Goat, a drama film directed by Andrew Neel, follows the story of Brad Land (Ben Schnetzer) as he rushes one of the largest fraternities on campus, Kappa Sigma, where his older brother Brett (Nick Jonas) is a popular member. He, along with various other pledges, including his roommate Will (Daniel Flaherty), struggle to prove themselves worthy during the brutal hell week and the humiliating and demoralizing tasks the brothers make them endure as an initiation rite. The experience seems almost too much for Brett to handle as memories of a gruesome physical assault from the previous summer haunt him, yet he strives to redeem his reputation and attempts to find solace in the strength and protection of the brotherhood.

At first glance, Goat, seems like it has the perfect formula for a drama film: a protagonist recovering (somewhat unsuccessfully) from a traumatic event, fraying mental health, intense hard to watch scenes, and a dark ambiance created by the film’s shadow-ridden scenes. Most importantly, it has a story line that tackles a deep subject: brotherhood, both the familial relation and the one the pledges strive to attain by entering Kappa Sigma. As Brad comes closer to entering the frat’s brotherhood, his relationship with Brett begins to deteriorate. Brett, deeply disturbed by the actions of Kappa Sigma and the severity of this year’s hazing — which includes locking the pledges in a barn and giving them the choice to either drink a full keg of beer in four hours or fuck a goat —  becomes worried about his brothers physical and mental health. The tension only escalates when Brad refuses to ID the culprits who mugged him over the summer, and Brett proclaims that he thinks his brother does not belong at Kappa Sigma. Through Brett’s increased disassociation with his fellow frat members, the audience can tell that neither does he.

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The movie reaches its climax when Brad’s roommate, a fellow pledge dies from a concussion received during one of the hazing activities. The frat is suspended, and during the subsequent school investigation, an enlightened Brad rats out the fraternity for breaking anti-hazing policies. The movie quickly rushes towards an ending from there. The frat is suspended; Brett punches one of the brothers repeatedly in the face — a final symbolic breaking away from the brotherhood — and Brad finally agrees to ID his culprit but fails to, instead driving to the spot where he got mugged as a sense of closure.

The movie has the perfect formula for a good drama film, but fails to provide a captivating finished product. Instead of giving more time to explore relationships between the pledges and brothers, WIll’s death, or Brett’s moral journey, it dedicates nearly all the screen time to the hazing rituals, showing one cringe-worthy moment after another. While this in-itself isn’t bad, these scenes fail to create suspense or surprise its viewers. Brad’s assault is predicable the moment one sets eyes on his shady to-be assailants; the frat-boys do predicable things and while Will’s upcoming death isn’t necessarily obvious, the fact that something tragic will happen to Brad’s roommate can be seen from a mile away.

Goat, exposes the hazing rituals of college fraternities but doesn’t do it expertly. To boot, it wastes time on unnecessary story lines like James Franco’s five minute appearance as frat alumnus Mitch, and a romance between protagonist Brad and character Leah (Virginia Gardner) that lasted the first ten minutes of the film, only to never be discussed again. Overall, the main cast was able to create realistic characters with their acting. Both Nick Jonas and Ben Schnetzer’s performances stood out, but the script failed to provide enough substance for the actors to work with. While Goat may not be extraordinary, it may still be worth a watch for those interested in the horrors of fraternity hazing.

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