Sports movies are their own subgenre in American filmmaking, but the relative popularity of a sport doesn’t seem to have much correlation with how much it resonates on the big screen. Probably no sport has produced as many genuinely good movies as baseball, which would seem unsurprising given that game’s history and enduring appeal to the general public, yet football, the most popular sport in the country by a healthy margin, has given us only Rudy, Brian’s Song, and… what? The Blind Side? As a nation, we ignore boxing but we love boxing movies; Hoosiers is about the only feature film about basketball worth watching; and Match Point remains perhaps the only good tennis movie ever, and it is emphatically not about tennis.
Hockey, with its violence, its speed, its subcultures of drinking and militant nationalism (the latter two being frequently combined), seems to offer fertile thematic ground for filmmakers, but, outside of 2004’s Miracle and of course the Holy Trilogy of the Mighty Ducks, has been largely ignored by Hollywood. (One wonders if that’s to some degree because the American film industry is held hostage by the warm, endless pavement of Los Angeles.) That makes Goon, not just a hockey movie but a surprisingly good and heartfelt one as well, a welcome presence at our multiplexes.