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GO(director/cinematographer: Doug Liman; screenwriter: John August; editor: Stephen Mirrone; cast: Desmond Askew (Simon Baines), Taye Diggs (Marcus), William Fichtner (Burke), J.E. Freeman (Victor Sr.), Katie Holmes (Claire Montgomery), Jay Mohr (Zack), Timothy Olyphant (Todd Gaines), Sarah Polley (Ronna Martin), Scott Wolf (Adam), Breckin Meyer (Tiny); Runtime: 100; Banner/Columbia; 1999)
“It is marketed for the druggie generation of post-teens and those swingers in their late 20s.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A zippy youth oriented Christmas movie. It is marketed for the druggie generation of post-teens and those swingers in their late 20s, whose Christmas holiday fare might not mirror Bing Crosby’s White Christmas. It is perhaps a cut above the rest of the mindless offerings flooding the market to capture filmlands largest share of ticket buyers: the youth market. It tells its somewhat derivative black comedy tale in a Pulp Fiction type dialogue and style. It is fueled by its accelerated pace, using the cool life-style in la-la land as its backdrop. Its main characters either work in a supermarket, or are involved as small time pill pushers.

Go is made up of three interconnected stories. They are told in different versions from the point where Ronna (Polley) as the supermarket cashier strapped for rent money, is about to be evicted on Christmas Eve. As she is on the phone, Simon (Desmond), a fellow cashier makes her an offer she won’t refuse. He needs to go to Las Vegas with his mates and is willing to give her his pay for taking his shift at work.

The first story is about Ronna. She shows some spunk, interacting with her fellow workers by playing a funny kind of guess the celebrity game while on a break. She is quickly dislodged into reality when the manager tells her the break is over. She is soon back at work filling in for Simon, after finishing her own 14-hour shift.

In this frenetically paced film the innovative young director, Doug Liman, following his indie debut feature, Swingers, shows that he has a feel for these young people and their problematic world. He grapples with their realities giving us a good look at how they view themselves, their job and their customers. On Ronna’s check-out line are two good-looking guys appearing to be swish to the dismay of one of Ronna’s cashier girlfriends, Claire (Katie). These two, Adam (Scott Wolf) and Zack (Jay Mohr), ask for Simon and quickly let on that he is their drug supplier, while telling Ronna they will deal with her because they need the stuff, immediately, for a party. This gives Ronna some ideas that she can do the deal herself by going to Simon’s supplier, Todd (Olyphant). But, when she does, he tells her she needs all the money up front to make the deal. From there on what can go wrong for her, does. The most amusing bit, is at a party where we see her pushing aspirins and sinus pills as substitutes for the hallucinogenic Ecstasy pill she is supposed to be dealing. Those who are there are so high already, they don’t know the difference from one pill to the other.

The second story is one that I must have seen a dozen times by now in films about the guys who go to Vegas, gamble over their head, get into trouble, are in a car chase, meet some gangsters and Vegas showgirls, and have themselves a vacation they can’t forget. What saves this story is the charm of the hapless Simon in Vegas, and the mood set by the glitzy Vegas world of neon. The bouncers in a dance joint chase after Simon and his friends. This is all because Simon put his hands on a lap dancer’s lap and then wounded the bouncer who was pummeling him for his indiscretion. But it is the very likable nature of Simon’s amusing friends as they chatter away, that makes the Vegas scene amusing. One bizarre conversation has the white man Tiny (Breckin) telling the black man Marcus (Taye), that race is a state of mind.

The third and final story traces Adam and Zack, the two TV actors and lovers, who got busted and are now wired to catch other drug offenders; such as, Simon and now Ronna. The weird undercover officer in charge of them (Fichtner) promises if they cooperate, they will be let completely off the hook. I thought Fichtner was the funniest and most malevolent one in the film.

I don’t think the film had much to say about much of anything, including the use of drugs, but it’s an hilarious film about those teens working dead-end jobs. The film was fast-paced, reinforced by sharp editing cuts and frequent light changes. It allowed its story to be easy to watch and it imbued the characters with a certain attitude about them, that made their performances seem eclectic. I especially liked Sarah Polley as a bewildered teen. When she wasn’t on the screen the film seemed to lack purpose and punch.

GO is watchable because of its raw energy, and the way it was able to get inside a pill-poppers head to convey on the screen how hallucinatory his world looks when he is high. Yet the film for all its innovative features still could not escape from being on the edge of sitcom and not on the edge of innovative filmmaking. And the only reason for calling it a Christmas story is because it happens during the holiday season, accurately showing how some Generation X’ers now spend their holidays. The film’s appeal is still mostly with the younger generation. They are the ones who are most apt to be amused at how the main characters comport themselves. What puts a downer into the film’s high is the benign ending, not only didn’t it make sense but it was embarrassing to watch. It was as if this film after using all its energy in the cause of rebellion, now wants to conform and give the adults a happy ending.


Dennis Schwartz: ” Ozus’ World Movie Reviews “