Liev Schreiber and Seann William Scott in "Goon."

Liev Schreiber and Seann William Scott in "Goon." Credit: Liev Schreiber and Seann William Scott in "Goon."

3.5 stars
Directed by Michael Dowse
Starring Seann William Scott, Jay Baruchel, Alison Pill, Liev Schreiber
Rated R

The gold standard for hockey movies is unquestionably "Slap Shot," the 1977 classic starring Paul Newman about a ragtag minor league squad that makes an art out of pounding opponents in the rink. It's sacrilegious to think that another flick about the sport could match it.

But the new comedy, "Goon," is every bit as sharp and funny as "Slap Shot," and it offers the same rambunctious, affectionate tribute to the art of a good, bloody scrap.

Protagonist Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott) is a 20-something Massachusetts bouncer with one talent: fighting. He's going nowhere fast.

That changes, though, when he takes part in a scuffle in the stands at a local semi-pro hockey game. Soon enough, he's earned a spot on the team as its enforcer, that special discipline of player who's tasked with hammering as many opponents as possible. A promotion to a club in Halifax, Canada, follows.

Filled with humorous, truthful archetypes and an appropriately slapdash spirit, the movie's also a far more accomplished visual feat than you'd expect. The strains of Puccini's "Nessun Dorma" accompany a slow-motion shot of teeth flying in the air and blood splattering the ice, as director Michael Dowse captures the glory of a man willing to sacrifice his body for his team.

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