Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel

GO (1999) ***  

Directed by Doug Liman. Written by John August. Photography, Doug Liman.Editing, Stephen Mirrione.Production design, Tom Wilkins. Music by BT. Producers, Paul Rosenberg, Mickey Liddell, Mat Freeman. Cast: Desmond Askew (Simon Baines), Tay Diggs (Marcus), William Fichtner (Burke), J.E. Freeman (Victor Sr.), Katie Holmes (Claire Montgomery), Jane Krakowski (Irene), Breckin Meyer (Tiny), Jay Mohr (Zack), Timothy Olyphant (Todd Gaines), Sarah Polley (Ronna Martin) and Scott Wolf (Adam). A Columbia release. 100 minutes.R.(drugs, violence, language, sex)

One of the times I mentioned that Jean-Luc Godard is a seminal filmmaker, someone exclaimed" I didn't know he was an American Indian!" Loved it. Also love Godard's paradoxes. As when, in his earlier days, his screen audacities made a puzzled viewer ask: "But Monsieur  Godard, don't you think that a film must have a beginning, a middle, and an end?" "Absolutely," quoth JLG "but not necessarily in that order."

Which is what "Go" (as in Godard) does, and goes one step beyond. It is in three sections where many key  characters are the same, but with the "weight" of their roles variously distributed, as the three sections take place at the same time.There's a soupcon  here of "Rashomon" seen through a glass darkly.

The settings are primarily Los Angeles and secondarily Las Vegas-- on Christmas Eve. A fine match, since Vegas, a city-show ( has an ethos and a aesthetic which are no doubt appreciated by much of the Angelenian Kultur and,as the Russians say, its "nyekulturnyi."

I admit that I find Christmas in California funny. Perhaps because I have spent much time where Christmas is "real" and not X-mas: in the cold Midwest, as well as abroad where even in mild climates late December is persuasive. I know it makes no sense, as the source event did not happen in northern latitudes --but still, X-mas in LA. is comical.

In "Go", the main connecting thread is, arguably, Sarah Polley, a performer who can be three-dimensional in two-dimensional roles. She plays Ronna, a check-out grocery clerk obviously, and understandably bored with her job. Her co-workers and friends are Katie Holmes (as Claire) whose looks remind me of Christina Ricci's; and the Brit in America Desmond Askew (as the goofy Simon).

Claire is essentially a tag-along comparse, Simon is a relative newcomer to the Star-Spangled nation. His fits the bill and the scene perfectly. He's learned all he knows about the USA from movies, is into drug-dealing and fast-living. Note that Askew, the name of the actor, is most apt to the character of Simon.

Simon, intent on visiting Vegas, asks Ronna to take his place in a deal of buying and reselling about two dozen Ecstasy tabs. This may not be her forte, but she accepts because she's  broke and about to be evicted from her lodgings. I won't reveal the first section of the movie, except to say that it leads to wild and woolly adventures for Ronna.

While this is going on, in what we have to call Part II, Simon and friends drive to Vegas. The team is a colorful one, especially Simon and the chic and savvy  Marcus (played by Taye Diggs). Marcus,who is black, has some of the best reactions in the film, especially when it comes to others' unconscious (?) racism.

Vegas yields some quite amusing scenes: Simon's having simultaneous sex with two girls met at a Jewish wedding where he wandered in; starting up a hotel fire; getting blackmailed by a little boy next door;  stealing of a resplendent Ferrari; an encounter with strippers that blows into to a fracas, a shooting and the pals being chased by a father-and-son duo in an SUV.

Improbabilities abound, especially during the car duel and the incompatibility in width between the SUV some alleys. But it is all very kinetic, inventive, and, for many viewers, great fun.

Part III, back in LA, concentrates on two young TV actors of soapers, and police detective Burke, who's wired them .We had met all three  in Part I as potential drug customers. Burke forcefully invites the boys for dinner at his home, where they meet his sexy, horny wife. The near-result is laden with sex, homo and hetero, but by implication rather than graphics. The end-result, which I have to reveal,  is that the host couple has an additional income from being representatives for an Amway clone company. What they really want from the boys is to recruit new salesmen. Hilarious.

"Go" was to be a short film of just Part I, but when director Liman scored with his first feature (Swingers, 1996) it was expanded. The genealogy of Liman's works is something like this:

Decades ago, the Warner Bros. Studios begat films noirs. In them humor often resided, but rather incidentally. (See The Maltese Falcon, or Casablanca which admittedly is not noir)

These, developing in tortuous ways, eventually begat neo-noir, much of it with stepped up humor, which in turn produced the Coen Bros and such. Technology begat videos,video-stores --and some movie-drunk employees. This begat Quentin Tarantino, who spawned followers and imitators, dull, gauche, inspired, with others yet , as in "Go," de-noiring a great deal and placing the funny stuff at center stage.

"Go", even when not dissected, is "deja vu all over again." But it's not pure copy-cat-ism. It very own twists, tricks and treats, inventions, big and small touches,may not give it a Ph.D. in originality but are worth an M.A. as they also bring to the movie a feel of lively improvisation.The energy level is high:  go! go ! go!  all the way.

This brings us to the mysterious lack of an exclamation mark after "Go". It's not a full injunction to see the film. It does not, like monosyllabic brand names (Gap, Bic, Mac), try to sell a product nor does it  fully describe the movie's kinetic nature.Perhaps the makers themselves don't know. Liman -- who's also his own very good cinematographer--is a jokester, which may be explanation enough. And the lack of ! calls extra attention to the film. "Go" also joins level 2 of shortest titles (like "If") though not level 1(like"M").

The film's subjects (in the plural) and nature, its druggies, sex, violence, raves and young people, plus a  Gold Medal-winning record of f... words, will not attract mature audiences. But then Liman and writer August knew this. They have aimed squarely at the massive youth public which could well make "Go" a cult movie.

Copyright © Edwin Jahiel

Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel