Go (Doug Liman, 1999)
[originally posted 19Jan2001]
After a couple of very badly-received tries at hitting the big time, Liman finally succeeded with this slick piece of pop-market avant-gardism that takes three intertwining stories of Christmas Eve and juxtaposes them. Before you start thinking Pulp Fiction, Liman is smarter than that. There are homages here and there to Tarantino, sure, but there’s nothing overt that will allow you to cry rip-off.
Liman’s greatest strength, perhaps, is in turning the Hollywood stereotype on its ear; he’s not afraid to cast bigger names in smaller roles (Taye Diggs, Breckin Meyer, Scott Wolf, and Katie Holmes all play small but pivotal roles, while the leads are given to Sarah Polley, Desmond Askew, and Jay Mohr) and allow the relative unknowns—Polley, Askew, and Mohr are all better-known for TV work than film work, or were before this film—to do their thing, and do it well.
Yes, the movie’s a comedy, in the same sick way that Very Bad Things is a comedy. You’ll laugh, but you’ll feel guilty for doing it. The chemistry between the many relationships that unfold in the film is dead-on every time, and Liman never loses track of the chemistry between the characters we see onscreen together rarely, but stay in contact (e.g. Simon [Askew] calling his friend and drug dealer Todd Gaines [Timothy Olyphant], shown from both perspectives in the first two segments). It’s fast, it’s slick, it’s oodles of fun. Is it, as IMDB voters would have us believe, one of the top 250 films of all time [ed. note 2013: the movie has fallen out of the Top 250 in the ensuing years and now has a 7.2 rating; the lowest-rated movie in the Top 250 right now is an 8.2.]? Perhaps not, but it certainly deserves an honorable mention for unapologetically going into a subgenre everyone wants to try and pulling it off without feeling overly derivative. *** ½