Goose [2017 Arie and Chuko Esiri Short Film] Review

Genre: Sports Drama/Slice-of-Life
Year Released: 2017
Distributor: The Criterion Collection
Origin: USA/Nigeria
Running Time: 9 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: 15+
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Concussion, Jungleland, Resurrecting the Champ, Welcome to Marwen
-Goose is featured as an extra in the Eyimofe DVD set.
Fun Facts:
-This is the debut project of the Esiri brothers and it was filmed during their time at Columbia and New York University.

-The main character is played by Jacob Alexander. He has acted in an episode of Elementary, I Don’t Know How She Does It, and he would collaborate with the Esiri brothers again in Eyimofe where he played Peter in that movie.

Here comes another example from these identical Nigerian twin brother filmmakers to close out 2022. This has been a busy year that I didn’t review for months, but I’ll talk more about it for my 2022 recap when 2023 rolls around. I was exposed to their work thanks to Eyimofe, which I thought was good. There was a bonus disc that featured their early short films before they made that full-length film. Both Arie and Chuko studied film in America, where they would hone their filmmaking craft.

How is their debut work?

Goose is about a boxer of the same name which is a single dad living in an apartment in New York City. He is so focused on his boxing career that he doesn’t have the time to be a father to his young son. What makes matters worse is that his memory isn’t the best, which might be an early onset version of being punch-drunk. That doesn’t stop him from rising in the ranks and winning a title, even with the doctors warning him of his brain being damaged. He gets a new offer from a promoter that seems to be somewhat lucrative, which will get him in the ring again, but this could be another roadblock for Goose and his family.

After 5 years of reviewing things, I’m surprised I hadn’t covered a movie or documentary about boxing. I closest I ever came to reviewing anything on that topic is the Street Fighter anime since Balrog is in The Animated Movie. I wasn’t going to think I would watch a clone of the Rocky franchise, and it is not trying to be that. The angle of brain damage and CTE is becoming a more prominent topic for years in sports. Concussion did cover that topic, but this is for a different sport. The concept of being punch-drunk isn’t new because I had heard about that term when I was a kid in school when a teacher and paraprofessional were talking about Muhammad Ali’s current state at the time. While he wasn’t in the ring because of his age, he did seem a bit off mentally in some interviews, and he wasn’t moving like a butterfly in his later years, if you pardon me for referencing that quote (RIP, Ali). Unlike the real-life Muhammad Ali, where at least he could’ve used his age as a legitimate excuse to not punch people up in the ring, Goose is decades younger than him than when I saw him struggling with mental damage. Goose had to have been in his mid-to-late twenties, which gives the story a darker edge and that anyone can be affected by brain damage, whether subtle or apparent with the multiple blows to the head. The depiction is surprisingly realistic for that condition. This forgetfulness looks believable such as his not cutting the crusts out of his son’s sandwiches. Out of context, they look like honest mistakes until you get to the scene with the doctor’s appointment when you realize it’s a part of a much bigger problem. It’s those little attentions to detail that make it more effective instead of overdoing things like forgetting his name or other people’s for example, since he’s still competent in other activities. The short film really isn’t as tragic, but there is an underlying element of a time bomb for Goose’s mental state in the ending. The Esiris know how to use subtlety in the narrative. The cinematography is no-frills, but still highly crisp and compelling. It could pass as a higher-budget indie or a lower-budget Hollywood drama, so I don’t have any issues with the filmmaking. Sometimes it’s weird knowing that this was made by Nigerian filmmakers in America as opposed to their other movies being filmed directly in their home country, even if part of the reason is that they have a white main character, but with that said, there are Black and Asian characters seen in the short. Since race isn’t a relevant part of the plot, Goose passes the Deggans Rule, so good on the Esiris for pulling that off, whether intentional or not. The movie takes place in New York City, so there’s definitely no excuse to have a diverse cast. This isn’t Friends, Seinfeld, and Oliver & Company, for crying out loud, so Goose did something right with the representation of the various central and secondary characters.

Goose does take some haymakers to the head. It’s a short film and doesn’t need hours of storytelling, but I think more could still be expounded upon. Most of the boxing action was limited to training and sparring. For me, I think it would’ve been more effective if there was footage from a match either in backstory or his next fight coming up to connect the dots with the main character’s memory issues and his drive to be the best boxer. There was definitely effort in the story and I don’t want to diminish that, but I think a few more minutes could’ve helped to round out the story with the boxing journey, family life, and mental issues. There wasn’t an explanation as to why Goose is single. I assume he’s divorced because he doesn’t strike me as a widower, so that’s just some guesswork. There’s also an issue with some pills he got. Was that medication or was it something completely illegal? It wasn’t too clear, and that could give the main character a darker edge if he was getting juiced up. Yes, Goose is most likely a middleweight at most instead of having a physique like Kali Muscle, but it could be a very concerning thing if he was getting some questionable pharmacists.

This short film was a fine debut for the Esiri brothers. This had a creative subject with an angle not covered too often in sports movies (in this case, boxing). It was filmed competently and had a decent amount of representation, but there should’ve been more time devoted. Subtlety was key, but some points could’ve been fleshed out more and could use a little bit more overt storytelling. Goose was decent and handled well. I know it was a student film, but it still passed. Just not with flying colors.

One final thing. I deserve an award for not making bird jokes or referencing Captain Marvel’s pet cat. Happy New Year, everybody!

Adjustable Point System:
Add 1-2 points if you like realistic short films.
Add 1 point if you’re a fan of the Esiri brothers’ work.
Subtract 1-2 points if you prefer boxing movies with actual matches on display.
Subtract 1 point if you want full closure in your short films.

-Effective cinematography
-Realistic portrayal of early-onset CTE/punch-drunk issues
-Passes the Deggans Rule

-Short run time does hurt at times
-Can get too subtle
-The fact there are no boxing matches hurts the narrative

Final Score: 7/10 Points

Content Warning: Goose is better for older teens and up. There’s boxing, but it’s limited to practicing. The worst thing from a violence perspective is that the main character has a black eye. The only thing preventing this from younger audiences is the F-bomb dropped at different times. Goose has memory issues which are linked to his boxing endeavors which is an adult subject as it’s become a bigger talking point with CTE and brain damage.

-Curtis Monroe

All photos and videos are property of their respective owners and are used under US “Fair Use” laws. Goose is property of The Criterion Collection. The poster is from IMDb and is property of Arie and Chuko Esiri.

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