28 December 2009 | johnnyboyz
Liman provides his hyperactive style on a crime film centring around youngsters and lowlifes rather than adult gangsters, in what is a carefully observed character piece.
Go is a surprisingly engrossing, surprisingly nifty little multi-stranded crime film running on inspiration from other crime films of the era; a director's own, kinetic style and a central, focused look at a whole range of troubled, often sleazy, young adults in a modern world full of drugs; debt; dangers and the forced taking on of responsibility. When I first saw Go, I liked it a lot; revisiting it a few years later, I found it just as entertaining; just as interesting and just as engaging as I did before. Everything about the premise for Go screams that it doesn't have a cat's chance in Hell of working, but the stylised energy combined with the tasteful handling of a lot of different scenes and situations work surprisingly well, and blend to create an experience which most certainly wears you out, but in an oddly refreshing sort of way.
The film, in covering an array of different characters but never bombarding nor overwhelming us, manages to deliver on a basis of both narrative and character. It is seamless in its blending of elements of the realistic with the surrealistic, all under a banner of raw energy spanning several hundred miles of which the characters travel within the picture. More recently, we've seen films which take a quick, kinetic and relatively easy-going aesthetic and apply criminal activity to it as a group of youths venture in and around contemporary America in some form. An example might be 2007 film Superbad, which did nothing but crack adolescent jokes, hate women and trivialise delicate and often illegal situations for a crowd. Go knows its place and it knows its genre as study, observations, the progression of character and some pretty frightening scenarios all play out under this same umbrella. Those that laugh at certain parts of Go have completely missed the point.
The first of three stories, this and another two of which revolve around those whom aren't usually explored in films of this ilk, sees Sarah Polley's shop worker named Ronna heavily in debt; facing eviction and desperate for money. Her story sees her involved in a drug deal with two other young men and a much elder male, which grows increasingly suspicious as she interacts with them, and eventually sees her have to ditch the drugs she was meant to deal resulting in the angering of dealer Todd (Olyphant), whom gave them to her. Ronna's fearless and independent attitude towards the men in her story, in particular Todd whom is financially better off and comes with a real air of menace, presents positive characteristics for the female in this role, as she descends deeper into a situation she brought upon herself through desperation. Ronna's ability to defy her male counterparts in doing what's best for her in avoiding the drug deal sting and being able to fool the dealer as she pulls along a casual and inept male companion, in Mannie (Bexton), who'd be lost without her, adds meat and awareness to an unfortunate but otherwise familiar short story.
Continuing with the film's theme of debt, and relatively hapless young adults getting themselves into hotter water than they'd like through which they'll come to learn the harsh realities of life that comes with getting involved in the sorts of activity they do, Simon (Askew), who's one of Ronna's co-workers, and a group of friends spend some time in Las Vegas. Again, the premise for the short with the accompanying aesthetic suggest it ought not work. Indeed, the trip is given the sort of leery and unnerving build when the group of four interact. In a much lesser work, it would've fallen apart at the seams, but the facing of facts that Las Vegas is a large; intimidating; confusing and dangerous place is gradually filtered through the system of the four. While not necessarily a demonisation of the place itself, it is certainly a reality check for the attitudes the characters share.
The study begins with the character of Tiny (Meyer) telling a story of himself to the others which transpires to have been untrue. He is caught out, made to look a fool and the entire sequence sets the tone for the narrow-minded, adolescent beliefs the characters have and how they'll be caught out. From here, the videos telling the occupants of a hotel room how to gamble downstairs comes across as arduous and confusing, further suggesting that these guy's are out of their depth, while the causality driven mishaps ranging from food-poisoning to casual drug use that leads to hotel fires is apt. Later, theft; misogyny and raging testosterone will put them in further jeopardy with some local strip-club owners which is the climax of all this dangerous, ominous build up.
The third story maintains the same consistencies the other two had in terms of study and it's to the the film's credit that the film's concept has not yet worn us out: we're ready for one more. The strand centres on, like the first, usually somewhat marginalised characters for the genre; in this case two homosexual male actors, named Adam (Wolf) and Zack (Mohr), who go on a kind of odyssey which seems to be about the revealing of true feelings and unexplored sexual appetites; highlighted by the actions of a police officer and his wife when around at their house as well as the revelations that arise when they have a conversation with each other, which in turn pushes the film out into a revenge piece of sorts. Go was made at a time when Doug Liman could compliment his all-over-the-place approach to film-making with character and substance; much unlike his 2005, fetishistic firearm flick Mr. and Mrs. Smith; while his most recent work, 2008's Jumper, did not garner much of a positive critical consensus. But Go holds up, knowing what it is but additionally knowing how to explore the lives and characters within without marginalising them nor rendering them too weak, clichéd or unlikeable.