Don’t stop!By Vladimir Zelevinsky
ASSOCIATE ARTS EDITOR
Directed by Doug Liman
Written by John August
With Sarah Polley, Katie Holmes, Desmond Askew, Timothy Olyphant, Scott Wolf, Jay Mohr, Taye Diggs, William Fitchner
G o is Pulp Fiction Lite, no fat and no calories. It’s lively, wild, frantic, bright, and thoroughly engaging. It’s also totally inconsequential and largely unmemorable.
Ronna (Sarah Polley) is about to be evicted tomorrow, so she borrows $200 from her friend, recreational drug dealer Simon (Desmond Askew) who is going to have a fun night in Las Vegas, so she can get some pills from Simon’s supplier Todd (Timothy Olyphant) with the reluctant help of her co-worker at the grocery Claire (Katie Holmes) to sell them to Adam and Zach, the two way too wholesome-looking guys (Scott Wolf and Jay Mohr) who come to her checkout stand asking for Simon.
The above is the summary of the first three minutes of Go. Then things really start happening.
Go is split into three stories, each diverging from the same opening moment and then following three different sets of characters through the same night. Normally, the stories would be intercut; here, they are separated into chapters, which are presented in succession.
The first story follows Ronna, who embarks on what is essentially a drug deal with a fatalistic derring-do and encounters some genuinly creepy characters. Out of the three chapters, her story is the best, filled with geniune tension and excitement. It starts rapidly, and then doesn’t flag for more than a few seconds, ever tightening the screws. Polley, who was spellbinding two years ago in The Sweet Hereafter is the true standout of the cast, giving an intense performance brightened with the sudden flashes of humor. Other actors in this sequence are adequate, but Polley dominates it.
The plot twists and turns, making tighter and tighter circles, and one gets the feeling that soon, very soon, right now, there will be an shattering climax to bring a major epiphany. Instead, we jump back twelve hours and into the second chapter.
Simon and his friends go to Las Vegas to have fun, and oh boy, do they succeed. During the night, they will dash through casinos and strip clubs, picking up girls, flashy cars, and weapons, unwittingly accumulating an impressive felony records, and ultimately getting shot at.
This chapter works too, but not quite so well -- mostly, because all the characters in it, every single one, are total and worthless jerks, and their misadventures cause much less empathy. In addition, there’s no feeling of inexorable force behind all this; Simon and Co. get into all the trouble because they are irresponsible and stupid, and, therefore, there’s no expectation of a major payoff at the end. Plus, by this time, I guessed that there won’t be any major payoff at the end of each chapter, and started for hoping for one at the end of the movie.
Third chapter follows those two entirely too wholesome young men who want to buy twenty shots of ecstasy from Ronna. Their story is somewhat less exciting than the first two, but it’s balanced by the fact that it’s funny, darkly and morbidly so, but nevertheless funny. It also has some of the most gentle moments of Go, which does delve somewhat underneath the surface of all these slightly-criminal lads and lasses.
So, for an hour and a half, Go goes, goes, and goes, and then it stops. Just like that. There are a couple of scenes somewhat tying the loose ends of the stories, but there’s no longer any feel of an underlying structure. This mostly has to do with pacing: when a story’s climax is relatively less exciting than anything that preceded it, this climax isn’t really perceived as such; it feels somewhat like an afterthought.
The ending, with all the main characters again assembled together shows just one thing: how little they have changed overnight, and how little have they learned. For all the problems I have with Pulp Fiction (mostly with that third chapter about a dead body in the car), the ending sequence was riveting, amply fulfilling the implicit promise of an epiphany. Here, the end is abrupt and inconsequential.
In addition, it’s a pity that Go concentrates on three stories instead of just one. It takes some time to grow accustomed to a new set of characters and start liking them. Because of this, each jump in the storyline feels like a disappointment.
While you’re watching it, Go is an impressive attention-grabber: it’s exciting and riveting, clever and unexpected. The problem with it is, I saw it less than 24 hours ago, and I already have trouble remembering what this whole thing was about. The characters didn’t gain anything from their experiences, and neither did the viewers.