100 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, April 9, 1999
Directed by Doug Liman
Starring Sarah Polley, William Fichtner, J.E. Freeman, Katie Holmes, Breckin Meyer, Jay Mohr, Timothy Olyphant, Scott Wolf & Taye Diggs
SMALL SCREEN SHRINKAGE: 30%|
LETTERBOX: COULDN'T HURT
Non-linear storytelling means you need to pay attention. Don't be doing chores or chasing the kids during this one or you might get lost or miss the points where the stories cross paths.
VIDEO RELEASE: 8/17/99
Liman's 'Swingers' follow-up a snappy crime-action grit-com
As "Son of Pulp Fiction" movies go, "Go" one is a pretty good ride.
Doug Liman's follow-up to the now infamous pop-classic "Swingers," this caustic comedy follows sarcastic grocery clerk Sarah Polley ("The Sweet Hereafter") through her botched first attempt at dealing drugs, before rewinding and covering some of the same events from two other perspectives.
The petulant Ronna (Polley) is all attitude and bad judgment as a bitter and behind on her rent SoCal grocery clerk who takes a shift for Simon (Desmond Askew), a Ecstasy-dealing co-worker, so he can go to Las Vegas for the weekend. Desperate for cash, she decides to fill in for him on a drug run as well after being approached by a pair of TV actors (Scott Wolf and Jay Mohr) looking to score some X.
Ronna visits Simon's source and uses her guileless best friend (Katie Holmes) as collateral. But when the exchange starts to look like a bust, she flushes the drugs and ends up trying to duck the short-changed dealer at a rave, where she's passing off aspirin as Ecstasy hoping to make enough money to get herself out of danger.
Liman's kinetic direction takes on the pacing of Ronna's panic, and the script is peppered with dry wit, including a stoned guy's imagined psychic conversation with a cat, subtitled for the audience to read along.
This first act does not end well for Ronna and, despite Liman's energetic efforts and a thumping soundtrack (he captures raves here the way he captured swing clubs in his last film), for a while the picture feels flat -- in part because it's hard to get behind Ronna, who kind of gets what she deserves.
But then the story rewinds to its opening scene and follows Simon to Las Vegas with a car full of cronies and "Go" starts to pick up the pace, becoming something of a perilous caper comedy.
Simon gets wildly drunk, loses his money, steals a Ferrari, beds a pair of bridesmaids from a wedding in his hotel, shoots a strip joint bouncer and adrenalines his way through a giddy high-speed chase -- during which he's in his element, he claims, because he learned to drive watching cheesy American cop shows.
After Simon's episode, Liman takes us back to the beginning one more time to learn the fate of the two TV actors, who, it turns out, were working for the cops in order to get drug charges against them dropped. When Ronna ruins the bust by flushing her product and taking off, Wolf and Mohr nervously accept a pointed invitation to dinner from one of the detectives, and find themselves subjected to a strange and suggestive sales pitch for Amway products. Once they extact themselves from that situation, they wind up at the rave from the first act, confonting a mutual lover and becoming embroiled in Ronna's unpleasant fate.
By this time "Go" as definitely found its stride, and it just keeps getting more droll the stranger the circumstances become.
Liman's snappy, Tarantino-esque storytelling style isn't overly original (Tarantino himself aped it from other directors), but he has a symbiotic feel for John August's script and seems to have a gift for wrapping everyday characters in dangerous but silly circumstances.
Unlike many post-"Pulp Fiction" crime-action grit-coms, the characters here are as interesting here as the situations, and that's what makes the difference.
Although I had little sympathy for her character, Sarah Polley -- who was so devastatingly effective as a teenager crippled in a bus crash in "The Sweet Hereafter" -- gives a trenchant performance that exuded acerbic, youthful malcontention. Cutie pie Katie Holmes is perfectly cast as a sheltered fellow shop clerk who comes under Polley's bad influence. Jay Mohr and Scott Wolf play their second-tier TV stars as likable rubes, adding a subtle layer of endearing dorky-ness to their characters. But Desmond Askew take home first prize as the hyperactive boob and dilettante dealer whose inability to play it cool gets him and all his friends in serious trouble in Vegas.
"Go" is by no means the instant classic "Swingers" became, but it's an enjoyable effort, and I'm happy to predict that Doug Liman is no directorial flash in the pan.