatt was a likable lug one could sympathize with. Here, he’s a stooge who’s lost his charm. The same downward trajectory is true of Pill, who’s reduced to stand-by-your-man status. Schreiber brings a world-weary exhaustion to Rhea and Marc-Andre Grondin is fine as Doug’s teammate LaFlamme, but though Russell’s anger seems genuine, it’s one-note, and he can’t pull off his final so-called reconciliation with Hyrum. The lowest of the low points, though, comes in the periodic “sport news” interjections, in which T.J. Miller truly embarrasses himself as a smarmy anchor. It’s a close call whether he or Jones is the worst addition to the cast. The technical credits are no more than adequate across the board.

Sequels fail all the time, of course, so “Last of the Enforcers” has a lot of company. But when Doug Glatt hangs up his skates again as it ends, one can only hope that this time it’s for good.