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GO

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Sarah Polley, Katie Holmes, Scott Wolf, Jay Mohr, Taye Diggs, William Fichtner, J. E. Freeman, Breckin Meyer, Timothy Olyphant, Desmond Askew
Director:  Doug Liman
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Widescreen 2.35:1, 16x9 Enhanced and Full Screen
Studio:  Columbia Tri Star
Features:  See Review
Length:  100 Minutes
Release Date:  August 24, 1999

Film ****

Go is as appropriately titled as a movie can get.  This film is a hyper-kinetic, turbo charged shot of adrenaline right between the eyes.  It’s like crossing Space Mountain with Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride—a white knuckled, exhilarating roller coaster ride with the only breaks coming from fits of laughter.

It has been compared to Pulp Fiction, and I suppose such comparisons are inevitable, but there are two things I have to say in defense of director Doug Liman right off the bat.  One, the style of non-linear storytelling and showing different points of view of the same scene did not originate with Quentin Tarantino…directors from Orson Welles to Robert Altman to Brian DePalma have employed such techniques in the past, but Tarantino is most noted for bringing that style full force into the mainstream movie audience.  Second, film fans have been waiting for five years now for the Pulp Fiction style to be taken to the next level, and nobody, not even Tarantino, has really done it.  Until now.

In a key but brief scene near the beginning, we meet most of the principal players.  It takes place in a grocery store, making it an easy scene to dismiss, but we find out later that this moment in the film is a key intersecting point of the story.  Ronna (Polley) is a checkout girl with a cash flow problem, who takes over a shift for Simon (Askew), who just so happens to do a little drug dealing on the side.  When two of his usual customers approach to buy 20 hits of ecstasy, they find Ronna instead.  But though she knows better, desperate times call for desperate measures.  She takes the money and offers to score the drugs for them.  From that point, there’s no turning back, for her, nor any of the characters.

Ronna’s is the first story.  The second involves her friend Simon, who has taken off for Las Vegas with some friends for a wild couple of days.  And the third story involves the two buyers, soap opera stars Adam and Zack (Wolf and Mohr)…turns out their desire to buy some drugs had quite a different motivation than we might have thought.  Each story is spawned out of characters making poor decisions, and leads to situations that grow rapidly more and more out of control.

I can’t say enough about how much fun I had watching this movie.  Though structurally, it does remind me of Pulp Fiction, it has definitely built on the phenomenon rather than copy it.  In this film, there are no long, pensive pauses for witty but meaningless dialogue to flesh out the story.  There is much to tell here, to be sure, but Liman’s style is strictly meat and potatoes movie making.  Once he serves up the appetizer, he doesn’t make you wait to gorge yourself on the main course.

Liman is also famous for serving as his own cameraman, and his hands-on approach adds much visual flavor to an already terrific script.  Most of his camera work is hand held, and with a sense of carefully controlled chaos, he draws the audience in to his world, which is both funny and frightening, but he allows us to stay enough on the outside so that we never stop enjoying ourselves.  And high marks to the young cast, whose energy and enthusiasm is clearly equal to the challenge.

Go definitely delivers the goods…it’s one of the best films of the year.

Video ***

This is a mostly good effort by Columbia Tri Star…there is a lot of kinetic movement and a wide variety of color schemes and lighting inherent in the picture, and the transfer is pulled off well, but with occasional instances of grain, and a couple of slight but noticeable occurrences of bleeding between lighter and darker images.  This is a dual layered disc, but as in the case of their earlier release, Eight Millimeter, they used the technology to include full frame and widescreen versions, rather than spreading out the widescreen over the two layers.  Doing that might have resulted in a perfect transfer. 

Audio ***1/2

The 5.1 soundtrack is outstanding, however, and features an almost never-ending array of terrific music, crashes, gunplay, and even a few tricks to enhance a couple of drug influenced point of view shots.

Features ****

This disc contains a commentary track with director Liman and his film editor, production notes, talent bios, a short promotional featurette, a trailer, 3 music videos (including the long awaited new song by No Doubt), and 14 deleted scenes.

Summary:

If Pulp Fiction created a new standard in filmmaking, Go has raised the bar for it.  This is a mix of great storytelling and superior cinematic style blended together for a totally exhilarating movie going experience.  Not to be missed.