by Rob Gonsalves
We've all had the experience -- whether we admit it or not -- of being in a place we shouldn't be, with people we'd rather not be with.Usually the situation is harmless -- a bad party, a sleazy dive -- but our brains still go into overdrive: What am I doing here? I don't like these people. I don't even know where we are. This could get ugly. I wish I were home in bed right now. And some movies excel at evoking this mood of ominous disorientation -- the Zed-and-Maynard scene in Pulp Fiction, the prolonged drug-deal scene in Boogie Nights, the Pink Room sequence in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.
"Okay 'Pulp' wannabe."
Go, directed by Doug Liman (Swingers), sustains this mood for pretty much its whole running time. The title, in fact, suggests both the reckless impulse to get into dangerous situations and the terrified impulse to get out. Every time a character has figured out the situation, it shifts or disintegrates, and Liman and screenwriter John August pile calamity on top of calamity. Set in L.A., the capitol of drifting randomness, Go is like watching a daydream morph into a nightmare and then back again. The movie isn't great; it's less a wild ride than an antic ride, and it's too derivative of not only Tarantino but Richard Linklater (the movie unfolds within a 24-hour period). Still, this fluffy confection is tasty enough.
The movie, like Pulp Fiction, tells three interlocking stories, all of which begin in the back room of a supermarket. Disgruntled check-out clerk Ronna (Sarah Polley) needs some quick cash or she'll be evicted. Ronna's British co-worker Simon (Desmond Askew) offers his shift to her, so that he can head to Las Vegas with three buddies. Two actors, Zack (Jay Mohr) and Adam (Scott Wolf), come to the supermarket looking for Simon, who usually hooks them up with some ecstasy. Instead they find Ronna, who sees a chance for even quicker cash and offers to get the drugs for them. With her friend Claire (Katie Holmes), Ronna enters the lair of Simon's drug-dealer associate Todd (Timothy Olyphant), a tattooed slimeball who is nevertheless so open about his amorality that one character even calls him "the only person I've met tonight who isn't fake."
That's the basic set-up, and I can't reveal any more; other reviewers have likewise tiptoed around the plot's twists and turns, which are the movie's main currency. I can sketch and suggest, though. The first act is somewhat lackluster, though I began to feel the film turning around when the cat made its funny appearance. The second act, involving Simon's misadventures in Las Vegas, is an escalating comedy of errors in which the fun is in spotting every oversight and mistake that will pile up and come back to haunt the characters. There's also a great Kleenex gag and a nice bit with a shrewd little boy. The third act, with Zack and Adam visiting a couple with mysterious motives (the hilarious William Fichtner and Jane Krakowski), is brilliant -- a Pulp Fiction scenario turned on its head.
Speaking of that movie, Go isn't quite in its league; it's just outside the ballpark, but at least it's the same sport. It's in there with Bottle Rocket and Suicide Kings -- a better-than-average Tarantinoid piece of cotton candy, spiked with the occasional splatter of blood or hit of coke. Go lacks the thematic weight of Pulp Fiction (and Tarantino's other films), which said that actions have consequences and loyalty is the finest virtue. In Go, actions don't have very big consequences; people make mistakes, get knocked down and shot, but keep on going.The movie is fun but essentially meaningless. I don't mind Tarantinoid knock-offs as long as they have some spirit and some fresh acting (Polley, Mohr, and Fichtner are the stand-outs here), but I await the next movie that has the same originality and impact as 'Pulp Fiction,' but not the same plot, structure, or dialogue. I await the next Tarantino, not the next Tarantino clone.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=1553&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/24/07 12:23:49