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'Go'? Go!

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 9, 1999

  Movie Critic


Go
Katie Holmes and friends get a move on in "Go." (Columbia TriStar)

Director:
Doug Liman
Cast:
Desmond Askew;
Jay Mohr;
Taye Diggs;
Scott Wolf;
Sarah Polley;
Katie Holmes;
Timothy Oliphant;
William Fichtner;
J.E. Freeman;
Jane Krakowski
Running Time:
1 hour, 42 minutes
R
Contains drug use, profanity, sex, nudity, gun violence and other irresponsible behavior
"Go" is one of the most exhilarating movies ever made about absolutely nothing.

I don't mean that it has no plot. Oh no. It actually has three boisterous story lines, all of which overlap, double back and fill in each other's gaps like the obstreperous electronic dance music of its soundtrack before converging in a mad crescendo and collapsing in a heap at the movie's wry and satisfying coda.

I also don't mean it's about nothing in the way that "Seinfeld" was about nothing. "Go" is very, very funny, but it is no sitcom; and its edgy, in-your-face, Generation Y 'tude offers little that will speak to the over-30 Dockers crowd.

It's more about nothing the way that tantric, three-way sex is about nothing; the way that taking a bullet in the soft tissue and living to tell about it is about nothing; the way that swallowing a double-dose of pharmaceutical-grade Ecstasy (the drug, not the metaphysical state) is about nothing. Nothing, that is, except the sensation of wild, seemingly immortal youth – raw, uncut, dangerous and delicious.

"Go" begins with drugs: a handful of the aforementioned "E" that could mean the difference between eviction and a quiet weekend at home for Ronna Martin (Sarah Polley of "The Sweet Hereafter"), a twenty-something Los Angeles supermarket cashier $380 short on rent. Part One of "Go" (titled "Ronna") concerns the novice's near disastrous efforts to turn a controlled substance into quick cash. Naturally, the deal falls apart from the word "go," a mantra that reappears throughout like an urgently whispered imperative to keep moving.

First, Ronna's prospective customers Adam (Scott Wolf from TV's "Party of Five") and Zack (former "Saturday Night Live" cast member Jay Mohr) turn out to have a creepy middle-aged friend named Burke (William Fichtner) who acts suspiciously like a narc. Quick-thinking Ronna ditches the dope in the john, never stopping to consider that she is now in hock to the even scarier Todd (Timothy Olyphant of "Scream 2"), the supplier with whom she has left her best friend Claire ("Dawson's Creek's" Katie Holmes) as collateral.

Meanwhile, Ronna's grocery-store co-worker Simon (welcome British import Desmond Askew) has gone to Vegas for the weekend with some of his friends. Thus begins Part Two, called "Simon." He and buddy Marcus (boy-toy Taye Diggs of "How Stella Got Her Groove Back") get into their own trouble there involving a lap dance in a strip joint, a stolen gun and a bottle of expensive champagne. How this ties into Part One is through a credit card they leave with the bouncer. The plastic, you see, belongs to Todd, who has lent it to Simon in an ill-advised and uncharacteristic act of generosity.

Just as this increasingly messy tangle is coming to a head, Part Three ("Adam and Zack") steps outside the main story, shifting perspective to the earlier-seen two drug buyers, a couple of gay soap opera actors whose initially peripheral role in the drama is shown to be far more integral to what has come before – in just one of "Go's" many unexpected plot twists.

Why this film works is not easy to pinpoint. It isn't because of any conventional message or moral center. There isn't any. "Go's" blunt take on youth culture is neither glamorous nor judgmental but honest.

Even with the possible exception of Holmes as the virginal Claire, there's no real nucleus of decency holding the spinning electrons of "Go's" buzzing, atomic cast together. Askew's manic Simon, Polley's luckless Ronna and Wolf and Mohr's self-absorbed TV stars might easily be so many random particles bumping each other (and us) in the head, except that the physics of writer John August's intricately composed story and the music of director Doug Liman's rhythmic composition propel the cast and viewer forward with a manic, visceral logic.

Despite its go-to-hell hipster milieu and bad intentions, "Go" is really a kind of old-fashioned storytelling where the raconteurship is as important as the tale itself.

The point of this "Rashomon" for the rave set is not the lesson learned – that sort of bogus movie moralizing went out with $5 tickets – but the intoxication of the thing itself. After all, why do the adrenaline-seekers among us push ourselves to the edge of experience other than to remind ourselves of one simple fact – that we are still alive?

   
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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