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Dustin Putman

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Go (1999)
3 Stars

Directed by Doug Liman
Cast: Sarah Polley, Desmond Askew, Katie Holmes, Scott Wolf, Jay Mohr, Taye Diggs, Timothy Olyphant, William Fichtner, Breckin Meyer, J.E. Freeman, Nathan Bexton, Jane Krakowski, James Duval, Courtland Mead.
1999 – 100 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for violence, profanity, nudity, sex, and drug use).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, April 10, 1999.

Doug Liman's "Go" is a glittery, flashy, and fast-paced dark comedy-thriller in the obvious style of Quentin Tarantino. Although the basic outline is completely different, both films feature off-beat and interesting dialogue; several dispicible, if very funny, characters; and the same invigorating non-linear storytelling techniques.

Set entirely on Christmas Eve and early Christmas morning in L.A., "Go" begins with a jolt as we are treated to quick flashes of a rave before the Columbia logo is even finished. We then move on to the stories at hand. Ronna is a 20-year-old grocery story worker who is threatened to be evicted from her apartment if she doesn't come up with enough money soon. Accepting to take a double-shift when her English co-worker, Simon (Desmond Askew), goes on a trip to Las Vegas, Ronna finally sees a light at the end of the tunnel when two of her customers, Zack (Jay Mohr) and Adam (Scott Wolf), approach her about scoring some ecstacy. Agreeing to sell them some, Ronna sets off to see Todd (Timothy Olyphant), a drug dealer, but when she doesn't have enough money to pay him for the pills, she forces her friend, Claire (Katie Holmes), to stay with him as colateral. As predicted, things don't go quite as planned.

Switching back to the opening of the film, we now follow Simon on his wild trip to Las Vegas with his three buddies (Taye Diggs, Breckin Meyer, and James Duval), where he runs into problems after sleeping with two strangers, causing a large fire, and breaking the "no-touch" rule when he hires a stripper to dance for Marcus (Diggs) and him.

The last story involves Zack and Adam, two soap opera actors, who unwittingly find themselves having Christmas dinner with a sexually determined cop (William Fichtner) and his oddball wife (Jane Krakowski). These three tales, as well as several enjoyable and well-written subplots, one in which involves the unexpected romantic coupling of good-girl Claire and the shady Todd, all inevitably careen and cross paths with each other by the film's end, but many of the plot developments really are genuinely surprising and satisfying.

There are many pleasures to be had in "Go," but one of the greatest satisfactions is in the unorthodox way that the film is made, as it actually leaves it up to you to use your mind and follow all of the feuding stories. You rarely see this in a wide-release film, and sometimes it can be distracting, but "Go" moves so smoothly through time that it was almost impossible not to get caught up in the proceedings. Not only that, but I am the type of person who especially loves to discover films without having the outcome be telegraphed well in advance. Here, there is no way to figure out how everything is going to turn out, and it was this anticipation that involved me even more. John August should be personally thanked for writing the sharp-witted and entertaining screenplay, which, at a swift 100 minutes, gives the characters enough time to have many intriguing conversations and distinguish themselves with each other.

In the acting department, I doubt a superior young cast could have been possibly executed, and this was an impressive career move for all involved. Giving the best performance is Katie Holmes, who also has likability on her side since she is, perhaps, the only non-slimy character in the whole film. Not only that, but Holmes really does prove how promising she is as an actress, as the words in the superb screenplay effortlessly roll out of her mouth like wildfire. Also particular standouts are Sarah Polley, so much different than her sympathetic parapalegic role in 1997's "The Sweet Hereafter," and Taye Diggs, who sparks all of his scenes to life (as if the movie didn't already have enough life to it!).

Although "Go" may appear from the television ads like it is another teen-oriented movie, it really isn't at all. In fact, the youngest character is probably around nineteen or twenty, and the age group goes all the way up to one central character who is in his forties. Thankfully, there's no high school in sight, nor is there a prom, or a cliched plot.

Director Doug Liman made a splash in 1996 with his indie film, "Swingers," starring Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn, and he actually improves upon that film to bring us something more assured and complex. Kudos also go out to the gritty cinematography by Liman himself, which is a spectacle to see (particularly the rave scenes), and the perfectly-assembled soundtrack, with the song, "New," by No Doubt, making a big impression. A goofy, hilarious sequence has another of Ronna's friends (Nathan Bexton) hallucinating from taking a hit of ecstacy and imagining that he is dancing with a grocery story customer to the Macarena song.

If there is a problem with "Go," it is the same problem I had with the slightly superior "Pulp Fiction," which is that for all of its intricacies, the movie ultimately doesn't really lead up to much. The twists and turns are sorted out, yes, but what I mean is that nothing much is solved, as everything simply circles around in time. Fortunately, the performances, direction, screenplay, and impressive technical aspects work together as a solid unit to make the exciting journey to nowhere a great deal of fun. In short, "Go" really does, well, go!

©1999 by Dustin Putman

Dustin Putman