Go (1999)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Katie Holmes, Sarah Polley, Desmond Askew, Jay Mohr
Extras: Commentary track, Documentary, Deleted Scenes, Music Videos and more...

Like so many films before it, when "Go" hit theatres earlier this year, it was praised by critics and virtually ignored by filmgoers. But now "Go" has been released on DVD and has a second chance to find an audience. That audience will find a film that offers a fresh and exciting story, while it also owes a great debt to one of the best films of the 90s. The story in "Go" is non-linear and has many layers, but it does center around a core group of characters. The main part of the film tells the story of Ronna (Sarah Polley), Claire (Katie Holmes), and Simon (Desmond Askew). All three work together in a grocery store. As the film opens, Ronna reveals that she doesn’t have enough money for rent and will be evicted on Christmas Day. Simon tells her that he has been invited on a trip to Las Vegas and she can work his shift. Ronna agrees. We then learn that Simon is also a small-time drug dealer. Adam (Scott Wolf) and Zack (Jay Mohr) come to the grocery store seeking Simon so that they can buy some ecstasy from him. Ronna informs the two that Simon is gone, but that she could get them the drugs instead.

Ronna takes Claire and fellow employee Mannie (Nathan Bexton) to visit Todd Gaines (Timothy Olyphant), the dealer who regularly supplies Simon with his drugs. Ronna’s plan is to buy some ecstasy from Todd, sell it to Adam and Zack at a higher price, and thus, have her rent money. A simple enough plan, but of course, it goes awry, and from that point on, the movie tells the story of how these characters spend the next 24 hours by shifting its focus from one character to the next. The movie’s narrative structure is non-linear and the story is actually broken down into three parts, with each interconnecting with the others. This gives the viewer the opportunity to actually see some of the film’s situations from various perspectives.

I must admit that I have not seen director Doug Liman’s previous film, "Swingers", so I can’t compare "Go" to that, but I can compare "Go" to a movie to which it is greatly indebted, Quentin Tarantino’s "Pulp Fiction". From the storyline which deals with criminals and the pursuit of drugs, to the non-linear storytelling, to the way the film is broken down into thirds, there are many things about "Go" that reminded me of "Pulp Fiction".

As a DJ at WXYC in Chapel Hill once pointed out, in our society it is virtually impossible to approach anything in entertainment without having some sort of cultural baggage. With "Go", it both helps and hurts the film. As I was saying, it’s impossible not to compare the film to "Pulp Fiction", and I can honestly say that I liked "Pulp Fiction" better. However, "Go" also cleverly uses this similarity to an advantage. Because of the "cultural baggage" we have, we begin to create expectations as we watch films. With "Go", some of the situations are very similar to those in "Pulp Fiction". As a result, we, the viewer, begin to imagine what is going to happen next. "Go" uses this to its advantage by taking the viewer down this seemingly familiar path and then suddenly changing things completely.

There are two scenes in particular in "Go" (one involving Simon and a gun, the other involving Adam, Zack, and a couple) that utilizes this technique flawlessly. I’ll talk more about the <$commentary,audio commentary> in a moment, but I wish that screenwriter John August had been available. I would really love to know if all of this was intentional.

While "Go’s" story may not seem absolutely fresh, the direction and look of the film certainly do. From the opening frames where the Columbia Pictures logo is overtaken by shots of a rave, you know that the movie is going in a unique direction. Director Liman (who also served as director of photography and camera operator) gives the film a vibrant, kinetic look and feel. The film is edited in a jarring way, with jump cuts, and sudden changes. The majority of the shots, especially those at the rave and in Vegas, are filled with glorious colors. On the <$commentary,audio commentary>, Liman discloses that people have told him that the film has the look and feel of tripping on ecstasy.

Liman gives the film a good look and he also gets some strong performances from his ensemble cast. Jay Mohr and Scott Wolf steal the show as the bumbling duo who are involved in a drug deal for all of the wrong reasons and just want to get back to their "normal" lives. Actually, Breckin Meyer, as Simon’s friend Tiny steals the movie with his home-boy act. Timothy Olyphant is even more psycho here than he was in "Scream 2" and lends credibility to his part. Newcomer Desmond Askew is charming as the naive Simon, who is just looking to have fun.

Oddly, Ronna and Claire are presented as the main characters, but as the two lone female characters, their parts are severely underwritten. While Polley, who sounds just like Winona Ryder, and Holmes do well in their acting, they don’t have much to work with. We never really get to know their motivations. We know that Ronna wants her rent money, but we never know what Claire is thinking. The Columbia TriStar Home Video DVD of "Go" is presented as a special edition and is loaded with extras. The film is presented in its <$PS,letterboxed> form at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio that is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The full-frame version of the film is also available on the disc. A <$RSDL,dual layer> disc has been used to present both transfers on the same side, and you can choose your preferred format from the main menu. For this review only the <$PS,widescreen> version was screened. The framing on the <$PS,widescreen> version is very accurate, as the film was shot very wide. There is no warping or bending of the frame. The picture itself is very clear, although grain and dot crawl is noticeable in a good number of scenes. For the most part, the color balancing is correct, although some scenes appear more overlit than others, and fleshtones sometimes appear overly red. But, the vibrant colors that I mentioned earlier are well represented and true throughout most of the film.

The DVD’s audio track is presented in <$DD,Dolby Digital> 5.1, featuring a soundtrack that works very well within the film. Music plays a large part in the film and the music is clean with excellent bass extension, and still never drowns out the dialogue. The surround sound is active, especially in the Vegas casino scenes.

As mentioned earlier, the DVD is packed with extras. There are 14 deleted scenes to view, however for most of them it is quite obvious why they were cut out. The exception being "Simon and the ERA" which is priceless. There are three music videos featuring No Doubt, LEN, and Philip Steir, featuring Steppenwolf. The No Doubt video is especially good and truly captures the spirit of the film. There is a short "Making Of" featurette but sadly it doesn’t really show enough behind the scenes footage. A very good theatrical trailer, <$PS,letterboxed> at 1.85:1, can also be found on the disc, as well as the obligatory talent biographies.

"Go" also contains an audio <$commentary,commentary track>, as mentioned earlier, with director Doug Liman and editor Steve Mirrione. The two are obviously friends and their conversation is very relaxed and casual, resulting in several good anecdotes about the making of the film. My only problem with the commentary is that at times there is too much focus on the actual mechanics of filmmaking. While this does interest me personally, I can see how some viewers would find it boring. And while Liman and Mirrione are obviously proud of their work, at times during the commentary, they don’t sound very upbeat. I guess I’ve been spoiled by those John Waters commentaries.

"Go" is a fun comedy/action/drama that pulls the viewer in from the opening credits and takes them on a wild ride. While it is derivative and at times too hip for its own good, it is a very well-made film and always entertaining. While some may view it as a "Pulp Fiction for twenty-somethings," Doug Liman has attempted to create something fresh and new with this film. It may not succeed entirely, but if you’re a fan of movies that are slightly left of center, then "Go" is for you. "Go" check it out!