Wednesday, November 3, 2010


What is she doing?  Tossing a business card?
What is the 1990s worst contribution to popular culture?  Hammer pants?  R and B hooks in rap songs?  Nu-metal?  My vote goes to rave kids.  Don't be confused: I'm perfectly okay with raves, because I can choose to stay away from them and their drug- and sex-fueled semi-mobile dance parties; raves are kind of like the gypsies of the party scene, squatting wherever they can for the weekend and then skipping to a new home next week.  No, I hate rave kids.  Ugh.  Hands swirling, glo-stick wearing, pacifier-sucking, pill-popping, candy necklaces --- I hate everything superficial about them.  Oh, and dude, I don't care if cotton feels AMAZING when you're rolling on ecstasy, stop licking my shirt.  Surprisingly, the first movie I ever saw about the rave scene was the totally awesome Human Traffic (watch the UK version, if you can find it).  So, when a reader requested that I review Go, another rave-themed film, I watched with cautious optimism.

At it's core, Go is a film about a drug deal gone bad.  And, um, a fairly unconnected trip to Vegas, probably because director Doug Liman was coming off of Swingers.  The story is split into three parts (Ronna's Story, Simon's Story, and Adam & Zack's Story) with an integrated ending. It all revolves around Ronna's (Sarah Polley) misadventures filling in as a drug dealer when her local dealer, Simon (Desmond Askew), leaves for Las Vegas on short notice.  Ronna is in desperate need of cash to avoid eviction, and her joe job at the supermarket isn't going to cut it by tomorrow.  Thankfully, fate intervenes when two dudes, Adam (Scott Wolf) and Zack (Jay Mohr), ask her for some ecstasy.  How does she get it?  She goes to her dealer's supplier, Todd (Timothy Olyphant).  Oh, wait...remember how she doesn't have much money?  It turns out that drugs cost money.  Who knew?  Ronna gives Todd what she has and leaves her friend, Claire (Katie Holmes) behind as collateral.  That's okay, though, because Ronna will make some quick cash off of Adam and Zack, and be right back!  Unless they're part of a police drug bust operation, that is.  Ronna is faced with a tough decision.  Does she make the sale and risk going to jail, or should she dump the drugs?  One way is risky, but could make money.  The other is safer, but would leave her without any cash for rent, cash to free Claire, or drugs to sell back to Todd/sell to other people.  Meanwhile, Simon is in Vegas with his buddies and manages to get involved with (in this order):
  • explosive diarrhea
  • gambling
  • three-way tantric sex
  • a stolen car
  • a stolen gun
  • private strip club dance
  • a 1970s-style car chase
It sounds like a pretty sweet first trip to Vegas, right?  That's why I couldn't elope to Vegas for my wedding.  Even more meanwhile, Adam and Zack's story tells how these two nice guys could end up being sneaky undercover drug agents, trying to arrest innocent Ronna's all over town.  The short answer is because they love drugs, too.  In the end, all three plots come together with a nice, neat bow on top, and everything is right with the world.  The end.

Man, this movie has a lot of noteworthy actors.  Having Sarah Polley (who is decent enough) as the lead doesn't usually indicate that, but there were a lot of young up-and-kind-of-maybe-comers in this film.  Katie Holmes and her crooked smile make a small appearance.  It's not great work, but I'm not going to pick on someone who presumably has a heart condition.  Seriously, did she have a stroke, or did someone just melt the side of her face?  That broken smile bugs me.  Timothy Olyphant was actually pretty decent, even though it looked like he was doing his best Billy Idol impression throughout.  Desmond Askew is the most likable character in the whole movie, perhaps because his story is the most fun.  Regardless, he overcomes some eye-roll-worthy dialogue early in the film to be the best bit.  Taye Diggs does a pretty solid job as Simon's not-moronic friend; James Duval and Brekin Meyer spent most of their screen time suffering from diarrhea, which is good because Duval is always awful and Meyer's character was a skinny white boy who pretended to be ghetto.  The movie would have been better if those two had died violent deaths, but this isn't a perfect film.  Jay Mohr and Scott Wolf are about as good as you might expect, with both having definite television-actor-level talent and Mohr's amazing ability to seem smug, even when his character tries to be earnest.  I liked to see William Fichtner and Jane Krakowski pop up in this movie; sadly, their parts were poorly written and used mostly for shock value.  Their characters were built up to be one thing, but the joke is that they are something else, completely unrelated to the first thing!  Get it?  It's called wasted script pages, kids.  They're bad.  All in all, the acting is serviceable, with Askew and Olyphant being the stand outs and Meyer and Duval being the fungus in this film's proverbial toilet bowl.

Director Doug Liman does a good job keeping this movie moving, and the pace is probably the best part of this film.  You can argue that the fractured storytelling, quick dialogue, and crime story show that Go stole its style from Pulp Fiction, but left all the drama and compelling characters behind.  And you would be correct.  Still, this movie tries to be clever and the frenetic pace makes most of the plot holes --- if Ronna is seventeen, why does she have her own apartment? --- unnoticeable.  Unfortunately, some of the cuts and edits in this film seem to serve no purpose.  Why do we start the film with Claire talking to Todd the next morning?  Why those two characters?  They are neither the primary plot, nor a linchpin that tied everything together, so it feels like it's just thrown in to make the movie seem mysterious, like they wanted audiences to whisper, "Oh, boy, did you catch all that?  Something must have happened last night for these characters!"  Some of the dialogue is good, some of it is sophomoric, but I will give screenwriter (and frequent Tim Burton collaborator) John August credit for writing a movie meant to be hep with the young folks and have it not feel completely outdated ten years later.  It's nowhere near as great of a script as this movie thinks it is, but it tries.

This really is a busy movie.  It has the attention span of a kid on a sugar rush (or a teen rolling on ecstasy), and a lot happens.  Some of it is dumb.  Why would anyone trust random grocery store customers that want to buy large quantities of drugs for any reason?  Who rips people off with fake drugs and then stays at that party?  If Todd "gives head before [he] gives favors --- and [he] doesn't give head," then why does Simon have his credit card?  If Simon stole the credit card, then why doesn't that ever come up in the story?  And why don't any of the four guys going to Vegas have their own credit card to hold their hotel room?  On the bright side, there is a psychic cat, which was pretty funny.  Unlike most crime and/or drug movies, this film is relatively consequence-free, which cuts the flakier aspects of the film some slack.  It's kind of like a Snackwell's devil's food cake cookie; you know Go isn't going to blow your mind, but it's fun and not that bad for you, so why not enjoy?
Go was a reader request.  Want me to review something?  Maybe I will.


  1. The stellar soundtrack (highlighted by Steal My Sunshine) should up the rating at least one star.

  2. joel here. can't figure out how to sign in as joelseppi cuz i'm ancient.

    omg remember that totally wacky ballroom dancing ecstacy in the grocery store scene. too much Heather!

    was the "gypsies of the party scene" line aimed at neil?

  3. @nobulljive - the soundtrack was duly considered at the final weigh-in. And you're right; the heavenly voices of LEN really make me want to see the movie again L-A-T-E-R this week.

    @Joelseppi - No, it wasn't AIMED at Neil, but if I had to name a "party gypsy," he would be the best candidate for the title.