Customized to appeal to heat-seeking young audiences by brandishing as many trendy, edgy elements as possible, Go is an overly calculated concoction that nonetheless delivers a pretty good rush. Doug Limans second feature reps a notable advance stylistically over his enjoyable low-budget debut, Swingers, and should score well with the 18-to-30 audience looking for this years model in somewhat off-center fare.
A notch rougher and less formulaic than most studio pictures, Go trades almost exclusively in elements of reckless chic, things that, at a certain age, seem very attractive: recreational drug use and marginal dealers, low-rent gangsters, the rave scene, the L.A.-Vegas axis, lap dancing, gunplay, defiantly spontaneous sex after knowing someone an hour or so, plus a hot soundtrack and a prismatic, scroll-back-the-action plot structure reminiscent of Pulp Fiction and Mystery Train, for starters.
For anyone at all sensitive to being manipulated, this neat package of dangerous moments will be off-putting to a degree. Even so, the film exerts a magnetic pull from the outset, thanks in large measure to the mesmerizing Sarah Polley, a thesp who effortlessly draws the viewers attention no matter who else happens to be onscreen with her, an actress who is intriguing even when she is doing nothing. Polley plays Ronna, an overworked L.A. supermarket checkout girl who, over Christmas, agrees to fill in for her jumpy Brit co-worker, Simon (Desmond Askew), so he can holiday in Vegas.
Approached by a couple of good-looking young actors, Adam and Zack (Scott Wolf and Jay Mohr), who are interested in scoring some drugs, Ronna decides to risk doing business with Simons dealer, Todd (Timothy Olyphant), but ends up betraying him when she senses shes being set up by Adam and Zack in a sting run by a strange narc, Burke (William Fichtner).
Ronna escapes this scrape by the skin of her teeth, then heads for the giant Christmas rave. But Todd, incensed at having been double-crossed, pursues her and appears on the verge of gunning her down in a parking lot when Ronna is run over by a yellow Miata and is left for dead in a ditch.
Where can first-time screenwriter John Augusts story go from here? Back to the beginning, to follow Simons journey to Las Vegas from the moment Ronna says shell sub for him at the market. This visit to the gambling capital is more eventful than the one in Limans Swingers; leaving his three buddies behind, Simon manages to bed two women from a wedding party, the romp ending only when their hotel room literally catches on fire, then he inadvertently steals a sports car (equipped with a gun) with his friend Marcus (Taye Diggs).
The chronic blunderer proceeds to break the house rules at the Crazy Horse strip club by grabbing one of the girls, starting a fight with security personnel that ends with Simon shooting the bouncer in the arm, then he hightails it out of town with his crew.
Action rewinds one last time to concentrate on the Adam-Zack duo, who are not exactly what they first seemed to be and who become more involved than theyd like with Burke and his ditzy wife Irene (Jane Krakowski). A measure of suspense is generated as Ronnas fate is determined, the identity of the Miatas driver is unveiled, and drug dealer Todd is hunted down by the lowlifes from the Crazy Horse, courtesy of Simonwho used Todds credit card at the joint.
Augusts script, which breaks down into three half-hour segments, is based on myriad interlinking parts, the sum of which is meant to play up the coincidental connections in life. It is also dominated by an ironic humor that feels rather like an artistic pose but happens to be well served by Limans previously demonstrated talent for eliciting off-the-wall comedy from grim situations.
Whats new here from Liman is the directorial flash, the electricity that the combination of lively action, responsive performances, raging soundtrack and bold widescreen visuals shoots off the screen. Pic is set mostly at night, and the director has doubled as cinematographer with impressive results, creating a look that is both rough and attractive. Editing by Stephen Mirrione is particularly nimble, maximizing the narrative surprises and ruthlessly excising all superfluous dramatic exposition.
Actors all look like theyre having a ball, especially the guys. Askew clearly relishes showing how much Simon enjoys being a naughty boy, while Wolf and Mohr use their characters status as actors to play games with others; worst scene in the film has them called upon to be emotionally sincere in a crisis. Diggs is entertaining as the most rarefied of the Vegas quartet, a young man into health foods and Tantric sex, and Fichtner is memorably creepy as the undercover cop with a couple of secrets of his own. Katie Holmes, whose Dawsons Creek stardom will no doubt prove a draw, has a secondary role as Ronnas friend who initiates a late, unexpected encounter with Todd (deftly etched by Olyphant).
Soundtrack is very hot and would look to be a strong chart item.